Non-Hodgkin lymphoma and good nutrition

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is a cancer that develops in lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell. White blood cells are part of the body’s immune system, which fights infections and diseases encountered by the body. Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is about five times more common than Hodgkin disease, another general type of lymphoma found in the body. Early detection and treatment are vital for this cancer.

The symptoms of non-Hodgkin lymphoma can easily be confused with those of other diseases, and there are many cases where there are no symptoms at all. In some cases, there may be a swollen but mostly painless lymph node in the neck, armpit, or groin area. Other signs that may be noticed include fever, night sweats, fatigue, weight loss, abdominal pain or swelling, chest pain, coughing or shortness of breath, and very itchy skin.

Risk factors for this type of cancer include: having an organ transplant or other use of immunosuppressive drugs, AIDS, infection with Helicobacter pylori (also called H. pylori, known to cause ulcers), exposure to certain types of chemicals like those used to kill insects and weeks. Non-Hodgkin lymphoma infection also increases with age, becoming more common in people age 60 and older. However, there are no age limits and the disease has been found in all age groups.

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is usually diagnosed by: physical exam, blood and urine tests, X-rays, CT, MRI, or PET scans. A biopsy of a suspicious lymph node may be performed to confirm the diagnosis and determine the growth rate of the tumor so that cause of action can be determined. A bone marrow biopsy may also be needed to find out if the disease has spread to other areas of the body. The disease is classified into about thirty types and is also given a number to determine its stage. Stage I is the initial stage and is considered the most treatable.

Treatments include surgery to remove the tumors if possible, chemotherapy, radiation, stem cell transplant. In some cases, observation may be used, especially in the case of very slow-growing tumors. Biotherapy using several different types of drugs is also often used. Interferon therapy is another common treatment plan for people with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Interferons are types of proteins that are a normal part of the immune system that work to fight viral infections. There are other types of treatment that are less common, as well as some that are considered experimental in nature.

A healthy diet for a strong immune system

Like other types of cancer, non-Hodgkin lymphoma will attack the body where it is most vulnerable, especially at times of reduced immunity or at the site of other infections. The body’s immune system needs to be strong, which requires a healthy, well-balanced diet. Once the disease is found, additional protein will be needed for the body to be strong enough to continue fighting and to develop the immune system. The doctor will discuss exactly how much protein you will need and how much is actually safe for you to add to your daily diet. The American Heart Association recommends that protein make up no more than 35% of the daily diet; however, when fighting cancer of any kind, as well as other diseases, it may be necessary to exceed this amount.

A healthy diet should include the right proteins, carbohydrates, and fats, in the right amounts. Eating small frequent meals can help with nausea related to chemotherapy.


Carbohydrates are the main source of energy for the body. Simple carbohydrates are white sugars, white flours, and overly sweet foods that cause blood glucose to spike and can overstress the immune system. Complex carbohydrates are digested much more slowly in the body and are generally healthier. Good sources of complex carbohydrates include whole foods and some vegetables. The healthy diet should consist of 50-60% complex carbohydrates.


Healthy fats, especially monounsaturated fats and those rich in Omega 3 fatty acids, are also vital to a healthy diet. Omega3s are found in salmon and other cold-water fish. Other good sources of Omega 3 are nuts and olive oil.


Protein comes from two sources, animals and plants. Animal proteins, including low-fat dairy and eggs, are complete proteins because they contain all eight essential amino acids that the body does not produce on its own. Amino acids are broken down during digestion and used to make other amino acids, hormones, and enzymes that are vital for other functions in the body, including, ironically, digestion. However, with the exception of soy protein, plant proteins are incomplete because they lack one or more of these eight essential amino acids. Plant proteins come from beans, grains, seeds, and nuts.

In addition to natural food sources for protein, there are a number of protein supplements including powders, shakes, bars, and liquid protein supplement shots. All protein supplements are made from plant or animal protein and some are made from a combination of protein sources for better digestion and health benefits. The type of protein supplement that is best for you will depend on a number of factors including your diet, food allergies or sensitivities, and nutritional needs.


If you are simply adding protein to your diet, you just need to choose your protein, based on your tastes and what is most convenient for you. However, if there are dietary considerations such as vegetarianism, it is important to pay attention to the type of protein supplement to choose the right one that still fits your choices. Good protein supplements that are appropriate for vegans are soy and rice, both of which are made entirely from plant proteins. Both are considered complete protein sources and can be found in protein shakes and protein powders.

Food allergies

Whey protein is one of the best protein supplements for boosting the immune system, however it is not good for those who may be lactose intolerant. Whey protein isolate has less lactose than whey protein concentrate and may be fine for those with moderate sensitivities to milk and milk products. Soy protein is a good choice instead; however, there are also some who are allergic to soy. Rice protein may be best for people with known or suspected food allergies because it is hypoallergenic. It’s important to keep these considerations in mind when looking for a protein bar as well.

Nutritional Needs

The protein supplement should provide a good amount of protein but without added sugar or fat. The spike in sugar can exhaust the immune system, which is a greater danger for people at high risk or diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma.


the mayo clinic

The American Heart Association

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