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Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and Good Nutrition

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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 that the body is exposed to. Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is about five times more common than Hodgkin disease, another common type of lymphoma found in the body. Early detection and treatment are crucial for this cancer.

The symptoms of non-Hodgkin lymphoma can easily be confused with other diseases, and there are many cases where there are no symptoms at all. In some cases, there is a swollen but usually painless lymph node in the neck, armpit, or groin. Other possible signs include fever, night sweats, tiredness, weight loss, abdominal pain or swelling, chest pain, coughing or difficulty breathing, and extremely itchy skin.

Risk factors for this type of cancer include: an organ transplant or other use of immunosuppressive drugs, AIDS, infection with Helicobacter pylori (also called H. pylori, it is known to cause ulcers), exposure to certain types of Chemicals like these are used to kill insects and weeks. Infection with non-Hodgkin lymphoma also increases with age and is most common in people over 60 years of age. However, there are no age limits, and the disease has been found in every age group.

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Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is usually diagnosed by: physical exam, blood and urine tests, X-ray, CT scan, MRI, or PET scan. A biopsy of a suspected lymph node may be done to confirm the diagnosis and determine the rate of growth of the tumor so that a cause for the action can be determined. A bone marrow biopsy may also be necessary to find out if the disease has spread to other areas of the body. The disease is divided into about thirty types and 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 tumor when possible, chemotherapy, radiation, stem cell transplant. In some cases, observation can be used, especially in very slow-growing tumors. Biotherapy with several different types of drugs is also often used. Interferon therapy is another common treatment regimen for patients with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Interferons are types of proteins that are a normal part of the immune system and work to fight off 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 cancers, non-Hodgkin lymphoma attacks the body where it is most vulnerable, particularly during periods of weakened immunity or at the site of other infections. The body’s immune system needs to be strong and requires a healthy, balanced diet. Once the disease is found, additional protein is needed to keep the body strong enough to keep fighting and building the immune system. The doctor will discuss exactly how much protein you need and how much you can actually add to your daily diet. The American Heart Association recommends that protein should make up no more than 35% of the daily diet, but when fighting cancer of any kind, as well as other diseases, it may be necessary to exceed that amount.

A healthy diet should contain the right proteins, carbohydrates and fats in the right amounts. Eating small meals frequently can help with the nausea associated with chemotherapy.


Carbohydrates are the primary source of energy for the body. Simple carbohydrates are white sugar, white flour, and overly sweet foods that can spike blood sugar levels and put undue strain on the immune system. Complex carbohydrates are digested much more slowly in the body and are generally healthier. Good sources of complex carbohydrates are whole grains and some vegetables. A healthy diet should consist of 50-60% complex carbohydrates.


Healthy fats, especially the monounsaturated ones and those rich in omega-3 fatty acids, are also critical to a healthy diet. Omega-3 fatty acids 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 protein, including low-fat dairy and eggs, are complete proteins because they contain all eight essential amino acids that the body doesn’t produce itself. Amino acids are broken down during digestion and used to make other amino acids, hormones, and enzymes that are critical to other functions in the body, including, ironically, digestion. 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 of protein, there are a number of protein supplements available including powders, shakes, bars, and liquid protein supplement shots. All protein supplements are made from either plant or animal protein, with some made from a combination of protein sources for the best digestion and health benefits. The type of protein supplement that is best for you depends on a number of factors, including your diet, food allergies or sensitivities, and dietary needs.


By simply adding protein to your diet, all you have to do is choose your protein based on your taste and what is most convenient. However, when there are dietary considerations such as vegetarianism, it is important to pay attention to the type of protein supplement so that you choose the right one that still fits your choices. Good protein supplements that are suitable for vegans are soy and rice, both of which are made entirely from plant-based proteins. Both are considered complete sources of protein and are 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 okay for those with only moderate sensitivity to milk and dairy 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 as it is hypoallergenic. It’s important to keep these considerations in mind when looking for a protein bar as well.

dietary needs

The protein supplement should provide a good amount of protein but with no added sugar or fat. Elevated sugar can deplete the immune system, posing an increased danger for those at high risk or who have been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma.


The Mayo Clinic

The American Heart Association

Thanks to Jim Duffy

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