Nutrition: Lymphoma

Tuesday 08 May 2018

(This blog was written by our (now retired) online nutritional advisor, Caroline. It seems timely to re-publish it, as a number of our online visitors may be living with lymphoma.)

In this blog today, I want to continue the theme of looking at individual cancers and any specific nutritional recommendations that may potentially be beneficial. This month I am going to look at lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

The difference is that with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, the abnormal Reed Sternberg cell is not present. This is the most common type of lymphoma.

The lymph system as we know is intrinsically linked to the immune system and its role in protecting and fighting foreign invaders that threaten the body. Part of this protective army are the lymphocytes, which are a type of white blood cell that becomes cancerous with lymphoma. This stops them working properly as part of the immune system.

I have written previous blogs on helping to support the immune system, going into detail about what can affect the immune system other than chemotherapy, and specific nutrients and what foods that they can be found in. One thing that I could add to this previous blog is that poor gut health will also affect the immune system as 80% of our immune cells reside in the gut.

Improving gut health

In our gut we have about a kilo of bacteria which all play some very important roles in our health. So, keeping these bacteria balanced and working in harmony is vital. Once again treatments for cancer and antibiotics can damage or throw the positive balance of these bacteria out of kilter. So, once treatment has finished, it would be important to address this.

One way that you might like to do this is to purchase a new book that has just come onto the market called the Clever Guts Diet Recipe Book by Dr Clare Bailey. The recipes are easy to follow and bang up to date nutritionally. I would recommend a look. It does look at foods, rather than supplements that support the gut, but if you want to take any supportive supplements or eat any live foods and you are receiving treatment, it is important to run them past your medical team first.

Before I go on, it is important to remember that it is crucial wherever possible, to try and get the essential nutrients from foods rather than supplements.

Having lymphoma could make you more prone to getting neutropenia when the immune system becomes very weak. You will be monitored carefully for this and given advice by your medical team if this occurs. I have written a blog on the neutropenic diet, which you might like to read.

Boosting immunity

So, the next step is to suggest resources that you can use to get lots of information and ideas for eating to boost immunity.

My first step would be to adopt meals that are high in a colourful variety of vegetables. This could be a soup or a mixed salad or a casserole type meal, as well as steamed or roasted vegetables. By doing this you would be getting a wide variety of the nutrients that I have suggested in the blog that support the immune system. Particularly vitamin C and many of the minerals like selenium and carotenoids.

Some helpful books

A book which I have had a while called 100 Health Boosting Foods, facts and recipes for super health by Hamlyn is very well put together. The first part of the book focuses on what healthy eating means, and looks at each of the main food groups and the right foods to choose for health. It then goes on to write about individual foods, their benefits and a recipe. For example, I have just opened the book at page 146 which tells me all about cauliflower, its benefits nutritionally and a recipe for a cauliflower relish. Another page that I have opened randomly looks at salmon and a recipe for poached salmon with herb sauce.

Another book that I have had a while but still use is called Superfoods: How to enjoy natures healthiest ingredients by Sue Quinn. Again, very well illustrated. It begins with a chart of what the main nutrients are and why they are important, also information in chart form about the phytonutrients or compounds found in foods that have been shown to be beneficial to us. It then has lots of recipes explaining the nutritional content and potential benefits. I have just opened a page for Super slaw with a yogurt and tahini dressing. Another random page gives a recipe for cauliflower risotto.

Finally, a new book that is incredibly informative is called How to Eat Better by James Wong. In his book he gives even more detail about which variety of the same food is the most nutritious, so you can be more selective about the type that you buy.

This book I find really useful as it also includes tips and recipes of how to get the most nutritionally out a particular food. Again, a random page that I have opened looks at mushrooms and explains that they are particularly good for the immune system because of their beta glucan content. A very useful fact is that if you leave the mushrooms in a sunny place for 1-2 hours they will become a very good source of vitamin D.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is another nutrient that has been shown to support the immune system. It is fairly well known that most of us who live in the northern hemisphere lack vitamin D because we simply do not get enough sunshine all year around. Low levels of vitamin D have been cited in some papers as one of the possible causes of some cancers, or levels have been shown to be low in people with cancer.

What I would like to do now is leave you with a recipe that is high in immune boosting foods. It is easy to make and freezes well which is a bonus. It illustrates how quick and easy it can be to include some very nutritious vegetables.

Vegetarian Chilli (the best I have tasted) Serves 4

175/6oz green lentils

2 tblsps olive oil.

1 large onion peeled and chopped

2 cloves garlic crushed

1-2 tsp chilli powder

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 red pepper and 1 green pepper seeds removed and chopped

2 carrots chopped

2 x 14oz cans tomatoes

1 heaped tsp tomato puree

300mls vegetable stock

100grms/4oz frozen peas.

175/6oz mushrooms sliced

1 courgette chopped

Salt and pepper

1 can of kidney beans drained and rinsed.


1. Put the green lentils in a bowl and pour over boiling water and leave to stand for 30mins.

2. Heat the oil in a large pan and fry gently add the spices and fry for 1 minute,

3. Drain the soaking lentils and add with all of the remaining ingredients to the pan and simmer until the lentils are tender. About 30 mins

4. Season to taste and serve.

You could serve this with brown rice or cauliflower rice for a light supper meal.

The links that I have included and those along with this blog will give you a very comprehensive approach to supporting the immune system.

Blog originally written by Caroline February 2018 - links updated 2021

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