How to Boost the Immune System in Leukemia

Posted by Fruit Of Spirit on

Leukemia is cancer that affects the blood. It weakens the immune system because the white blood cells that fight off infections are impaired and depleted. It begins when healthy blood cells grow in abnormal quantities.

 Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) is cancer of one of the types of white blood cells called lymphocytes. White blood cell is a part of the body's immune system. Lymphocytes make antibodies, fight infections by destroying infected cells, and fight microbes and cancer cells. People with ALL have immature, nonfunctional, and abnormally large quantities of lymphocytes preventing the production of red blood cells, platelets, and other types of white blood cells. People with this type of leukemia may have problems related to having a few healthy blood cells, increased risk for infection, and bruises.

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) on the other hand, sabotages the immune system. The cancer cells confuse the immune cells and prevent the immune cells from recognizing cancer. CLL is a cancer of white blood cells. The antibody-making cells are impaired and can no longer fight infections, causing the individual to be highly susceptible to infections. CLL also causes the immune system to produce abnormal antibodies that attack healthy blood cells. This condition is called autoimmunity.

People with leukemia, or any cancer, have a higher risk of infection because they take a hit to the immune system due to their cancer and cancer treatments. Typically, the white blood cells which are responsible for warding off infection deplete as they undergo cancer treatments, impairing their body's natural defense. Any people with cancer, and people wanting to prevent getting cancer, would wonder if there are ways to improve their immune systems- to fight off cancer.

You can take steps to help your immune system function efficiently. Here’s how to boost the immune system in leukemia.


1. Focus on Food

Eat at least three times a day. Try to take your meals at a consistent time every day. Your body will have better digestion, and better cholesterol and insulin levels. You should never skip breakfast regularly because it can lead to many health complications. Despite popular belief, an endocrinology study by the University of Colorado School of Medicine concludes that lunch should be the largest meal of the day. Your dinner shall be the lightest meal of the day because you are preparing to sleep. Heavy dinner can rob you of a good night’s sleep. Eat slowly as it can improve your digestion; eat thoughtfully for better food choices,  

Food can supercharge your immune system.  A low-fat, plant-based diet is an immune booster. In fact, researches have shown that vegetarians have more healthy functioning white blood cells as compared to nonvegetarians and this is due to their diet. A low-fat, plant-based diet is full of vitamins that can help strengthen the immune system. Steer clear from high fats, because oils and fats damage the white blood cell's effectiveness, and tamper with the normal gut microbiota that supports the immune system.

Maintaining a healthy weight is also vital and plant-based diets are helpful in doing so because the fiber can help remove fats, improves digestion, and can suppress your cravings by helping you feel full, without putting in extra calories.

Nutrients that can boost immune function are:

Beta-Carotene: It is a powerful antioxidant that increases immune cells in the body.

Vitamins C and E: They are antioxidants that destroy free radicals, support the body's immune mechanism, and aid a variety of vital biological functions such as tissue growth and repair, wound healing, and collagen synthesis.

Vitamin D: It cuts down the risk for viral infections.

Zinc: It helps in boosting the immune cells as they fight against foreign invaders. Zinc is commonly found in shellfishes, nuts, cashews, beans, and lentils.

Some food that boosts the immune system are:

  • Citrus fruits: good source of vitamin c which is essential in strengthening the immune system. Examples of citrus fruits are orange, lemons, clementines, tangerines, limes.
  • Red bell peppers: an ounce of red bell peppers has threetimes more vitamin C than one piece of orange. They are also a good source of beta carotene, an antioxidant
  • Spinach: rich in vitamin C, and beta carotene
  • Yogurt:good source of vitamin B which regulates the immune system. Look for “live and active cultures” on the label to make sure that it is natural and nutritious.
  • Almonds: Packed with vitamins C, and E, which are powerful antioxidants for the immune system
  • Sunflower seeds:full of nutrients such as vitamins B-6 and E which help regulate the immune system. They also have phosphorus, magnesium, and selenium which are good for the body’s defense against viruses and other foreign invaders.
  • Green tea:has epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), a powerful antioxidant that boosts the immune function
  • Apples:full of antioxidants with insoluble fiber that cleanse the bowels
  • Sweet fruits:(ripened) apricots, pears, peaches, plums, sweet pineapple, mangos, pomegranate, and papaya.
  • Vegetables:choose root vegetables because they are packed with vitamin A and other powerful antioxidants that improve immune system function. Carrots, kale, turnips, beets, collard greens, celery root, yams, and sweet potatoes.  Broccoli is also good for the immune system because they are packed with high vitamin A, C, E, and other antioxidants.
  • Whole grains:they have compounds that can deliver immunity-fighting effects. Good sources are quinoa, barley, oatmeal, amaranth, barley, etc.
  • Milk:contains probiotics, vitamin D, and immunoglobulins that enhance the immune system function


2. Lifestyle Improvements

Stop Smoking

Kick your cigarette habit. Smoking is like giving up the greatest single step a person can take to improve his or her health. Smoking gravely affects the immune system, making the body less successful at fighting everything from cold and flu viruses to cancers. It deteriorates the balance of the immune system and increases the risk of immune and autoimmune disorders. It has also been identified as a major cause of heart diseases and a significant contributor to cancers. Some organs affected, and diseases associated with smoking are: the whole respiratory system, the nervous system, the digestive system especially stomach, and intestines, and pancreas, smoking also promotes kidney diseases, cervical cancer, ovarian cancer, and acute myeloid leukemia.


Get Enough Sleep

Sleep strengthens your immune system. Getting a sound 7-8 hours of sleep every day improves the immune cells called T cells. They fight against pathogens that are capable of growing in a host cell, including cancer cells. Also, stress hormones (adrenaline and noradrenaline) are low during sleep time. These stress hormones inhibit the stickiness of integrins, this stickiness is necessary for T cells to function. It is the stickiness of the integrins (a kind of protein) that allows the T cells to come in contact with infected cells in order to combat them head-on.  Sleep can potentially enhance the functioning of T cells.

Some tips to get a good night sleep:

  1. Keep a consistent sleep schedule by going to bed and getting up at the same time every day, even during weekends and vacations.
  2. Be conscious of what you eat before bedtime. Do not eat heavily hours before bedtime because the discomfort might keep you up. Do not take caffeine, and nicotine too. They have stimulating effects that can wear off your quality sleep.
  3. Create a restful environment. Make your room ideal for sleeping, means your room should be cool, dark, quiet, and with comfortable pillows and mattress. Also, limit your exposure to bright lights during evenings; turn off phones and TVs at least 30 minutes before going to bed.
  4. Establish a relaxing and calming bedtime routine such as taking a warm bath, and or deep breathing and meditation.
  5. Limit your daytime naps to 30 minutes and avoid having your naps in the late afternoon so as to not interfere with your sleep schedule.
  6. Avoid being physically and mentally active in the night. Do all your physical activities (e.g exercise) in the day, and relax your mind at night.
  7. Clear your mind from troubles and worries before bedtime.
  8. If you think you have sleeping problems, speak toyour doctor.


Exercise benefits the immune system

Exercise contributes positively to the general health and therefore to the immune system. It helps improve good blood circulation in the body which lets the vitamins and nutrients be transported throughout the body. Vitamins and nutrients are needed by the immune system to function efficiently. Each stage of our body’s immune response depends on the presence of certain vitamins and nutrients.

Some benefits of regular exercise to the immune system are:

  1. Exercises, moderate or light, promote the smooth flow of lymph and the immune system cells.  Lymph vessels rely on normal body motions to pump, hence, stretching with deep breathing can help in the circulation of the lymph.
  2. Moderate exercise improved blood circulation in the body. This keeps the antibodies and white blood cells in smooth circulation, and in quick response whenever there is a presence of foreign invaders.
  3. A person with a sedentary lifestyle could get tired easily when doing even a simple physical activity. He or she may need to catch breath often whenever he or she walks for a long time. When there is insufficient oxygen, the immune function is impaired. Exercises increase oxygen delivery through the bloodstream and improvethe body's resistance.
  4. Cytokines are a group of proteins important in cell signaling of immune system cells. Some groupsof cytokines are produced during exercise. This helps the immune system to function more efficiently and to react to foreign invaders more rapidly.


3. Attitude

Practice stress management

Stress deteriorates the immune system. When you are chronically stressed, the immune system’s ability grows weaker. The stress hormones that are released whenever you face stressful situations suppress the effectiveness of the immune system by lowering the number of lymphocytes, one of the main types of immune cells.

Find out different efficient ways to manage your stress. Identify your stressors and find ways to minimize it. Enlist help if applicable; the source of your stress may be a large part of your life, and addressing it on your own might not be practical. You can shore up your social support system. Turn to your friends, your family, and your loved ones, and to your psychologist or therapist.

Ease your mind. You can practice yoga regularly, or practice deep breathing, and meditation. You can also use journals to write your thoughts if it helps. Developing spiritual wellness can also be a coping mechanism. Cleveland Clinic suggests 10-15 minutes of meditation for three or four times a week; it lowers the stress hormones and prevents the breakdown of chromosomes that leads to cancer. When doing yoga, doing inverted poses can help the circulation of fluids in your lymphatic system, clarifying toxins.

Be optimistic. People who are positive thinkers exhibited a stronger immune response. Being positive will lead you to healthier lifestyles. It can help you cope better with stress, lessen depressions, and help you avoid unhealthy behaviors, therefore improving your general health and well-being.


4. Manage chemotherapy side effects

People with leukemia who undergo chemotherapy are familiar with immunosuppression. It is a side effect of cancer and its treatment. The immune system gets suppressed and one can get illnesses easily. Help your immune system by doing the following healthy habits:

  1. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water throughout the day; before and after using the bedroom.
  2. Avoid crowds where germs, bacteria, and viruses abound.
  3. Keep your distance from sick people and those who just got their vaccine.
  4. Talk to your doctors before getting vaccinated.
  5. Drink plenty of water, and make sure water is clean.
  6. Keep yourself clean.
  7. Keep your house clean.
  8. Wash clothing and linen regularly.
  9. Do not bite your nails or tear your cuticles.
  10. Make sure that the utensils you use are clean.
  11. Talk to your doctor about your activities. Some doctors may tell you to avoid gardening, cleaning up your pets, and other activities that can expose you to bacteria and fungi. But if you are allowed to do so, always use waterproof gloves when gardening or cleaning up after your pets.
  12. Don’t disregard minor symptoms. Talk to your doctor right away when you feel slight symptoms of fatigue, dizziness, nausea, etc.



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