Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is a cancer that develops in the 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 encounters. Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is about five times more common than Hodgkin’s disease, another general type of lymphoma that is found in the body. Early detection and treatment are vital for this cancer.
The symptoms of Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma can be easy to mistake for other illnesses 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 found in the neck, the armpit, or in the groin area. Other signs that might be noticed include fever, night sweats, fatigue, weight loss, abdominal pain or swelling, chest pain, coughing, trouble breathing, and extremely itchy skin. (Source: The Mayo Clinic.com)
Risk factors for this type of cancer include: having an organ transplant or other use of immunosuppressant drugs, AIDS, infection with Helicobacter pylori (also called H.pylori, it is known to cause ulcers), exposure to certain types of chemicals like those that are used to kill insects and weeds. Infection with Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma also increases with age and it becomes most common in people who are age 60 or over. There are no age limits however, and the disease has been found in every age group.
Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is usually diagnosed by: physical exam, blood and urine tests, X-ray, CT scan, MRI, or PET scan. Biopsy of a suspicious lymph node may be done to confirm diagnosis and to determine the growth rate of the tumor so that a cause of 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 classified by about thirty types and is also given a number to determine its stage. Stage I is the beginning stage and it is considered to be the most treatable.
Treatments include surgery to remove the tumors if possible, chemotherapy, radiation, and stem cell transplantation. In some cases, observation can be used especially in the case of very slow growing tumors. Biotherapy using several different types of medications is often used as well. Interferon therapy is another common treatment plan for those with Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Interferons are types of protein that are a normal part of the immune system that work to fight viral infection. There are other treatment types that are less common as well as some that are considered to be experimental in nature.
A Healthy Diet for a Strong Immune System
Like other cancers, Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma will attack the body where it is most vulnerable, especially during times of lowered immunity or at the site of other infections. The body’s immune system needs to be strong- requiring a healthy, well balanced diet. Once the disease is found, extra protein will be needed so that the body is strong enough to continue fighting and to build up the immune system. The doctor will discuss exactly how much protein you will need as well as 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 illnesses, it might be necessary to go beyond this amount.
A healthy diet should include the right proteins, carbohydrates, and fats, in the right amounts. Eating small meals frequently can help with the nausea involved with chemotherapy.
Carbohydrates are the primary energy source for the body. Simple carbs are the white sugars, white flours and overly sweet foods that make the blood glucose level skyrocket and may overly stress the immune system. Complex carbohydrates digest much more slowly in the body and are typically healthier. Good sources of complex carbohydrates include the whole grain foods and some vegetables. The healthy diet should consist of 50-60% complex carbohydrates.
Healthy fats, especially the monounsaturated and those that are rich in Omega 3 fatty acids are also vital to the healthy diet. Omega3’s are found in salmon and other cold water fishes. Other good sources of Omega 3’s include nuts and olive oil.
Protein comes from two sources, animals and plants. Animal protein, including low fat dairy foods and eggs are complete proteins because they have 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 to other functions in the body, including, ironically, digestion. With the exception of soy protein though, 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 proteins, there are a number of protein supplements including powders, shakes, bars, and liquid protein supplement shots. All protein supplements are made from either a 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 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 only need to choose your protein, based on your tastes and by what is most convenient. However, if there are dietary considerations like vegetarianism, it is important to pay attention to the type of protein supplement so that you are choosing the right one that still fits in with your choices. Good protein supplements that are appropriate for vegans are soy and rice, both made wholly from plant proteins. Both are considered to be complete protein sources and can be found in protein shakes and protein powders.
Whey protein is one of the best protein supplements to use for immune system strengthening, however it is not good for those who might be lactose intolerant. Whey protein isolate has less lactose than whey protein concentrate and may be okay for those with only moderate milk and milk product sensitivities. Soy protein is a good choice instead; however there are some who are allergic to soy as well. Rice protein may be the best for those with known or suspected food allergies because it is hypoallergenic. It is important to keep these considerations in mind when looking for a protein bar as well.
The protein supplement should supply a good amount of protein but without added sugars or fats. Increased sugar can deplete the immune system which is an increased danger for those at high risk or diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Profect, from Protica is a liquid protein supplement shot that is small enough to carry anywhere but still gives 25 grams of digestible protein per serving. It also gives a full day’s worth of vitamin C and 10% of the daily supply of the B vitamins. Profect comes in flavors including Blue Raspberry, Cool Melon Splash, Passion Fruit, Grapefruit-Mango, Fuzzy Peach Nectar, and Fresh Citrus Berry.