Can Diet Help With Waldenstrom's Macroglobulinemia?

Medically Reviewed by Jennifer Robinson, MD on April 25, 2023
3 min read

If you have Waldenstrom's macroglobulinemia (WM), you might wonder if a special diet can help slow this cancer. There's no evidence that eating certain foods can treat WM or improve your outlook. But a balanced diet could help you prevent cancer complications and feel stronger while you go through treatment.

Healthy eating is always important. That's especially true when you have cancer. All of the major food groups -- fruit, vegetables, whole grains, dairy, and lean protein -- are still important now, but with a few slight changes.

You need extra protein and calories to keep up your strength during treatment. You can get these nutrients from foods like:

  • Milk
  • Cheese
  • Eggs
  • Sauces and gravies
  • Butter, margarine, and oil

If you're not sure what to eat, talk to a dietitian. They can help you create a menu that suits your tastes and changing nutritional needs during treatment.

WM cells grow in bone marrow, where your body makes new blood cells. These abnormal cells crowd out the healthy red blood cells your body needs to carry oxygen to all your organs and tissues. It's common for people with WM to have a drop in red blood cells called anemia.

Anemia prevents your body from getting enough oxygen. It can make you feel tired, dizzy, and short of breath.

To prevent anemia, eat more of the nutrients your body needs to make healthy red blood cells -- foods rich in iron, folate, and vitamin B12 like these:

  • Lean red meat, chicken, fish, and shellfish
  • Milk, yogurt, and cheese
  • Dark green leafy vegetables
  • Dried fruit such as apricots and raisins
  • Fortified cereals
  • Peas, lentils, and beans

If you can't get enough nutrients from foods alone, ask your doctor if you should take an iron, folate, or B12 supplement.

Appetite loss is both a symptom of WM and a side effect of the chemotherapy drugs that treat this cancer. When you lose your appetite, you may not eat enough to maintain your weight. You also won't get the nutrients you need to keep up your strength during treatment.

Ask your health care team for tips to get your appetite back. You can also try a few tricks at home. For example, eat several small meals and snacks during the day. Smaller portions may be easier for you to get down than large meals.

Pack each serving with foods that are high in calories and nutrients like protein, vitamins, and minerals. Good choices include:

  • Nuts and peanut butter
  • Cheese
  • Granola or protein bars
  • Dried fruit
  • Milkshakes

If the smell of cooking upsets your stomach, eat foods cold or at room temperature. And if chemotherapy has dulled or changed your sense of taste, add your favorite seasonings to make foods more appealing.

There isn't any evidence that supplements can slow WM or stop it from coming back. It might not hurt to try them, but first check with the doctor who treats your cancer.

Dietary supplements aren't regulated like drugs. They could cause side effects or interact with other medicines you take. Ask your doctor if the supplement you want to try is safe for you, and how much of it you should take.