When you have multiple myeloma, sometimes eating is the last thing you want to do. The symptoms of this blood cancer and the side effects of treatment can make it hard to have an appetite or eat as much as you used to. But getting the right nutrients and enough of them is an important part of getting well.

A few diet tips and tricks can make it easier to eat well and nourish your body. Also, ask your doctor about working with a dietitian, who can help you choose the right foods.

When to Eat

You may find that it’s easier to eat a few small meals throughout the day instead of eating two or three large ones. It can keep up your energy and help you feel less nauseated. There may also be a certain time of day when you can handle food easier, like in the morning or at lunch. Try to keep snacks handy for when you get hungry. Think about meal replacement shakes as a way to get enough calories, too.

Foods You Should Eat

The right kinds of foods in your diet can give you the best balance of nutrients and help with your symptoms or the side effects of treatment. Ask your dietitian about adding these foods to your daily diet:

Greens. Fruits and vegetables are full of antioxidants that help your body rebuild itself. They also fight constipation, which can be a side effect of pain medicine and some cancer treatments. Your doctor may want you to stick with cooked vegetables and fruit. Raw produce sometimes can increase your chance of having an infection, which is dangerous when multiple myeloma or its treatments have made your immune system weaker.

Fiber. If you have constipation from chemotherapy, you may want to boost the fiber in your diet. It helps your body break down food and clear out your bowels. Water and prune juice will also help keep things moving. Good sources of fiber include:

  • Fruits like apples and pears
  • Dried fruits like figs and prunes
  • Whole grains
  • Oatmeal and other cereals
  • Nuts and beans
  • Vegetables like broccoli, carrots, and artichokes

Bland foods. On the other hand, if you’re dealing with diarrhea, your doctor may have you eat a low-fiber diet known as the BRAT diet: bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast. You’ll also want to drink broth and plenty of water to stay hydrated.

If you have mouth sores, try foods that are easy to swallow, such as pudding or mashed potatoes. Avoid spicy foods that might irritate your tongue and mouth.

Iron. The cancer cells that build up in your bone marrow may crowd out your healthy blood cells. That can cause a shortage of red blood cells, called anemia. If this happens, you may need to eat more iron-rich foods, like lean meats, beans, and dark, leafy greens.

Vitamins and minerals. Your doctor or dietitian may suggest that you take a daily supplement to make sure you get enough nutrients to stay healthy. These may include iron, vitamin D, or fish oil. Don’t start taking any supplements without asking your doctor first. Some of them can affect how well your treatment works.

What to Avoid

Since multiple myeloma makes your immune system weaker, you’ll need to steer clear of any foods that could make you sick, including:

  • Raw meat or fish
  • Runny eggs
  • Unpasteurized drinks
  • Sushi
  • Unwashed fruits and vegetables

Along with your medications and other treatments, lifestyle changes can have a big impact on your fight against cancer. Healthy eating habits can be hard at first, but the benefits can help keep your body stronger for years to come.

WebMD Medical Reference

WebMD Voices

Tom Z., 54
Red Bank, NJ
Get involved with the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation to be around other active and positive people with MM. Do yoga and meditation. Find something to be passionate about. Explore your creative side. I took up photography. Attitude is everything. Stay positive –– new treatments are being discovered yearly.
Pat C., 70
Fayetteville, GA
Don't feel guilty because you cannot do as much as you used to. Ask for help with things that leave you a bit exhausted. My friends did small things like let me out of the car right in front of the door. Support groups are important. Sharing your experience with others with the same disease is so helpful.
Carol M., 59
Vero Beach, FL
With good nutrition, whatever exercise you can manage, and an active social life, you can still lead a happy, productive life. I'm not saying it's easy because it's not. Quitting sugar, eating green, taking naps, getting massages, trying to lead a stress-free life, and keeping busy is exhausting. But it works.
Jim W., 51
Kansas City, MO
The first thing is to get a second opinion. This is, to me, the most important thing to do. Your doctor may only treat three or four myeloma patients a year. You want to go to a doctor who sees at least 50 myeloma patients a year or is part of a practice that sees 100 myeloma patients a year.
Eric A., 51
Annapolis, MD
To help with fatigue, I've always received my treatments on Friday afternoon. This allows me to go home straight after. I then have the weekend to rest and recuperate. Typically the second day after treatment has me feeling the worst. I try to make time for extra rest and a nap in the afternoon on Sunday.
Bob T., 61
Forest Hills, NY
One of the most important things that I learned when I was diagnosed with myeloma is not to shut out the world or go quiet. Tell people what happened. It isn't some sort of thing that you should view as a weakness or a mark of shame. You need to get comfort and information. Isolation will only breed fear.
Michelle C., 51
New York, NY
Infection can not only put you in the hospital but prevent you from continuing treatment. Keeping well while being around children all the time can be tricky. It's important to wear a mask regularly if you must be in a crowd. If you can, enjoy vacations and high traffic places while your numbers are good!
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