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Natural Therapies for Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia


There are several natural therapies that have been found to provide benefit in those with CLL. A 2013 study found that those who took certain antioxidants had a 69% chance of improvement (as measured by lymphocyte count and affected lymph nodes). Patients who achieved the highest blood level of this antioxidant had the largest reductions in the number of enlarged lymph nodes. This antioxidant given at the dose used in this study can have side effects and should only be given under the supervision of a healthcare provider.


Blood Testing for Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia

Certain deficiencies may affect the prognosis of patients with CLL. A 2011 study on chronic lymphocytic leukemia found that patients with the highest blood levels of certain vitamins had higher survival compared to those with a lower blood level.[1]


Managing Side Effects of Ibrutinib

Some research has found that correcting deficiencies of certain amino acids helps to improve quality of life, reduces muscle pain and cramps, and improves sleep in those taking imatinib. Data suggests that supplementing one of these amino acids also improved cholesterol and inflammation in research on those with kidney disease, a common complication in CLL.


At our clinic we will look at all the medications and the potential for side effects and then utilize therapies that can help prevent adverse reactions.


Managing Complications of CLL

CLL can lead to kidney disease and infections. At our clinic we test for nutritional deficiencies that affect the immune system and can be addressed to help prevent infections. There are many foods and natural therapies that can help support the kidneys and have been shown to improve kidney function in research.


What is Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL)?

CLL is a type of blood cancer that typically progresses slowly. It affects the bone marrow, the spongy center of bones responsible for producing blood cells. In CLL, the bone marrow generates abnormal lymphocytes, a kind of white blood cell. These abnormal cells multiply uncontrollably, enter the bloodstream, and can accumulate in certain organs. This disrupts the body's ability to fight infections, potentially leading to symptoms.


What Are the First Symptoms of CLL?

In the early stages, CLL often doesn't cause any noticeable symptoms. People may discover they have CLL during routine blood work.


Common Symptoms of CLL

When symptoms do occur, they may include:

  • Significant fatigue and weakness

  • Enlarged lymph nodes, particularly in the neck, armpits, or groin (Lymph nodes are small, bean-shaped organs that play a role in the immune system).

  • Increased susceptibility to infections

  • Fevers, night sweats, and unexplained weight loss


How Is CLL Diagnosed?

Doctors diagnose CLL through a combination of:

  • Consultation and physical examination

  • Blood tests

  • Bone marrow biopsy, which involves extracting a small sample of bone marrow for microscopic examination to detect abnormal cells.


Conclusion

Several studies suggest natural therapies may offer complementary benefits alongside conventional treatments for CLL. Research has found that certain antioxidants and vitamins might improve lymphocyte count, lymph node size, and prognosis in CLL patients. Additionally, addressing nutritional deficiencies can potentially help manage side effects of medications like Ibrutinib and prevent complications like infections and kidney disease.

However, it's crucial to remember these key points:

  • Natural therapies are not a replacement for standard medical care. Always consult your doctor before starting any supplements or therapies.

  • Some natural therapies can have side effects and interact with medications.


How Dr. Baker (ND) can help:

  • We consider potential medication side effects and tailor natural therapies to minimize adverse reactions.

  • We assess nutritional deficiencies that may affect your immune system and recommend solutions to prevent infections.

  • We explore natural approaches to support kidney health, a common concern in CLL.


References

[1] Shanafelt TD, Drake MT, Maurer MJ, Allmer C, Rabe KG, Slager SL, Weiner GJ, Call TG, Link BK, Zent CS, Kay NE, Hanson CA, Witzig TE, Cerhan JR. Vitamin D insufficiency and prognosis in chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Blood. 2011 Feb 3;117(5):1492-8. doi: 10.1182/blood-2010-07-295683. Epub 2010 Nov 3. PMID: 21048153; PMCID: PMC3056589.

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