If you have multiple myeloma, the side effects of chemotherapy may cause you to lose your appetite and skip meals. Some simple dietary tips can help you feel better and strengthen your body, helping it fight back.

Multiple myeloma is a type of cancer that affects plasma cells, which are part of your immune system. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), more than 35,000 people in the United States will be newly diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 2024.

Multiple myeloma can lead to damaged kidneys, reduced immunity, and anemia. Feeling overwhelmed, depressed, or scared about the condition can also make it hard for you to eat. Maintaining good nutrition is important, especially during treatment.

Anemia, or a low red blood cell count, is a common complication in people with multiple myeloma. When cancerous plasma cells in your blood multiply, there isn’t enough room for your red blood cells. Essentially, the cancer cells crowd out and destroy healthy cells.

A low red blood cell count can lead to a variety of effects on your overall health and well-being, including:

  • fatigue
  • weakness
  • feeling cold

Low levels of iron in your blood can also cause anemia. If you’ve developed anemia because of multiple myeloma, your doctor may suggest that you eat more foods containing iron. A boost in iron levels can help you feel less tired and will also help your body make more healthy red blood cells.

Good sources of iron include:

  • lean red meat
  • raisins
  • bell peppers
  • kale
  • Brussel sprouts
  • sweet potatoes
  • broccoli
  • tropical fruits, such as mango, papaya, pineapple, and guava

Some chemotherapy drugs can cause constipation. Increasing your fiber intake and drinking plenty of water are helpful. Foods that are high in fiber include:

  • whole grains, such as oatmeal and brown rice
  • dried fruits, such as raisins, figs, apricots, prunes
  • apples, pears, and oranges
  • berries
  • nuts, beans, and lentils
  • broccoli, carrots, and artichokes

One 2020 study showed that the supplement curcumin, a compound found in the spice turmeric, may reduce your risk of becoming resistant to certain chemotherapy drugs.

This helps ensure chemotherapy drugs are an effective treatment option. Further research is needed to establish a firm link between curcumin and slowing resistance to chemo drugs.

Some older research in mice also suggests that curcumin may slow the growth of multiple myeloma cells.

Many people experience nausea and vomiting as a side effect of chemotherapy. Bland foods may be easier on your stomach, but if you can handle meals with a little more spice, you might consider trying a curry made with turmeric. Mustard and some types of cheese also contain turmeric.

Multiple myeloma also causes kidney disease in some people. As the cancer crowds out healthy blood cells, it can cause bone to break down. This is important because your bones release calcium into your blood. Cancerous plasma cells can also make a protein that goes into your bloodstream.

Your kidneys need to work harder than normal to process the extra protein and extra calcium in your body. All this extra work can damage your kidneys.

Depending on how well your kidneys are functioning, you may need to adjust your diet to protect your kidneys. You might need to reduce the amount of salt, alcohol, protein, and potassium you eat.

The amount of water and other fluids you drink may have to be restricted if your kidneys are severely damaged, you may need to restrict the amount of water and other fluids you drink. You may also need to eat less calcium if your blood calcium levels are already high due to the cancer breaking down bone, which releases calcium.

Talking with your doctor before making any dietary changes due to kidney disease is important.

You have a higher risk of infection while you’re receiving multiple myeloma treatment. This is because both cancer and chemotherapy treatment weaken your immune system. You can take steps to help prevent infections during your treatment.

For example, washing your hands often and staying away from people who are sick can help keep you from developing the common cold and other viral infections.

You can reduce your risk of infection even more by avoiding raw foods. Undercooked meat, sushi, and raw eggs can carry bacteria that can lead to bacterial infections.

You can develop bacterial, as well as viral, infections when your immune system is functioning well. That’s why being extra cautious when it’s compromised is even more important.

When your immunity is reduced, even fruits and veggies that haven’t been peeled can pose a risk to your health. Cooking your food to the minimum recommended internal temperatures kills any bacteria that may be present and can prevent you from having a foodborne illness.

Having multiple myeloma can be challenging for anyone. But eating a health-promoting diet can help you live better and support your overall well-being with this kind of cancer. Your body needs nutritious fuel to stay strong regardless, but it’s especially necessary if you develop complications, such as anemia or kidney disease.

When you’re creating a supportive eating plan, it’s important to limit highly processed snacks and sweets, which typically offer little or no nutritious value. Instead, fill your plate with fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains.

Along with therapy and medication, vitamins and minerals you eat during your treatment can help your body heal.