Myelofibrosis is a rare blood cancer that’s part of a group of disorders known as myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPN). People with MPNs have bone marrow stem cells that grow and reproduce abnormally, leading to symptoms such as extreme fatigue, fever, and bone pain.
Inflammation also plays a role in MPNs like myelofibrosis. It may increase symptoms of myelofibrosis and play a role in disease progression. The foods you eat can affect the level of inflammation in your body.
There’s no specific myelofibrosis diet. But eating a balanced diet that’s rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats can help lower inflammation. It may even reduce symptoms of MPNs and slow down the progression of the illness.
Read on for the current research on what foods to eat and avoid if you have myelofibrosis.
Cytokines are proteins released by cells that play a role in cell signaling. Some promote inflammation.
Eating a well-balanced diet that’s rich in anti-inflammatory foods may reduce inflammation in the body. Lower inflammation may, in turn, reduce myelofibrosis symptoms and slow disease progression.
The MPN Coalition recommends including the following foods in your diet:
- vegetables, especially dark green leafy and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, spinach, and kale
- whole gains
- healthy oils, such as olive oil
- fat-free dairy products
- lean meats
The MPN Coalition recommends avoiding:
- processed foods
- red meat
- high-sodium foods
- sugary foods
- foods high in saturated fats, like whole milk and cheese
- excessive amounts of alcohol
These foods may increase inflammation in the body. An internet-based survey by the Mayo Clinic found that higher intake of fast food, packaged snacks, soda, and refined sugar was linked to worse symptoms in people with myeloproliferative neoplasms like myelofibrosis.
Myelofibrosis treatments may also weaken your immune system and increase your risk of infection. Try to avoid eating:
- raw meat, fish, or eggs
- unpasteurized dairy
- unwashed fruits and vegetables
Plant-based diets involve reducing or eliminating meat (beef, chicken, pork, fish, and poultry) and meat products (milk and eggs). You’ll instead eat mostly whole, plant-based foods, including fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, vegetable oils, legumes, and whole grains.
Anti-inflammatory diets are plant-based eating patterns recommended for diseases involving chronic inflammation, such as inflammatory bowel disease. You’ll eat more plant-based foods, as well as fatty fish like salmon, dark chocolate, green tea, and red wine in moderation. You’ll also avoid processed foods and refined carbohydrates, including sugar.
The Mediterranean diet is an example of a plant-based, anti-inflammatory diet. It involves eating lots of vegetables, fruits, fish, yogurt, poultry, legumes, whole grains, olive oil, and nuts, as well as moderate amounts of red wine.
You’ll mostly avoid red meat and processed foods.
An ongoing trial is exploring whether the Mediterranean diet may benefit people with MPNs, including myelofibrosis. Researchers with the NUTRIENT trial (NUTRitional Intervention among myEloproliferative Neoplasms) hope this diet pattern will reduce inflammation in the body to improve MPN symptoms.
They believe the Mediterranean diet might change the course of diseases like myelofibrosis by reducing the risk of blood clots, abnormal blood counts, and spleen enlargement.
Chronic inflammation is linked to MPNs like myelofibrosis and may play a role in symptoms and disease progression. Researchers believe that an anti-inflammatory diet may help minimize myelofibrosis symptoms and even delay disease worsening. But no diet has yet been proven to treat myelofibrosis.
Plant-based diets like the Mediterranean diet have been shown to reduce inflammation in the body. A clinical trial is underway to see if a Mediterranean diet can improve outcomes for people with myelofibrosis.
Talk to your doctor about the best diet for you. Most experts suggest the best diet for myelofibrosis is an anti-inflammatory and plant-based Mediterranean diet.