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Hodgkin's Lymphoma and Natural Therapies

Immune | May 12, 2017 | Author: Naturopath


Hodgkin's Lymphoma and Natural Therapies

Hodgkin's lymphoma is a type of cancer where white blood cells mutate, over-grow and over-crowd the lymphatic (or “lymph”) system.  It classically presents with large, painless lumps in lymph nodes and in advanced stages it can spread to the spleen, liver and bone marrow.

hodgkin's lymphomaB-cells develop a mutation in their DNA and become overgrown, poor-functioning “Reed-Sternberg” cells that overcrowd other immune cells within the lymph system. This overcrowding shuts down the immune system.

The reason that B-cells mutate into Reed-Sternberg cells is unknown, but the biggest risk factors include:

  • Weakened immune system (e.g. HIV infection or organ transplant medication)
  • Past infection with the Epstein-Barr virus
  • Age. Hodgkin's lymphoma most commonly affects people between 14 and 35 years old, and over 55.

There is a similar lymphoma named non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. It also affects the white blood cells within the lymphatic system, but the B-cells do not mutate into Reed Sternberg cells. Hodgkin's lymphoma is usually diagnosed much earlier, and progresses from lymph-node to lymph-node, whereas non-Hodgkin's can progress anywhere in the body and is usually first detected at advanced stages.


Hodgkin's lymphoma is considered to be one of the most treatable cancers, with more than 90% of patients surviving for more than five years after being first diagnosed.

Conventional treatments include chemotherapy, radiation and, in some cases, bone marrow transplants. 

Natural Therapies for Hodgkin's Lymphoma

CAUTION:  Seek advice from qualified healthcare practitioners before beginning or stopping any natural therapies, altering dosages of medications, or making any changes to your diet. Natural therapies are not a substitute for medical advice or medication.

Diet for Hodgkin's Lymphoma

The link between cancer and diet is well-established, but it's important to be careful before adopting a new way of eating. 
diet for lymphomaThere are dozens of diet protocols claiming to be sure-fire cures for lymphomas, and their legitimacy is sketchy at best, and truly dangerous at worst. A recent literature review found no substantiation for the efficacy of “cancer diets” [3].

What has been proven to effect health outcomes in cancer patients is a whole food diet that well-balanced diet that is rich in certain phytochemicals from particular fruits and vegetables [1][2].


Quercetin is a potent antioxidant that also helps to regulate the immune system, reduces inflammation, and may have anti-cancer activity[4]. The variety of foods containing quercetin make it easy to add into the diet.

You can find good amounts in onions, apples, broccoli, red grapes, raspberries, cranberries and cherries.


Carotenoids give colour or pigment to fresh fruits and vegetables. They can be red, yellow or orange, and all of them are potent anti-oxidants that have been proven to fight cancer cells both in vitro and in vivo. Stack your plate with foods like tomatoes, carrots, pumpkins, squash, and seaweeds.[4].

Indole-3-Carbinol (I3C)

indole-1-3-cI3C is an antioxidant compound found in cruciferous vegetables that helps the body to metabolise harmful substances including some carcinogens. It may also prevent cancer cells from growing [5].

Find indole-3-carbinol in broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower and kale.

Low-GI Foods

The glycaemic index (GI) of a food is determined by its carbohydrate content and how quickly it impacts blood sugar levels. Low-GI foods are those that are digested slowly and keep blood sugar levels stable. These are high in fibre and some healthy fats.
Legumes, non-starchy vegetables, brown rice and other whole grains, and most whole fruits are low-GI foods.

High-GI foods are quickly digested and cause spikes of insulin and insulin like growth factor, hormones that can stimulate tumour growth and cancer cell proliferation [6]. Highly refined carbohydrates found in processed foods and snacks are high-GI, as are fruit juices and products with refined sugar. Keep these to a minimum.


The most dangerous part of common “anti-cancer” diets is its “rule” that patients should avoid all supplements and medication while following the diet. It may be possible to safely undertake medical treatment alongside this diet, particularly if it will increase your intake of whole foods and vegetables. Speak to your oncologist and medical team before making any dietary changes.

L-Glutamine for Chemotherapy Side-Effects

Glutamine is an essential amino acid that has an affinity for the lining of the digestive system. It is a safe, effective treatment for the gastrointestinal distress caused by chemotherapy such as mouth sores and diarrhoea. 

Glutamine also has a role in supporting the immune system and supplementation may help to reducing long-term adverse affects of chemotherapy[7]. 
chemo side affectsA recent meta-analysis on bone marrow transplants showed that immune-supporting nutrients like glutamine could help to reduce transplant rejection and post-transplant infectio[8]. However, because of its influence on the immune system, glutamine may not be appropriate for all cancer patients. Speak to your oncologist and medical team before beginning a course of glutamine supplementation.

Lifestyle Changes

Stress and other lifestyle factors play a huge role in recovering from Hodgkin's lymphoma, and how high quality of life will be afterwards.

Stress has been shown to contribute to the onset of Hodgkin's lymphoma, and survivors are as likely to have symptoms of PTSD as people who have experienced a highly stressful life event like a motor vehicle accident[9]. However, many other survivors experience a renewed positive outlook on life. Learning to deal with stress during diagnosis can prevent anxiety and depression during remission.

Consider regular sessions with psychotherapist or psychologist, and take up recreational activities that help you to relax such as meditation, yoga, or getting a massage [10].

Alcohol use and cigarettes are directly linked to likelihood of cancer diagnosis, and inversely related to chance of survival [11][12]. That means that it's time to quit both for good!

 Anti-cancer lifestyle changes will help to protect the heart and cardiovascular health too – a bonus since radiation therapy can contribute to the risk of developing cardiovascular disease later in life. Get these lifestyle changes in place now, and you'll feel the health benefits in the short-term and in the long-run.

Herbal Medicine for Hodgkin's Lymphoma

hodgkin's lymphoma nausesThere are no studies on the efficacy of herbal medicine in treating Hodgkin's lymphoma but like nutrients, they may be beneficial in reducing side effects from conventional medical treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation. Seek advice from a herbalist or naturopath who can work with your medical team.

Gentle herbs that are brewed into a tea are generally considered safe.

Try ginger and caraway to reduce nausea caused by chemotherapy or radiation, and licorice root tea can soothe a burning sensation in the stomach.  Australia’s best online discount chemist


[1] Epstein, M. M., et al. (2015) Dietary pattern and risk of hodgkin lymphoma in a population-based case-control study. A J Epidemiol., 182:5.

[2] Nanri, A., et al. (2017) Dietary patterns and all-cause, cancer, and cardiovascular disease mortality in Japanese men and women: The Japan public health center-based prospective study. PLoS ONE, 12:4.

[3]  Huebner, J., et al. (2014) Counseling Patients on Cancer Diets: A Review of the Literature and Recommendations for Clinical Practice. Anticancer Research, 34:1, 39 – 48.

[4] Aghajanpour, M., et al. (2017) Functional foods and their role in cancer prevention and health promotion: a comprehensive review. Am J Cancer Res., 7:4, 740 – 769.

[5] Safa, M., et al. (2015) Indole-3-carbinol suppresses NF-κB activity and stimulates the p53 pathway in pre-B acute lymphoblastic leukemia cells. Tumour Biol., 36:5, 3919 – 3930.

[6] Vishwamitra, D., et al. (2017) Type I insulin-like growth factor receptor signaling in hematological malignancies. Oncotarget, 8:3, 1814 – 1844.

[7] Gaurav, K., et al. (2012) Glutamine: A novel approach to chemotherapy-induced toxicity. Indian J Med Paediatr Oncol., 33:1, 13 - 20.

[8] Kota, H. & Chamberlain, R. S. (2016) Immunonutrition Is Associated With a Decreased Incidence of Graft-Versus-Host Disease in Bone Marrow Transplant Recipients: A Meta-Analysis. JPEN J Parenter Enteral Nutr., 8.

[9] Geffen, D. B., et al. (2003) Post-traumatic stress disorder and quality of life in long-term survivors of Hodgkin's disease and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in Israel. Leuk Lymphoma, 44:11, 1925 – 1929.

[10] Smith, S. K., et al. (2008) Post-Traumatic Stress Outcomes in Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Survivors. J Clinic Oncool., 26:6, 934 – 941.

[11] Goral, J., et al. (2008) Exposure - dependent effects of ethanol on the innate immune system. Alcohol., 42:4, 237 – 247.

[12] Kamper-Jørgensen, M., et al. (2013) Cigarette smoking and risk of Hodgkin lymphoma and its subtypes: a pooled analysis from the International Lymphoma Epidemiology Consortium (InterLymph). Ann Oncol., 24:9, 2245 – 2255.

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