CLL Alternatives

CLL: How to Eat

Posted by: Denise on: August 28, 2018

living well with cll

Living well with CLL! The author (in red) and some of the family, 4th of July 2018.

Please notice that the name of this article is not ‘what’ to eat, but how. We all think we know how to eat. After all, we’ve been doing this since birth. But sometimes we need a reminder. Let’s start with a scientific fact. Our immune system is strongly related to our gut, also known as our digestive system. Of course, it matters what you put into that system, that is more than true. But as someone who has struggled with digestive problems pretty much her whole life (at least as much of it that I can recall), there is much more to it than the food.

To explain, let me share my Macrobiotic experience. I was diagnosed at stage zero in 2001. In 2005, I was getting increasingly alarmed at my deteriorating blood markers. My platelets were low. My white count was high, and my hemoglobin and red blood count were also worrying. My husband and I did our due diligence and research, and we came up with Macrobiotics. I went to the book store and loaded up on several Macrobiotic texts and cookbooks. We also decided to make a trip over Labor Day to the Kushi Institute in Beckett, Massachusetts, for a week-long class. I believe it was called The Way to Health. (Please note, while I still eat an organic, whole food, mostly cooked-from-scratch diet, I am no longer technically Macrobiotic. Also, the Kushi Institute still has a web site, but they no longer offer the resident classes.)

The first thing I noticed was how the residents were skeletal thin. And many were missing teeth, which was concerning. But I was fighting leukemia here, and if I had to get thin and lose a few teeth in the process, well, that would be the breaks. As it turns out, I did suffer some gum recession and was about twenty pounds thinner than I am these days, but still it was absolutely worth the experience. I learned so much.

One of the first things I learned was to chew my food thoroughly. To count how many times you chewed, chewing until the food in your mouth was liquid — or as close to liquid as possible. To me, this sounded disgusting. But honestly, there is wisdom in this practice. The more work you consciously put into chewing, the less work your digestive system has in order to process your intake each day. When you chew, saliva mixes with your mouthful, adding digestive enzymes to the mix. Yes, those pills you buy in little bottles are naturally available if you just chew, chew, chew.

I’ve recently gone through a spate of serious stomach aches. I’m talking abdominal pain for a 36 hour stretch. Go to bed with a stomach ache and wake up with the same dull ache emanating somewhere from the left side of my waistline and radiating out to other regions of the digestive tract. I felt hunger but was afraid to eat. My husband was out of town on a business trip. I took to the Internet and looked up stomach pain and CLL, learned that it could be related. Of course, this led to a night of insomnia, keeping me from healing. I’m a strong person, but I sometimes also feel the fear.

When my husband came home, I shared my fears. He reminded me about the chewing. It’s so easy to forget. I started out by making myself meals of vegetable miso soup for breakfast, and chicken soup and rice (home made from the freezer, of course) for lunch. For dinner I had a smoothie. Everything I ate was either stewed or mush. Nothing required much chewing, but I chewed nonetheless. I feel better now, back on my regular diet, and I’m obviously very relieved. I was worried it could be the CLL, or my diverticulosis (or diverticulitis) kicking up. I was worried I might end up in the hospital where they would start running invasive tests and wearing down my immune system. (Conventional medicine saves lives, but you must be a careful and cautious consumer!)

But please take note that my main suggestion here is to chew your food well. Sit down when you eat and focus on enjoying your meal. Put a reasonably-sized helping of whatever you’re eating on your plate. Take a look at your plate before you eat and see if you agree that this is enough. Would you think it was enough if you were in a restaurant? That is your clue. Taking seconds will overload your gut and overwork your digestive system. When your digestive system is free from processing that food you put in there, it can work on making you healthy. That’s what IF/intermittent fasting is all about. But that, too, is another article. Just be sure to concentrate on eating while you’re eating. We tend to gulp food while walking around. I’m the worst while I’m cooking, and I’ve resolved not to do that any longer. So eat slowly and mindfully. Put down your fork between bites. Breathe.

So be well, enjoy your food. Eat hearty (but don’t overeat!), and chew, chew, chew!

Wishing you peace and the best of health!

9 Responses to "CLL: How to Eat"

Hi Denise!

Have you ever heard of fennel seeds and/or ajowan (known by many other names (eg Trachyspermum ammi, caraway, ajwain, bishp’s weed, carom etc.)?

I take fennel seeds after lunch and ajowan after dinner. I have been doing it for a long time. What I have observed is astonishing. This practice not only helps me digest food, it has in fact improved my digestion system. It was slow process.

Wishing you great health.


Hi Vin,
No, I’ve not heard of using fennel seeds or ajowan. I also have the tendency toward diverticulosis, so I am very careful about how I eat seeds, but I will definitely keep these in mind. Sometimes I grind seeds and put on salads. Others, like pumpkin seeds, I’m able to eat like a normal person. 🙂 I’m glad fennel and ajowan are working for you. I appreciate the suggestion!
Thanks, Denise

Hi Denise,

I also find mint helpful.

– One can eat fresh mint with food, or make tea with dry leaves.

– mint essential oil, one can rub it (diluted with a carrier oil) on tummy. Sometimes I add a drop or two of eucalyptus and lavender essential oils.

btw I am about to go for another blood test soon. Hopefully, it will be better than the last one.

Hi Vin,
Interesting…does the oil rub on the abdomen work? Last night I made a cup of ginger-lemon tea (a Yogi tea bag) before bed, and it worked perfectly. Slept like a baby. (Well, like a baby that sleeps.) : )
Let me know about the blood test results. Fingers crossed. – Denise

Hi Denise!

Whatever works. I find essential oils (mint/eucalyptus/lavender) particularly mint works wonders for me.

Forgot to mention that juniper berry essential oil is what I use for my gums and it works. I usually put a couple of drops in a handful of water (about 25 to 1 dilution) and I swish it in my mouth for about 5 minutes and then I spit it out. It works wonders for me.

Denise, I will certainly inform you of the blood test results. Btw, except for feeling tired there are no symptoms. I still go for walks etc. It is has already been more than 3 years when the blood showed the abnormality. And, I would say so far so good. Let us see what the test shows.

Kind regards.


Hi Denise,

Thanks for this important insight. You and others might be interested in this wonderful video of a conversation with Michael Lerner (author of Choices in Healing) and Akil Palanisamy, MD (author of The Paleovedic Diet).

They discuss the benefit of intermittent fasting (and bone broth, etc.). I have found that IF is not difficult at all to do because when I eat correctly I am not hungry for at least 14 hours after my early evening meal. Our bodies seem to know what we should do.

Thanks for the reminder to chew! Take care,

Thanks, Renie. And yes, our bodies DO know what we need to do. I’ve been finding it easy to put off breakfast for hours, ever since I stopped eating the SAD (standard American diet). Back when I ate a bowl or two of cereal and milk, I’d wake up starving! The chewing, however, does not come naturally. I tend to eat while distracted, at the computer, with a book, or while talking to my husband or friends. It’s really best to eat silently and mindfully (and chew, chew, chew), but my regular way is more fun. I struggle with this.
Again, thanks for writing! – Denise

Hi Denise,

When you have digestive discomfort a good thing to try is a warm
cup of Camomile Tea. It works very well for me. Also it has additional
benefits see —

Best, Chip

Thanks, Chip. I’ve tried ginger tea (which helps), but never camomile. Thanks for the suggestion!

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