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Foods that Fight Anemia

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You’ve been bone-tired for months and you don’t know why. You are diagnosed with a blood cancer called multiple myeloma and your oncologist tells you that you have anemia. Now you are depressed and bone-tired. What do you do???

You face several challenges.

  • Diagnostic testing info is helpful but so confusing-
  • Anemia may be both a symptom of your cancer and a side effect of your chemo-
  • there are conventional meds to help your anemia but they have side effects?

While you may end up undergoing conventional anemia medications, consider non-toxic therapies such as foods and tea to help build up your red blood cells.

FDA approved anemia therapies are a conventional approach and evidence-based non-conventional therapies are a complementary approach.

By adding non-toxic foods and supplements to your anemia you will be able to reduce the dose of conventional therapies and reduce your risk of side effects.

Scroll down the page, post a question or a comment and I will reply to you ASAP.

Good luck,

David Emerson

  • MM Survivor
  • MM Cancer Coach
  • Director PeopleBeatingCancer

Bioactive natural constituents from lemongrass tea and erythropoiesis boosting effects: potential use in prevention and treatment of anemia

“This study assessed the effects of lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus) tea on hematologic indices in human volunteers. One hundred five subjects (55 men and 50 women), aged 18 to 35 years, were randomly assigned to groups set to orally receive infusion prepared from 2, 4, or 8 g of C. citratus leaves once daily for 30 days.

  • Assessment of hematologic indices
  • (hemoglobin concentration [Hb],
  • packed cell volume [PCV],
  • red blood cell [RBC] count,
  • mean cell Hb [MCH],
  • mean cell volume [MCV],
  • mean cell Hb concentration [MCHC],
  • total white blood cell [WBC-total] and differentials, and platelets)

were performed 1 day before (baseline), and at 10 (acute) and 30 days (subchronic phase) after the initiation of treatment.

Results obtained on days 10 and 30 were compared with baseline values.

Infusions prepared from C. citratus leaf powder, which tested positive for tannins, saponins, alkaloids, flavonoids, macro- and micronutrients, significantly increased PCV, Hb, and RBC in all subjects, particularly in the subchronic phase of the study.

MCH, MCV, and MCHC were not significantly different from baseline values in both the sexes. WBCs and differentials significantly decreased (P<.05) with the exception of neutrophils and lymphocytes, which significantly increased in some or all groups, respectively.

C. citratus leaf infusion appears to exert an erythropoiesis boosting effect, likely due to some nutritional constituents and its antioxidant and pharmacologic properties…”



Multiple myeloma can cause anemia, a condition where there are too few red blood cells in the body. A decreased amount of red blood cells can cause fatigue and weakness. Anemia can also be caused by iron, folate, and vitamin B-12 deficiencies.


There are two types of iron: heme and non-heme. Animal-based foods provide heme iron and plant foods provide non-heme iron. Heme iron is more readily absorbed by the body. If a person is found to have low iron levels, taking an iron supplement and eating foods high in iron can help.

The best sources of heme iron include:

  • clams
  • liver
  • red meat
  • sardines

The best sources of non-heme iron include:

  • beans
  • chickpeas
  • lentils
  • nuts
  • spinach and other leafy greens

A person should be sure to include sources of vitamin C with non-heme iron in their diet to improve absorption. Examples include bell peppers, oranges, berries, and lemon juice.


Folate is a B vitamin that helps with the formation of red and white blood cells in the bone marrow.

Foods that are high in folate include:

  • asparagus
  • beef liver
  • black-eyed peas
  • lentils
  • broccoli
  • beans (cooked from dried)
  • spinach

Vitamin B-12

Vitamin B-12 works together with folate to form red blood cells. A deficiency in B-12 can further decrease the bone marrow’s ability to make and maintain red blood cells in people with multiple myeloma.

Food sources of B-12 include:

  • beef
  • liver
  • clams
  • fish
  • poultry
  • eggs
  • dairy
  • fortified breakfast cereals
  • fortified non-dairy milk, such as soy milk, flax milk, or almond milk
  • nutritional yeast

Vitamin D

A small study of 32 people post myeloma treatment found that 59 percent had a vitamin D deficiency, 25 percent had insufficient folate, and 6 percent were lacking in B-12.

Sources of vitamin D include:

  • sunlight
  • fortified orange juice
  • fortified yogurt and milk
  • sockeye salmon, tuna, and sardines
  • egg yolks


People with multiple myeloma can develop kidney damage. The breakdown of bone releases high amounts of calcium and protein into the bloodstream, which the kidneys work hard to filter out.

As kidney function declines, people with multiple myeloma may need to limit their intake of potassium, phosphorus, and fluids.

Foods that are high in potassium include:

  • avocados
  • bananas
  • spinach and other leafy greens
  • citrus
  • tomatoes

Foods that are high in phosphorus include:

  • whole-grain bread
  • bran cereals
  • oats
  • nuts and sunflower seeds

For people who do not have multiple myeloma, foods that are high in potassium and phosphorus are not harmful. However, for those whose kidneys cannot filter out these minerals, a build-up of potassium and phosphorus can be dangerous.

A doctor will closely follow the kidney function of someone with multiple myeloma to see if potassium or phosphorus need to be monitored.


While cancer itself can damage a person’s immune system, so can cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy. Damage to a person’s immune system can put them at a higher risk for infection.

Hand washing and staying away from people who are sick are essential for people with a weakened immune system.

Some foods can also cause further illness and infection in a person who is receiving chemotherapy. While someone with a healthy immune system can fight off pathogens in food, someone with decreased immunity would benefit from avoiding foods that could contain a food-borne illness or bacteria.

Foods to avoid:

  • raw or undercooked meats, seafood, and poultry
  • deli meats that have not been reheated to a safe internal temperature
  • unpasteurized dairy
  • raw sprouts
  • uncooked eggs or foods containing them, such as cookie dough

To safely cook and prepare food for a compromised immune system, a person should:

  • avoid fruits and vegetables that are bruised or damaged
  • wash all produce thoroughly
  • do not eat foods past their ‘best before’ or expiration date
  • do not leave perishable food out at room temperature
  • keep raw meats and poultry in separate bags at the grocery store, and keep them away from each other in the refrigerator.

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