Eating well with CML

Skitter Photo/

Photo Credit: Skitter Photo/

One of the biggest challenges for some people living with CML is fatigue. And we aren’t talking about the kind of tired that disappears with a good night’s sleep. We are talking about intense, relentless fatigue that makes your arms and legs feel heavy, so heavy that even walking can seem like a chore. Add to that difficulty concentrating and memory issues, and day-to-day life is, well, not very fun.

The truth is, side effect-related fatigue is a tough one to beat. But there are ways to give yourself a good shot at not only managing it, but managing it well.

Let’s talk food basics. We all know the importance of eating healthily, and we are familiar with Canada’s Food Guide. But can simply eating better be a weapon against the things that are affecting quality of life, like fatigue?

Melanie Hesketh says yes, and it simply comes down to food choices.

“Nutrition is defined as the process of obtaining the food necessary for health and growth,” says Hesketh, a registered holistic nutritionist at Lifetime Wellness Centre in Windsor, Ontario. “If you consider this each time you are nourishing your body, you will be more aware of the quality of food you are providing your body. Ask yourself: “’Is this going to provide health and growth to my body?’”

Using the saying, “you are what you eat,” Hesketh, who is also a live blood analyst and a certified metabolic balance coach, stresses that smart food choices not only equal better health, but also increased energy.

Sounds simple enough, but how do we get there? Focus on the three sources of food fuel:


Mono & polyunsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids like those found in coldwater fish like salmon and trout, nuts, and flaxseed oil. And don’t ignore bad fats like saturated fat and trans fat which are synthetically produced, unnatural fats. “Trans fat is made when a liquid vegetable oil is changed into a solid fat, and is often added to processed foods to improve taste and texture, and help food stay fresh longer,” she says adding that these fats can increase the risk of heart disease by increasing cholesterol.


“Protein plays a critical role in the body,” she says, performing most of the work in cells and is required for the structure, function, and regulation of the body’s tissues and organs. Good sources of protein include fish, poultry meat tofu, legumes (beans and lentils), dairy (cheese, yogurt and milk), eggs, and vegetables like kale, spinach, asparagus, Brussel sprouts, and mushrooms.


An important source of energy, carbohydrates include whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and beans. But remember that not all carbohydrates are good for you, says Hesketh, pointing out that refined carbohydrates or sugars like white bread, white rice, pastry, pop provide little or no nutritional value and over time. In fact, a steady intake of refined carbohydrates can lead to insulin resistance, which can result in weight gain, low energy levels, diabetes, heart disease and other health conditions.

Hesketh also adds that even the best food choices can be prepared in ways that deplete nutrients such as overcooking or covering food in excessive cheese, butter and fatty or sugary sauces.

And then there are the things that potentially take energy away from your body such as drinking alcohol, coffee, pop, smoking, refined carbohydrates like “junk” food, and stress.

Seem like a lot? Hesketh says that even one small diet change can make a big difference in terms of energy.

“Even taking just one step towards eating more healthily has so many benefits,” she says. “A little more energy, a clearer mind. And as you feel better, you’ll want to do more.”

Melanie Hesketh can be reached at

Five ways to energize your diet

  • Consume three different types of protein daily
  • Three tablespoons of healthy fats daily
  • Two to three servings of fruit
  • Minimum of three servings of vegetables
  • Up to three small servings of whole grains or starch daily

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