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Eating a Healthy Diet With Amyloidosis

Posted on January 03, 2022
Medically reviewed by
Todd Gersten, M.D.
Article written by
Maureen McNulty

While a diet can’t cause, prevent, or treat your amyloidosis, eating healthy may help you avoid certain serious complications. In fact, eating a balanced diet can help you feel as good as possible.

A good diet can also have several other benefits. It can:

  • Give you extra energy
  • Support healthy muscles and keep your strength up
  • Allow for a speedy recovery after undergoing intense treatments

Before reading on for nutritional advice, remember to always follow your doctor’s advice when it comes to your diet. Do not change your eating habits before consulting with your health care team.

What Diet Should People With Amyloidosis Follow?

Doctors do not usually recommend people with amyloidosis follow any one particular diet. The ideal approach is to eat balanced meals that provide your body with all the nutrients you need. Following the general guidelines for a healthy diet can help people with amyloidosis have their best possible quality of life.

In some cases, however, your doctors may make specific diet recommendations. If you have or are at risk for complications, you may need to follow a specific eating plan or avoid certain foods.

The Basics of a Healthy Diet

Nutrients are substances that your body’s cells and tissues use to function properly. Eating a variety of healthy foods ensures your body gets vital nutrients.

The types of nutrients are:

  • Carbohydrates
  • Fats
  • Proteins
  • Vitamins and minerals

Carbohydrates: Whole Grains and Fiber Are Best

Carbohydrates give your cells the energy needed to carry out different tasks. There are a couple of different types of carbohydrates:

  • Sugars (or simple carbohydrates) are the building blocks of other types of carbohydrates. If your body doesn’t use up all of the sugar that you eat, it stores the extra as fat.
  • Starches are long strings of simple carbohydrates that take longer for your body to break down during digestion.
  • Fiber can’t be completely broken down by your body. Fiber helps support the health of your digestive system, reduces constipation you may have, controls your cholesterol and blood sugar levels, and reduces your risk for certain chronic diseases.

Eating complex carbohydrates — starch and fiber — gives you long-lasting energy and makes you feel more full after a meal. One great source of complex carbohydrates is whole grains. Whole wheat bread or pasta, oatmeal, brown rice, popcorn, and grains like quinoa and buckwheat can each play a big role in keeping you healthy.

Vegetables and fruits can also be a great source for healthy carbohydrates. Experts recommend you fill half of your plate with fruits or non-starchy vegetables to optimize your health. These foods (as well as legumes and whole grains) often contain a lot of fiber, which most people don’t eat enough of. To get the most out of produce, eat the skin of fruits and vegetables when possible, and avoid processed items. Beans, nuts, and seeds also contain high levels of fiber.

Fats: Stay Away From Saturated and Trans Fats

Many people view fats as bad, but the truth is that you need to eat some fat to stay healthy. Fats are an important source of energy. Your body also needs fat in order to use vitamins, control inflammation levels, and support skin, hair, and brain health.

Certain types of fats are better for you than others. Eating too much saturated fat or trans fat raises cholesterol levels and increases your risk of certain health problems, such as heart disease. Foods that come from animals, such as fatty meats and dairy products, contain higher levels of saturated fats. Processed, pre-packaged, or fast food items often have a lot of trans fat.

On the other hand, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats can help a person to control their cholesterol levels and protect them against heart disease. Nuts, avocados, flax seeds, and fish contain a lot of these healthy fats.

Other good sources of healthy fats include oils such as:

  • Olive oil
  • Corn oil
  • Sunflower oil
  • Safflower oil
  • Canola oil

Proteins: Get the Right Balance

Protein is important for healthy muscles, skin, and bones. Your body also uses protein to make hormones and enzymes. It is important to eat enough protein each day to keep yourself healthy.

Although amyloidosis is a disease caused by buildup of amyloid proteins, there is no need for people with amyloidosis to lower their protein intake. The proteins found in food are different from the abnormal proteins made by the body during amyloidosis. A high-protein diet won’t cause more amyloid deposits to form.

People with amyloidosis who are experiencing kidney disease or are undergoing dialysis treatments may need to follow a low-protein diet. Eating too much protein can lead to additional kidney damage if you are in this group of people. If you have kidney problems or are at risk for developing them, ask your doctor how much protein you should aim to eat each day.

Choosing low-fat protein options can help ensure you are getting enough protein while avoiding saturated fats. Foods like bacon, sausages, fatty pieces of beef and pork, 85 percent lean ground beef, and processed meats should be eaten sparingly.

Healthy protein choices include:

  • Lean meats (like pork loin or 93 percent lean ground beef)
  • Poultry (such as chicken and turkey)
  • Eggs
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Beans, lentils, and peas
  • Soybeans and soy products (such as tofu)
  • Seafood (like salmon and trout)

Vitamins and Minerals

Vitamins and minerals are necessary to keep your cells running and help your body stay healthy. When you eat a variety of healthy foods and regularly eat things from different food groups, you will likely get most of the vitamins and minerals you need.

Fruits and vegetables often contain a lot of vitamins and minerals. One good goal is to eat more colorful meals, because different-colored fruits and vegetables often contain different vitamins.

Here are some examples of produce and their nutrients:

  • Red produce (like tomatoes, grapefruit, and strawberries) contains vitamin A, vitamin C, and damage-fighting antioxidants like lycopene.
  • Orange and yellow fruits and vegetables (such as carrots and bananas), tend to have high levels of vitamin A, vitamin C, and potassium.
  • Green produce (like spinach and broccoli) tends to provide a lot of vitamin K and potassium.
  • Blue and purple fruits and veggies (such as blueberries, raisins, and eggplant) contain a lot of antioxidants.

If you feel that you may not be getting enough vitamins and minerals from your diet, you may want to take supplements. However, before taking any dietary supplements, talk to your doctor. Some products, including natural supplements, herbs, and vitamins, may interfere with amyloidosis drugs. For example, if you have AL amyloidosis and use Velcade (bortezomib), you should avoid taking vitamin C, as the vitamin may make the medication less effective.

Drink the Right Amount of Fluids

Staying hydrated is important. The body needs water to perform many bodily functions, like feeding your cells, digesting your food, and controlling both your body temperature and blood pressure. But, for some people, including those with amyloidosis, there can be such a thing as too much water.

Amyloid deposits in the heart or kidneys can cause heart failure or kidney disease. Two types of amyloidosis — AL amyloidosis and wild-type transthyretin (ATTR) amyloidosis — can increase a person’s risk of heart failure. And many kinds of amyloidosis can lead to kidney failure.

People with such heart and kidney conditions often have too much fluid building up within their bodies. That can lead to multiple problems, like swelling, exhaustion, and breathing trouble. Ask your doctor if it may be a good idea to limit the fluids you drink.

Diet Planning With Amyloidosis

How much of each different type of food do you need each day? The answer depends on your age, biological sex, weight, and individual health needs. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) provides a tool called MyPlate Plan that gives you an estimate of how much to eat from each food group each day.

You might find that tracking your meals helps ensure you meet your dietary goals. There are many websites and smartphone apps that act as diet planners, calorie counters, or food diaries. Some of these can help calculate how many carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals you are consuming.

Following a special diet or plan of eating is a good approach for many people. And some are specifically designed to help you with particular health issues. For example, the Mediterranean diet emphasizes whole grains, vegetables, beans, healthy oils, and other plant-based foods, plus seafood and poultry. These foods support a healthy heart. So that makes the diet a potentially good fit if you’ve been diagnosed with AL amyloidosis or wild-type ATTR amyloidosis — the subtypes that are especially at risk for heart problems.

If you want help with planning healthy meals or ensuring that you are getting enough nutrients, talk to a registered dietitian or certified nutritionist. These health care professionals can teach you how to make a diet that is a good fit for your specific needs.

Talk With Others Who Understand

On MyAmyloidosisTeam, the social network for people with amyloidosis and their loved ones, members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with amyloidosis.

Are you living with amyloidosis? Are you focusing more on healthy eating? Share your experiences in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.

All updates must be accompanied by text or a picture.
Todd Gersten, M.D. is a hematologist-oncologist at the Florida Cancer Specialists & Research Institute in Wellington, Florida. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Learn more about him here.
Maureen McNulty studied molecular genetics and English at Ohio State University. Learn more about her here.

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