Diet and physical activity after acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL)

Many people ask us about what they should eat and what physical activity they can do after they have had treatment. Exactly what you can do varies and depends on the treatment you have had and how fit you are. 

If you have had a stem cell or bone marrow transplant, have a look in the life after transplant section for more specific advice.

Diet and ALL

Diet plays an important part in coping with cancer and its treatment. A good, well balanced diet can help you feel stronger, have more energy, and recover more quickly.

After treatment most people can eat whatever they want. While having treatment you may have lost weight due to the side effects of your treatment.  This could have been because you:

  • lost your appetite
  • had taste changes
  • felt sick
  • had a sore mouth
  • had constipation or diarrhoea

Or you might have put on weight from the steroids you had as part of your treatment. 

If you still find it difficult to eat, you can try high calorie and high protein drinks. You might have had these drinks during treatment. Once your treatment has finished, you should begin to feel better and be able to eat a normal diet. This can take a while after intensive treatment.

After having cancer, many people look at their diet and make changes, deciding to choose healthier options. For example:

  • eating at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day
  • eating less fat and salt
  • cutting down on alcohol

Both men and women are advised to drink no more than 14 units of alcohol a week.

Ask your doctor or nurse for a referral to a dietitian if you want more advice about your diet after cancer treatment.

Physical activity and ALL

Physical activity is a great way to help you feel better, both physically and emotionally. It can help to reduce tiredness (fatigue) after treatment. How much you can do will depend on how fit you are and how you feel. You will probably have days when you don’t have so much energy. Listen to your body and build up slowly.

Gentle walking is suitable for most people to start with. If you don't have a central line, you can do most contact sports and swimming once your blood counts are back to normal and you feel up to it.

Ask your doctor or specialist nurse when you can do more physical and strenuous activities.
Last reviewed: 
30 Jun 2021
Next review due: 
30 Jun 2024
  • Living with and beyond cancer: taking action to improve outcomes
    National Cancer Survivorship Initiative (NCSI), March 2013

  • UK Chief Medical Officers’ Alcohol Guideline Review: Summary of the proposed new guidelines
    Department of Health, January 2016

  • Principles and practice of oncology (11th edition)
    VT De Vita, S Hellman and SA Rosenberg
    Lippincott, Williams and Wilkins, 2019

  • Eat well during cancer
    World Cancer Research Fund, 2018

  • The Association of UK Dieticians website
    Accessed June 2021

  • The information on this page is based on literature searches and specialist checking. We used many references and there are too many to list here. Please contact patientinformation@cancer.org.uk with details of the particular issue you are interested in if you need additional references for this information.

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