Dietary Restrictions For Neutropenic Patients

Neutropenic patients need a special diet to reduce the risk of infection. A neutropenic person has a low level of white blood cells (especially white blood cells called neutrophils).

The causes can be several but it stands out especially in patients who have cancer and who must undergo chemotherapy treatment. Next, we are going to talk about the restrictions and tips that must be taken into account to be properly nourished in these cases.

What is Neutropenia?

Low neutrophils in the blood.

Neutropenia is a reduction in the blood neutrophil count, according to a study published in Clinical Cornerstone . If it is severe, the risk and severity of bacterial and fungal infections increases. Focal symptoms of infection may go unnoticed, but fever is present during most serious infections.

The diagnosis is made by leukocyte count with differential formula, but the evaluation requires identifying the cause. If fever is present, an infection is presumed and therefore immediate empirical treatment with broad-spectrum antibiotics is required, especially when neutropenia is severe.

What is the diet for neutropenic patients?

Well, the truth is that here comes a large part of the problem because  there are no uniform standards  for the administration of a neutropenic diet and its variants are many. Even within the same hospital center where different professionals defend different dietary schemes  for the same purpose. It is possible to find some protocols, such as the one published in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics , but they are not systematized worldwide.

What is suggested to restrict neutropenic patients?

thyroid seafood

Depending on what your oncologist tells you and the center where you are undergoing chemotherapy, you may be advised to avoid certain foods. Foods to avoid include:

  • Raw meats and seafood.
  • Raw walnuts.
  • Butter.
  • Any food that may contain raw egg.
  • Soft or aged cheeses.
  • Unpasteurized cheeses.
  • Unpasteurized milk.
  • Fruit and vegetable juices.
  • Bulk cereals.
  • Cream-filled cakes that are not frozen.
  • Raw or honeycomb honey.
  • Waters from water sources or wells.
  • Water supplemented with vitamins.
  • Sauces or dressings from the supermarket.

What risks could the neutropenic diet bring?

Oncologists are now placing more emphasis on safe food handling techniques, rather than restricting foods . Chemotherapy already has a great impact on a person’s body and appetite. Restricting food further can make any underlying nutritional deficiencies worse.

While you may hear that the neutropenic diet can be good, safe food handling and limiting the intake of certain foods is as important, as ever, to reduce disease, and potentially mortality, while receiving chemotherapy. .

Even in recent years the effects of the ketogenic diet have been investigated in these types of patients, with promising results in reducing mortality.

Important aspects to consider

neutropenic patients

People who receive chemotherapy also have to deal with other challenges on a daily basis:

  • Mouth sores, so you need to choose foods that are less likely to harm you when you eat them. Citrus or spicy foods are best avoided.
  • Loss of appetite. Even if you don’t feel like eating, there are some tips that can help you get proper nutrition.
  • Changes in taste. Some chemotherapy drugs can make everything you eat taste metallic. Choosing foods, such as those with strong flavors and eating with plastic utensils, can be helpful among other changes.
  • Fatigue is one of the most bothersome symptoms of cancer treatment, and it is not uncommon for people to eat less healthily than they should. Be sure to ask for help with cooking and cleaning. (Keep in mind that loved ones of people with cancer often feel helpless, and asking for help is something you can do for them.)

If you are concerned about food handling or the foods you may or may not eat while undergoing chemotherapy, talk to your oncologist and ask if it would be a good idea to see an oncology nutritionist.


In addition to safe food practices, there are many ways you can reduce your risk of developing an infection during chemotherapy, especially when your white blood cell count is low. Friends with coughs or colds are often thought of, but pets can also be a source of infection.

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