Neutropenic Diet

Cross section of blood vessel with normal amounts of red blood cells, platelets, and white blood cells in plasma. Below it is another cross section of blood vessel with neutropenia showing normal amounts of red blood cells, platelets, and too few white blBy: Nikki Nies

Neutropenia is the abnormal level of neutrophils.  What are neutrophils you ask? Good question!

Neutrophils are a type of white blood cell that fights off infection that can lead to bacteria and/or fungi issues. The standard screening of neutropenia is adults is  1,700 or less neutrophils per microliter of blood. The count for children varies with age.  However, it’s safe to say that the lower the neutrophil count is, the more likely you’re prone to infectious diseases.

The cause of neutropenia can be due to, but not limited to: cancer, damage to bone marrow, congenital disorders, viral infections, autoimmune disorders that destroy neutrophils and/or bone marrow, overwhelming infections that use neutrophils faster than produced, drugs that destroy neutrophils or damage bone marrow, alcoholism, aplastic anemia, chemotherapy, hepatitis A, B or C, HIV/AIDS, hyperthyroidism, Kostmann’s syndrome, leukemia, lupus, Lyme disease, malaria, myelodysplastic syndrome, myelofibrosis, stem cell or organ transport, radiation therapy, rheumatoid arthritis, salmonella infection, sepsis, syndrome associated neutropenia and/or vitamin deficiencies.

A neutropenic aims to provide one with the necessary foods to protect from harmful bacteria and/or growth of other organisms.  By cooking foods thoroughly (i.e. beef, chicken, eggs) can make sure these organisms are destroyed. Meat should be cooked to “well done” and eggs shouldn’t contain any “runny yolks.”

Characteristics of Neutropenic Diet:

Original Image by Emma Line via Flickr
Original Image by Emma Line via Flickr
  • Opt for instant and/or decaf coffee or tea
  • Opt for individual cans and/or bottles of carbonated beverages
  • Avoid unpasteurized fruit and vegetable juice as these are “hubs” for bacterial growth
  • Avoid breads or cereals that contain raw nuts and/or oats.  Since oats and/or nuts are not exposed to heat, it can lead to bacterial growth
  • Avoid uncooked pasta and making bread with yeast
  • Avoid deli counters, instead opt for vacuum packed meat
  • Avoid yogurt and yogurt products that contain live cultures
  • Make sure all dairy products are pasteurized
  • Avoid raw or fresh foods (i.e. salads, garnishes, herbs, fresh salsa and some fruits) 
  • Thick skinned bananas and/or oranges are permissable

Additionally, be careful while handling food. Make sure to wash your hands before handling foods, to wash all surfaces cutting boards and utensils. While these precautions may seem overly cautious, it’s better to be safe than sorry! Besides, with the colder months upon us, it’ll be much easier to eat ‘warm’ foods!

Photo Credit:Fairview Health Services and Siamca


Click to access CP0411NeutropenicDiet.pdf

Click to access NeutropenicDiet.pdf

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