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Neutropenia Diet

Neutropenia is a condition in which there is an unusually low neutrophils count in the blood. Neutrophils defend the body against certain fungal and acute bacterial infections. Around 45 to 75 percent of the white blood cells in the blood are neutrophils. When the count of neutrophils goes below 1,000 cells in a micro liter of blood, the chances of infection will be raised.

A diet for neutropenia is an intervention that is intended to cut down the entry of bacteria into the patients’ gastrointestinal tract.

You can consult a dietician regarding the foods to eat and the ones to avoid so as to prepare a diet plan that is suited to you. A general outline has been provided below.

Foods to include

Individuals with neutropenia require additional protein and calories to provide support to the immune system and help the body recover from the treatment and disease. Individuals can also face other nutritional challenges including loss of appetite and problems of digesting food. Therefore, being aware of the required nutrition for neutropenic patients and ensuring it is important.

List of foods for neutropenic patients

  • Meat and meat substitutes: Meats that you can consume are meats that are cooked well or canned. However, make sure that you avoid undercooked or raw food. Avoid deli meats, and choose cold cuts and commercially packaged meats. Also avoid having clams, raw oysters, sushi, tempeh, pickled fish, lox, and cold smoked salmon.
  • Starches: Pastas, potatoes, cooked grains, cooked cereals, pancakes, French toast, and waffles can be eaten by neutropenia sufferers. You can also eat bagels, muffins, donuts, and rolls, but they should not have any raw nuts. You should avoid cereals if they have nuts, fruits, or raw oats.
  • Spices and condiments: Most spices and condiments can be eaten by neutropenia sufferers, but all spices cooked should be fresh. The serving of condiments should always be from different containers and always with utensils that are clean to avoid bacterial contamination. You could also have fresh salads, provided that they do not have fresh herbs, aged cheese, or raw eggs.
  • Deserts: Deserts like pies, cream-filled cakes, candy, sherbet, and commercial ice cream, baked custards or puddings, cookies, and cakes can be part of a neutropenic diet. The deserts you should avoid are candy or cake with raw nuts, homemade or commercial ice cream and raw cookie dough.

The treatment of neutropenia will depend on the severity and cause of the condition. Drugs that can cause neutropenia are ceased if possible and exposures to toxins are avoided. Individuals with mild neutropenia usually have no symptoms and may not require treatment. However, neutropenia that is severe can cause the body to succumb rapidly to the infection. This is because the body is not able to combat infections. In case of an infection, the patient is usually hospitalized and administered antibiotics. This is done even before the infection’s exact location and cause are identified.

When neutropenia is brought about by some other disorder like leukemia or tuberculosis, the treatment of the disorder that is underlying may resolve neutropenia. Bone marrow transplantation is not usually used for the treatment of neutropenia, but may be recommended for the treatment of serious neutropenia causes like leukemia or aplastic anemia. A diagnosis of neutropenia is usually made when a patient has a recurrent bacterial infection or fever. The diagnosis could also be done on a routine laboratory work or when the individual is being checked for other disorders. If neutropenia is detected, a confirmation should be done by repeat testing with a manual, differential, and complete blood count examination of the smear of peripheral blood.

Foods to avoid

It is vital that neutropenic patients are aware of foods to avoid. Understanding the causes of neutropenia and taking necessary precautions will also help in preventing the onset of the condition. Some of the foods to avoid include:

  • Raw unpasteurized milk
  • Rare or raw meat, fish, eggs, poultry
  • Frozen yoghurt or soft serve ice cream
  • Raw nuts
  • Uncooked spices

Neutropenia diet chart

A low count of white blood cells can increase an individual’s vulnerability to infection quite significantly. Hence, it is important that the neutropenia diet chart prepared helps to repair and control the condition. A typical diet chart will include foods that one can eat and exclude foods that will aggravate the situation.

Neutropenia health tips

Some neutropenia health tips

  • Eat frequent and small meals or snacks
  • Consume nutritional supplements such as ice cream frappes with enriched milk
  • Drink instant breakfasts or other supplements that are commercially prepared

Since the symptoms of neutropenia are few, make sure that you are fully aware of the symptoms this condition produces and get checked up if you observe any of them.

Additional Info


  • Leukemia
  • Malaria
  • Hepatitis A
  • Aplastic anemia


  • Frequent infections
  • Unexplained fever
  • Enlarged lymph nodes

Diagnosis and Treatment

The approach of a neutropenia diagnosis will vary between children and adults. The most likely causes in adults are infections or primary acquired bone marrow disease. In children, it is usually an immune neutropenia. Treatment options include:

  • Antibiotics
  • Drugs that enable the bone marrow to create neutrophils
  • Proper diet
  • Food safety


Karen Moody; Mary Charlson, Jonathan Finlay, ‘The Neutropenic Diet: What’s the Evidence?’, Journal of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology, December 2002, 24/9. Available at


Submitted on January 16, 2014