Dietary restrictions for neutropenic patients

Neutropenic patients need special nutrition 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 above all in the patients who have cancer and who must have a chemotherapy treatment. Next, we are going to talk about the restrictions and advice that must be taken into account in order to be adequately nourished in these cases.

What is neutropenia?

Neutropenia is a reduction in the blood neutrophil count. As a result of this, the immune system weakens and increases the risk of different infections.

Neutropenia is a reduction in the blood neutrophil count. If severe, the risk and severity of bacterial and fungal infections increase. Focal symptoms of infection may go unnoticed, but there is fever during most serious infections.

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

What is diet for neutropenic patients?

Well the truth is that here comes a big 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 with the same purpose.

Read also: Diet against anemia: 10 foods that you should consume

What is suggested to restrict neutropenic patients?

In order to ensure adequate nutrition, you can advise the restriction of some foods that are possibly part of the diet.

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

  • Raw meats and seafood
  • Raw nuts
  • 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 supermarket dressings

What risks could the neutropenic diet bring?

Oncologists are now putting more emphasis on safe food management techniques, rather than restricting food. Chemotherapy already has a great impact on a person's body and appetite. Restricting food even more can worsen any underlying nutritional deficiency.

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

You might be interested in reading: Effects of chemotherapy in the body

Important aspects to take into account

Neutropenic patients face other inconveniences when it comes to feeding. The presence of sores and lack of appetite are some of them.

People who receive chemotherapy also have to fight daily with other challenges:

  • The sores in the mouth, so it is necessary to choose foods that are less likely to harm when eating them. Citrus or spicy foods are best avoided.
  • Loss of appetite. Even if you do not feel like eating, there are some tips that can help you have 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 useful among other changes.
  • Fatigue is one of the most annoying symptoms of cancer treatment and it is not uncommon why people do not eat as healthily as they should. Make sure you ask for help cooking and cleaning. (Keep in mind that the 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 the handling of food or the foods you may or may not eat while receiving chemotherapy, talk to your oncologist and ask if it would be a good idea to see a nutritionist in oncology.


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

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