If you have lower-than-normal levels of neutrophils (a type of white cell), you may need to adopt a neutropenic diet, which can help protect you from bacteria and other harmful organisms found in some food and drinks.
If your neutrophil counts fall below a certain number, you'll stay on a neutropenic diet until your counts improve to decrease your exposure to bacteria. If you had a stem cell transplant, your diet may be stricter than that of a patient who had chemotherapy or radiation therapy and no transplant.
Neutropenic diet guidelines vary among cancer centres. Ask your doctor for any special instructions.
Basic Guidelines for a Neutropenic Diet
- Avoid all uncooked vegetables and most uncooked fruits. You may eat fruit that you can peel a thick skin off of, such as a banana or an orange. Cooked vegetables and canned fruits and juices are safe to eat.
- Avoid raw or rare meat and fish and uncooked or undercooked eggs. Cook meat until it's well-done. Thoroughly cook eggs (no runny yolks).
- Avoid salad bars and deli counters. Buy vacuum-packed lunch meats instead of freshly sliced meats.
- Consume only pasteurized milk, yogurt, cheese and other dairy products.
- Avoid soft mold-ripened and blue-veined cheeses such as Brie, Camembert, Roquefort, Stilton, Gorgonzola and Bleu.
- Avoid well water or boil it for one minute before drinking. At home, it's okay to drink tap water or bottled water.
- Download or order The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's free fact sheet, Food and Nutrition Facts.