Dietary recommendations for low white blood cell count

Ellen Sweeney, RD
Last Modified: February 17, 2002


Dear OncoLink "Ask The Experts,"

Are there any supplements or foods that can help raise a White Blood Cell Count that is too low to allow the next round of chemotherapy? Is there any nutrition advice for a patient on neupogen?


Ellen Sweeney, RD, registered dietitian at the Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania, responds:

There are no supplements or specific foods known to increase white blood cell counts. People often confuse iron supplementation with low white blood cell count. Iron supplementation is only appropriate with low RED blood cells. The neupogen medication helps increase white blood cell production. There are no nutrition recommendations with Neupogen since it does not affect digestion or interact with any food.

However, when white blood cells are low, a patient is at higher risk for infection so avoidance of uncooked raw fruits and vegetables is important during this time. Raw, uncooked fruits and vegetables may potentially harbor bacteria. Well-cooked vegetables or canned fruits are fine to have. All in all, the best way to insure good immune function and white blood cell production is to eat a well balanced diet with adequate calories to maintain weight and adequate protein through treatment. A person usually needs 1.2-1.5 gram of protein for each kg of body weight and 13-15 calories for each pound of body weight. If appetite is poor, then supplement with Boost® or Ensure® liquid supplements for additional calories and protein to maintain weight and protein stores. For further concerns, ask to speak with a Registered Dietitian at your Cancer Center.


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