Diet to Improve Blood Counts

Last Modified: March 19, 2010


Dear OncoLink "Ask The Experts,"

My platelet and white blood counts are low and my chemo is being held until they improve. Is there anything I can eat or take (vitamins or supplements) to help increase them?


Karen Wagner MS, RD, LDN, Clinical dietitian specialist for the Abramson Cancer Center, responds:

This is a question that I get asked quite frequently and unfortunately, the short answer is no. The best thing to do for yourself is to stay well hydrated, eat a variety of foods and make sure you are getting enough protein. Most people on chemotherapy need between 70-90 grams of protein per day. If it is difficult for you to get a variety of foods, you may consider taking a ÒOne-a DayÓ type of multivitamin to make sure your body is getting the vitamins it needs to make new cells. If high protein foods, such as meat, chicken, dairy, beans, nuts, or fish are difficult for you to take in, you may consider a protein supplement like a yogurt smoothie, Ensure or Boost or Carnation Instant Breakfast to help meet your protein needs.

Please talk to your doctor or dietitian about taking any herbal or vitamin supplements for low platelet count or any other issue. Many of the most common supplements, including omega-threes and St. JohnÕs Wort, actually interfere with the way platelets work.

This question and answer was part of the OncoLink Brown Bag Chat Series, Exercise, Nutrition and Cancer Webchat. View the entire transcript here.

From the National Cancer Institute