NEUTROPENIA

As mentioned earlier, whilst you're undergoing chemotherapy, you become more likely to be unable to fight infections that your body would have normally shrugged off with out problem.

One of the less wanted actions of the chemotherapy can be to cause you to develop a problem which is called neutropenia. Whilst this is something that anyone can suffer, and some people are actually born with this blood disorder, during undergoing chemotherapy it can be extremely dangerous. This is the reason that you must take note of any feelings of illness (Flu, colds, chickenpox etc) and make sure that you contact your hospital if you have any doubts about your health.

Put basically the term neutropenia describes the situation where the number of neutrophils in the blood is too low. Neutrophils are very important in defending the body against bacterial infections, and therefore, a patient with too few neutrophils is more susceptible to bacterial infections. (For a fuller description of neutropenia click HERE)

Having become neutropenic myself and managed to contract an E-coli infection I can state from first hand knowledge that this is not something you wish to experience. I had felt quite tired which I put down to my usual mid-chemo session 'run down' feelings. However by the end of that day I was running a temperature of 39.6C/103F and I knew I was going back into hospital. PDQ, which I did. I spent time in isolation and over 48 hours on an IV drip of fluids and antibiotics.

As part of my recovery routine when I was discharged I was given a special diet regime as well as some nasty self-inject-in-my-stomach extra drugs to boost my immune system. This diet (a version of which is reproduced below) is designed to guide you away from risky foods. Not just stuff from the dodgy indian or chinese takeaway or kebab house but also to make you aware of how you should approach certain foodstuffs when on chemotherapy.

Many of you may recognise this a somewhat similar to the diet regime that is suggested to women while pregnant and it's is suggested to them for the same reason.

NEUTROPENIC DIET

A neutropenic diet is sometimes referred to as a "clean diet". This basically means avoiding foods which are known to contain a higher level of bacteria. You can still follow a normal diet but the advice below should be incorporated all the time your white cell count is lower than acceptable.

BEVERAGES

  • WATER: Choose boiled tap water. Home filtered water is NOT infection free. Use this boiled water for drinking, making ice cubes and also in the preparation of food.

  • MILK: Choose pasteurised, sterilsed or Long Life (UHT) versions.

  • FRUIT JUICE: Choose pasteurised or UHT (long life) but NOT freshly squeezed.

DAIRY PRODUCTS

  • YOGHURT: Choose pastuerised or UHT (Long life) styles. Under no circumstances use any of the 'live', bio, or live ones containing fruits, nuts or other additions. Avoid all 'bio' yoghurt based drinks or health additives.

  • CREAM: Use pasteurised or UHT (long life) only.

  • CHEESE: Use hard cheeses only. (Cheddar, red leciester etc) Do not eat any blue veined cheeses (Stilton, Roquefort etc) or unpasteurised cheeses (Brie, goats, Camambert, parmesan etc). Do not eat any fresh or frozen cheesecake.

  • EGGS: These must always be eaten when cooked with a hard white and yolk. Even fried eggs with soft yolks must not be eaten. Do not eat any product containing raw egg (souffle, mousse, fruit meringue, mayonnaise, tiramisu, etc)

MEAT, POULTRY & FISH

MEAT.

  • Fresh meat must ALWAYS be well cooked. Rare beef or pink lamb is not acceptable.

  • Cold precooked meats must be bought in ready sealed vacuum packaging. Do not buy 'open' from delicatessens or any other source.

  • Always follow the MAFF (or similar) guidelines when preparing and storing meat and poultry. Some hospitals will provide you with a copy of the MAFF booklet "Food Safety"

  • Avoid ALL pates.

POULTRY.

  • Poultry must always be well cooked and must NEVER be pink due to blood.

  • Do not consume hot or cold cooked poultry from retail outlets which includes takeaway shops/vans or supermarket rotisserie stands.

  • Only buy precooked poutlry in vacuume sealed packages and never buy 'open' cooked meats from delicatessens

FISH.

  • All fish must be cooked or tinned. Under no circumstances eat sushi or smaoked salmon, kippers or any other cold smoked fish.

  • Eat no shellfish whatsoever (cockles, crab, prawns, mussels etc)

FRUITS AND VEGETABLES.

  • All fresh fruit must be peeled and neither be over ripe or damaged.

  • Avoid ALL dried fruits.

  • All vegetables must be peeled and cooked.

  • All salads must be avoided.

MISCELLANEOUS.

  • All nuts must be avoided either as in packets or included within other products.

  • Pepper (black or white - condiment) is to be avoided in any form.

 

If you are an inpatient and are following a neutropenic diet be sure that any food stuffs brought in by visitors follow the guidelines above. If in doubt ALWAYS consult the medical staff.

 

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