Low white blood count & diet

Our doctor told us recently that our daughter has a low white blood count. We took her in because of an illness that was on its second week and became a little concerned with her condition. She was not eating, had a constant fever of 103 and was awake for a mere 4 hours a day while sleeping the rest. The doctor took a blood test for mono which came back negative but did discover that her white blood cell count was quite low. She said the normal was 5-10,000 and hers was 2,400. She only recommended taking vitamins each day to prevent any illnesses but we want to know what further we can do. Should we change her diet or give her something besides a children's Flintstone vitamin everyday?

What are the long term effects of low white blood count? Will she be catching illnesses more often? We were also told that her illness took longer to exit her body because her white blood count dropped even lower while she was ill and there was nothing to fight the illness. (By the way, our doctor never did find out what was wrong with her then) Please answer my many questions.


Sue Gilbert

Sue Gilbert works as a consulting nutritionist. For many years she worked with Earth's Best Organic Baby Food, integrating nutrition and... Read more

Dear Karla,

First of all, it is very important that your doctor follow your daughter's condition. You want to rule out any underlying condition that may be causing her low white blood cell count.

To help your daughter on the food front of the problem, there is lots of research that indicates certain foods and food components can help control blood levels of white cells and their potency. There are some foods that help to stimulate the immune system that you will want to include in your daughter's diet, and other foods that you will want to avoid.

Give your child's immune system a boost by including lots of yogurt that contains live active cultures of Lactobacillus Bulgaricus and Strepococcus thermophilus. Some other specific foods to include are garlic, foods high in zinc such as oysters, pot roast, dark meat turkey and pumpkin and squash seeds (or make sure her multi vitamin contains zinc), and shitake mushrooms. These mushrooms may not be to appealing to your daughter, so try pureeing them to add to spaghetti sauce, or chop them fine and add to a meatloaf. Other immune boosting foods are fruits and vegetables. They may not increase her white cell count, but they will make the white cells she has stronger.

The best choices are the deep green and orange ones like spinach and carrots, melon and oranges.

Too much fat, particularly polyunsaturated vegetables oils, adversely effect immune system strength. On the other hand, fish oil can boost it.

You did not indicate how old your daughter was, so including all of these foods may be difficult. If she is still an infant and is eating baby foods, you would be wise to make your own purees. Try cooking together some dark meat turkey with carrots and garlic. When cooked and tender, put it through a baby mill. Serve a cup of yogurt with pureed strawberries for desert. If she can eat finger food, cook until tender and flaky a little fresh salmon. Serve it with some tender cooked broccoli florettes or some spinach that has been steamed with fresh garlic and a little water, (the garlic will need to cook longer than the spinach so give that a head start). then pureed in a blender. Stir in some warm whole milk to make a creamed soup out of it. If your daughter is a toddler, make a moist meatloaf that includes lots of chopped garlic, pureed shitake mushroom, and shredded carrots and onions. Serve with mashed potatoes that have been mixed with plain yogurt.

Continue to give your daughter a multivitamin that contains no more than 100% of the daily need for any nutrient. Giving more than the RDI can result in her ingesting toxic levels.

One of the long term effects of a low white blood count can be a higher incidence of illness. Speak to your doctor to find out other medical ramifications of the problem. You may also benefit from talking to a clinical, pediatric, registered dietitian. Your local hospital should be able to help you locate one, or you could email the American Dietetic Association at hotline@eatright.org and ask them to send to you a list of registered dietitians in your area.

Thank you for writing.

Watch Video: Do immune boosters really work?

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