Tackling Loss of Appetite During Cancer Treatment

Thu, 12/19/2019 - 11:19 AM | by Carly Stunda

By Tina Jacob, MPH, CHES | Education and Outreach Manager

Everyone’s heard a variation of the phrase “you are what you eat” but it’s more than just an anecdote. The food we eat has a huge impact on our bodies—especially when it comes to cancer. It’s been long documented that eating a healthy diet allows for the body to receive countless vitamins and compounds that help our body fight off cancerous cells. Eating a healthy diet coupled with exercise allows for our body to help maintain a healthy weight which further reduces the development of cancer. But does what you eat affect your body after a cancer diagnosis?

The answer to that is ABSOLUTELY! As cancer patients go through treatment, a common side effect is loss of appetite. During treatment and through recovery, your body has an increased need for calories and protein than before, which poses a problem if you can’t or don’t feel like eating anything. If you are receiving chemotherapy or radiation, your sense of taste and smell also change which can make it even harder to eat the appropriate number of calories.

Here are some tips to try to help improve your appetite during treatment:
• Eat small, more frequent meals
• Eat when you feel hungry
• Do light exercise to help stimulate appetite
• When you are able to eat, eat foods high in protein like chicken or peanut butter
• To combat unpleasant tastes or smells, try eating food colder than normal
• Use new or different spices to stimulate taste and make eating more enjoyable
• Try to avoid metal silverware and canned foods if you have a metallic taste in your mouth.
• Adjust your recipe—too sweet? Add salt or citrus flavors. Add honey to food that is too bitter or salty.

Little Red Door provides a variety of cooking classes to help provide some new recipe ideas! Another great way Little Red Door can help  with nutrition is through providing nutritional supplements such as Boost, Ensure, or Carnation. All three of these shakes come in a variety of flavors, are jampacked with nutrients, and can be easier to digest. These can supplement your normal diet when eating may seem impossible to keep your calorie count high. Be sure to speak with your doctor about what may work best for you.