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Appetite andTaste Changes During Chemotherapy

Treatment for cancer, as well as the cancer itself, can affect your sense of taste or smell. You may find that many foods seem to have less taste. Other foods, especially meat or other high-protein foods, may taste bitter or metallic. Problems with your teeth and gums can also affect the way foods taste. For most people, changes in taste and smell go away when treatment is finished. But for some people it may last a long time.

Whether you have appetite or taste changes from chemotherapy (chemo) depends on the type of chemo you have and the amount given. It's important to know that these changes can happen and understand how to manage them. This can help reduce them, so you have the best possible experience while getting chemo.

What can I do if I have changes in my appetite or taste?

Consider the following ways to help lessen your changes in appetite and taste from chemo:

  • Discuss any side effects with your healthcare team. They may have advice or medicines they can prescribe.

  • See your dentist to be sure you don't have any dental problems that may affect the taste or smell of food.

  • If red meat tastes or smells strange to you, try poultry, eggs, dairy products, or mild-tasting fish instead.

  • Marinate meat, poultry, or fish in sweet fruit juices, Italian dressing, or sweet-and-sour sauce.

  • Use small amounts of flavorful seasonings, such as basil, oregano, or rosemary.

  • Try tart foods, such as oranges or grapefruit, unless you have mouth sores.

  • Stay away from cooking smells.

  • Serve foods cold or at room temperature.

  • Use bacon, ham, or onion to add flavor to vegetables.

  • Use plastic utensils if you experience a metallic taste.

  • Eat foods you like any time of the day.

  • Drink most of your liquids between meals. This will help to keep you from feeling full too early while eating.

  • Keep high-calorie, high-protein foods available and snack on them during the day.

  • Eat small meals 5 to 6 times a day, rather than 3 large meals a day.

  • If you have constipation, uncontrolled pain, or nausea, let your healthcare provider know so the problems can be treated.

  • Keep your mouth clean and brush your teeth.

  • Try sugar-free gum, mints, or hard candy.

Remember, each person's medical history and diagnosis is different. So each person reacts to treatment differently. Side effects may be severe, mild, or absent. Discuss with your cancer care team what the possible side effects of treatment are before you start treatment.

Online Medical Reviewer: Brittany Poulson MDA RDN CD CDE
Online Medical Reviewer: Jessica Gotwals RN BSN MPH
Online Medical Reviewer: Todd Gersten MD
Date Last Reviewed: 1/1/2023
© 2000-2024 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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