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Many of our oncology patients experience changes in sense of taste as well as changes in what foods appeal to them. Has anyone experienced this ? It's quite frustrating for the families/caregivers as well, who often feel that if they can provide the patient's favorite foods, perhaps their appetite and intake might be better. I'm often told that 'the foods that normally I like hold no interest for me anymore.' The trick is to keep trying a wide variety of foods and realize that what may appeal to you this week will not appeal to you next week!

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Hi Kelly,

My mom went through this. Her absolute favorite foods started to taste really bad to her, to the point where if I even mentioned them, she would get nauseous. We just had to let her eat whatever appealed to her, even if it was totally out of character. 5 years later, many of her old favorites are things she won't even touch now. And even week by week, she may love something like a grilled cheese sandwich and eat it 3 days in a row, then not eat it for months. Basically, whatever she wants to eat, she eats, so she can keep weight on. But it is a guessing game and a curious side effect of cancer. Her tastes started changing even before she had chemo-

Yes, that seems to be a typical reaction. I'm not sure I've ever read a plausible explanation for it.

In order to get some nutrition into the individual, I usually just encourage them to eat whatever the foods that are appealing , even if they are eating the same few foods over and over again. It doesn't make trying to keep some weight on very easy , however!

I've often read the advice which recommends 'not eating your favorite food during cancer treatment' as it's likely it will be something that never is appealing again. I'm not sure if I agree with that or not!

I used to be enmeshed in the culinary world and loved international cuisines.  My favorite food now is a bologna sandwich with mustard and a cup of Campbells tomato soup.  I am really fortunate that my daughter is available to satisfy my ever-changing tastes.  I recently went through 3 days of eating nothing but ice cream. 

Dx & surgery 2007, proclaimed "cancer free." 2008 diagnosed stage IV; 2009 mets appeared in the lymph nodes under my right arm. 3 1/2 rounds of various usual chemotherapy. Each round made me sicker and sick longer. Spring 2011 opted out of curative treatment; currently living a somewhat "normal" but limited life.

When I first started chemo differing foods began to be unpalatable to me. More and more foods as time went on. I have reached the point where almost nothing appeals to me and I really have no appetite at all. I have been in Hospice care since opting out of curative treatment last spring. Opting out of curative treatment coincided fairly closely with my husband (of 33 yrs) becoming very ill and passing away in mid-May. I pretty much survive on nutritional drinks such as Ensure, supplied to me by Hospice. I can occasionally eat cold cereal or fruit, but rarely. Have tried a couple of meds that were supposed to increase my appetite, but in each case caused terrible heartburn. I have no history of heartburn. I wish I could find any food that I want to eat.

Dear Melissa,

I am absolutely not suggesting anything illegal, but marijuana would solve your appetite problem.  After my first few chemo treatments, I was so nauseous that I could not keep anything down.  My friend brought me a joint, I got out of bed, polished off a broccoli cheese casserole and a pound cake. I am not in a state where medical marijuana is legal, unfortunately.  What an injustice for people like us who really need the nutrition..

HI Melissa.

So sorry to hear your eating is limited to Ensure. However, I've worked with individual who have gotten through all of their treatments and many months beyond living on Ensure/ one of then nutritional supplements.

Just be sure you are taking enough of it to maintain your weight/give adequate calories. I sometimes use a very high calorie milk shake mix called Scandi shake. It provides 600 kcal/8oz serving if mixed with whole milk.


Are there any particular flavors that are more appealing to you, such as sweet or tart? Many patients find alternative ways to season foods to help them have more appealing flavor. Do you have an appetite/feel hungry?

Do you have the metallic taste in your mouth or changes in your sense of taste, or just that no foods are appealing to you at all at this time?

Keep trialing different foods.You will hopefully find a few that will reach your palate and connect!



I am a caregiver for my husband who has been on and off chemo for the past year and have found it quite frustrating (I'm frustrated for him, not for myself) that he has a very hard time now finding something he likes.  He has dropped a tremendous amount of weight (for him) and it is a constant battle to find something he likes.  He has no appetite even though he's on meds to increase it.  He pretty much just eats whatever he can to keep from losing anymore weight, but I worry so much about the nutritional aspect of it.  He's not really eating anything "healthy" but just what he can keep down.  Everything I read says he should be eating a lot of fruits and vegetables, but all he can "stomach" is puddings and jellos and fried foods.  That CAN"T be healthy . . .

HI Terri.

Try the fruits and vegetables in different applesauce or just a baked apple with cinnamon ( like you would put in a pie)for some of the fruits. How about yogurt?Frozen fruit bars?Fruit smoothies? You can throw in some protein powder if his protein intake is low?

.Will he eat soups? YOu can 'sneak' some vegetables in to him that way if he can eat some soups containing vegetables.

I'd be wondering if he's getting adequate protein- ie. eggs, chicken, fish, peanut butter,etc. Will he eat any of those things.

We do just as you are doing-encourage the patients to eat whatever they can when they can. He likely needs to supplement his calorie and protein intake though. Can he take Ensure /Boost of one of those? If so, I would suggest the "Plus" version as it is higher calorie for the same volume.

Can he take a multivitamin? We dont generally recommend any  mega doses of vitamins or huge supplements. However, a multivitamin might be helpful at this point.

What is the best "eating tip" you have received while having treatment or since you have been diagnosed?

Hi Kelly,

      I have not had chemo for my NSC but I have had radiation and a lobectomy.  I have days/weeks that my taste buds are really messed up.   Things that I normally liked, seem to have a tainted taste.  I am almost positive that the cottage cheese is spoiled or that my well water is poisoned.  No one else in the household can taste a difference.  I went for a whole month and drank only bottled water because my well water tasted funny.  I even had a water company come and check it for bacteria etc.  Even though they found nothing, the taste was awful.  I am back drinking my wonderful well water again but do wonder why my taste buds are experiencing these episodes.  Could it be from the anastesia (I am sure that is not spelled correctly...:>) when I had surgeries, radiation or from the cancer itself?   When I was first dx, I did have a hard time just eating because I was feeling so violated by cancer.   I felt that everything had so many chemicals in it, that must have given me this awful disease.  Paranoid?   Yep, I really had it bad.  I am not longer paranoid but using the knowledge I gained to make healthier decisions for my body and my family to help fight this disease.  Thanks for letting me share and welcome to the forum!   Hugs


Ive been in remission for three an half years from stage three b lung cancer. Not like a lot of people where I've had radiation or surgery. I've been blessed to only have six months of high doses of chemos and a drug called avastin. I've been on avastin for all this time every three weeks. Yes my taste buds has change..lost taste for a lot of things like beef, caffeine will make me throw up and it tastes bad, I have trouble seasoning food, any tomatoe base sauces, and have trouble swallowing. Certain foods get stuck so I must drink and eat during that time. I have intestine problems. But no drs knows what to do..all test comes back normal. Any ideas..thanks Tammy

Dear Tammy,

I know exactly what you mean about tomatoe based sauces.  Yuucchh.  I don't think it's the acid as I love fresh sliced tomatoes.  Maybe it's just the concentration of the flavors.

I, too, am approaching the last of my 6 months of Taxol/Carbo.  I sat down the other night with a container of Cool Whip and ate most of it out right out of the carton.  I was sick as hell later but it sure tasted good at the time.  Before this, I was a vegetarian but now I have lost my enthusiasm for it. 

Remember, there's always the Cool Whip Diet.  I highly recommend it.


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