How can I Manage Loss of Appetite During Cancer?

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  • Written By: Synthia L. Rose
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 27 January 2020
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Loss of appetite during cancer can be managed with exercise, pungent seasoning and an assortment of favorite foods. Other managing strategies include trying new recipes and rotating a diversity of a flavors and ethnic cuisine styles. Hourly grazing, chemical stimulants, and meal replacement beverages are also tools employed by patients who suffer a loss of appetite during cancer. These strategies are utilized because radiation and chemotherapy treatments used to fight cancer can dull the taste buds, killing the pleasure of eating; the sense of smell can also suffer. The combination of food with chemotherapy and radiation can frequently induce vomiting and nausea, which often tends to lessen the appetite as well.

Working out by participating in activities ranging from brisk walking to cycling can stimulate the appetite. Expending energy is difficult, however, for many cancer patients who not only suffer from a loss of appetite during cancer, but also from lethargy. Strong seasonings and condiments that add sharp, spicy hot or sweet flavors are an easy and low-energy way to pique dull taste buds and influence more eating. Many cancer patients explore exotic seasonings by shopping at ethnic markets where they can acquire flavor enhancers from places like Thailand or Jamaica.


Gravies and sauces can treat a loss of appetite during cancer because they enable bites of food to be swallowed more easily. This is helpful because some cancer patients report that side effects like dry mouth and dry throat can cause friction when swallowing and reduce their desire to eat. Since frequent regurgitation and nausea caused by treatments also frequently result in a loss of appetite during cancer, many patients use soup and ginger ale to soothe and settle the stomach at meal times.

Nutritionists claim a cache of favorite foods is still among the most reliable ways to ensure people fight the loss of appetite during cancer. Many cancer patients who refuse to eat any other food still enjoy large portions of favorite foods for nostalgic or habitual reasons. Convenience foods that require little to no preparation are also beneficial. These include granola bars, beef jerky, and individual cups of applesauce or pudding. Canned salmon and tuna also offer easy and ready-to-eat options.

Using strategies to reverse the loss of appetite during cancer may prove essential to preventing the malnutrition and extreme weight loss that often coincide with loss of appetite during cancer, doctors claim. Some cancer patients use a food journal to track nutrition to ensure they are getting enough vitamins and protein. Often as a last resort, doctors can prescribe drugs to stimulate the appetite.


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