Any of the symptoms above can impact on your food intake, for example how much food you are able to eat or even the kinds of foods you will be able to manage. In addition, fear, stress or anxiety experienced upon receiving a cancer diagnosis or at any stage of your cancer journey may also impact on your appetite. For some, mealtimes may become less enjoyable and you may find that you have gone off foods that you previously enjoyed.
In the case of having a “bad taste” in your mouth, try:
In the case of loss of taste sensitivity, try:
In the case of changes to smell, try:
For many people, normal taste comes back after treatment. For others, changes to taste and smell can persist for longer.
The following foods might help:
Some of the following foods may make nausea worse:
If you experience any difficulties swallowing or notice food or fluid “going down the wrong way”, speak to your doctor, nurse or medical team as soon as possible. You may be referred to a Speech & Language Therapist who will assess your swallow and make recommendations specific to you. In the meantime, some of the following tips may be helpful:
A Speech & Language Therapist may advise that you use a thickener in your food or fluids, to make them safer to swallow. Always speak to your medical team about any changes in your swallow ability.
Some days, you may feel too tired or fatigued to cook and might even find eating in itself tiring. Here’s some tips for managing your nutrition when you’ve got less energy:
During episodes of diarrhoea, you may need to make changes to your diet for a limited period of time.
Some people may experience "overflow" diarrhoea. This is when the bowel becomes blocked by hard, impacted faeces (poo), but some liquids manage to leak past the blockage. Keep an eye on changes to your bowel habits and speak to your doctor or nurse about any changes. If you have been very constipated and then develop diarrhoea, talk to your doctor or nurse before taking any medicine for constipation or diarrhoea.
The disease itself places huge nutritional demands on the body and as a result, many people experience unintentional, cancer-related weight loss during their cancer journey. It’s important to maintain your weight during this time, even if you are overweight at the start of your cancer journey. Even small amounts of unintentional weight loss can lead to loss of muscle stores, which in turn can have a negative impact on strength, independence and other outcomes.
Cancer treatments can also be very demanding on the body. In many cases, people being treated for cancer will need more calories and protein than normal.
While the prevention and management of undernutrition is central to nutritional care, the goals of nutritional management for each person living with cancer will depend on the stage at which they are at in their cancer journey. For some, the goal may be to support treatment tolerance and reduce adverse effects of treatment, while for others comfort and enjoyment of eating may be the priority.