Diet Advice for patients undergoing cancer treatment: Loss of appetite

When you have cancer, you will have loss of appetite.  You may not want to eat or do not feel like eating very much. It is a common problem that occurs with cancer and the side effects of the treatment which may last for a few days or throughout the course of treatment.

Loss of appetite occurs because of

  • The cancer itself
  • Fatigue or tiredness
  • Painful mouth ulcers
  • Feelings of depression or anxiety
  • Side effects of the chemotherapy or radiotherapy such as nausea, vomiting or changes in how foods taste or smell

Click to watch DanaFarberCancerInstitute video How to Manage Chemotherapy Symptoms Through Food

Ways to manage food when you have little or no appetite

  • Drink a liquid meal replacement when you find it difficult to eat
  • Eat more frequently such as 5 or 6 smaller meals instead of 3 large meals a day.  It is easier to eat smaller amounts
  • Take the opportunity to eat more for when you feel like eating
  • Drink liquids throughout the day to keep hydrated.  Try flavouring your water.
  • Choose liquid meals such as soup, juice, soy-based protein drinks or porridge that add calories and other nutrients
  • Eat a snack before sleep
  • Eat soft or cool foods such as yoghurt or milk shakes which may be easier to swallow
  • Eat larger meals when you feel well and are rested such as on waking up
  • During meals, sip only small amounts of liquids so that you do not feel full too fast
  • Choose foods that look and smell good. Avoid foods that do not appeal to you
  • Marinate foods to improve the flavour to the taste you like
  • Do regular exercises because being active can help improve your appetite

Eating well is important because it helps your body fight the cancer.  Speak to a dietician or nutritionist to help you with your diet during your cancer journey. 

Disclaimer. TELEME blog posts contains general information about health conditions and treatments. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. The information is not advice and should not be treated as such. 

If you think you may be suffering from any medical condition, you should seek immediate medical attention from your doctor or other professional healthcare providers. You should never delay seeking medical advice, disregard medical advice, or discontinue medical treatment because of information on this website.

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