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Julie Wilkinson, BSN, RN

Enjoying Your Food Despite Chemo

By November 20, 2012

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Your family is hovering over you trying to force food and drink, friends are dropping off casserole after casserole, your doctor has warned that you are losing weight, and all you want to do is not think of eating. Your mouth is sore, you're nauseated half of the day, and you're still tired from your last chemotherapy session. To help alleviate some of this unnecessary stress, I've compiled some tried and proven pearls for meal comfort. You might not be ready for a five course dinner anytime soon, but hopefully these tips will help you enjoy your nutrition a little more.

A metallic taste in your mouth is a common side effect of some chemotherapy drugs. Two things might help you combat this:

  • Try to camouflage the taste by sucking on sugar-free candies, such as mints.
  • Avoid eating off of metal utensils, they will make the metallic taste worse. Use plastic utensils for a little while - you'll have the added benefit of less dishes to wash.

Stick to your comfort foods and steer clear of spicy dishes. Spicy foods can irritate a sore mouth. Keep in mind that your tastes might change and prior favorites (think chocolate) may no longer appeal to you.

If your mouth is sore, consider eating cold food to soothe the sores. Cold, fizzy drinks (think ginger ale) may also help.

Take good care of your mouth by brushing your teeth with a soft-bristled toothbrush at least twice daily, using non-alcohol rinses (alcohol burns sometimes), and flossing daily.

Small, frequent meals are better than three large, unappealing meals a day. Keeping your tastes and preferences in mind, try to eat foods high in protein to help deter weight loss. You can add whey protein powder to soups, drinks, or even sprinkled on mashed potatoes.

Talk to your family and loved ones, they may not realize that they are causing stress by trying to force food and drink on you. Let them know what tastes good and explain why you cannot eat.

If your doctor has prescribed medications, oral rinses, or nutritional supplements, use them as directed. Nausea can be decreased with prescription medications, prescription oral rinses can help with mouth sores, and nutritional supplements can help you maintain your weight.

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