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Appetite Loss

Eating well is a challenge for many people with cancer. Sometimes the cancer itself or side effects caused by cancer treatment make it difficult to eat enough and get the energy you need.

You may experience a loss of appetite. Chemotherapy side effects such as pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, or mouth sores can cause you to lose interest in eating. You may eat less because of fear, anxiety, or depression about having cancer.

You may also notice a change in your sense of smell and taste. Chemotherapy can make foods taste bitter or metallic. It is common to develop a strong dislike for some foods such as meat, eggs, fried foods, and tomatoes.

It is important to eat well and stay as healthy as possible. Try to maintain your weight. Following a good diet will help to keep your immune system strong and help you fight against possible infection. Eating well will help you regain your strength, rebuild healthy cells and feel better overall.

Be sure to ask your healthcare team for any tips they may have about eating well and maintaining a good appetite while receiving chemotherapy.

What you can do
  • Eat small amounts more often throughout the day (every 1 – 2 hours).
  • Eat foods that are high in protein and high in calories.
  • Have quick and easy snacks on hand.
  • Eat your favourite foods at any time of the day. Eating breakfast foods at suppertime is okay.
  • Eat your biggest meal when you feel most hungry.
  • Eat in a place that makes you feel good. Use soft lights, quiet music or brightly coloured table settings, for example.
  • Drink fluids between meals instead of with meals to avoid filling up too quickly.
  • Drink beverages high in calories and protein such as milkshakes and commercial nutrition supplements between meals.
  • Exercise or take a walk before meals, if you are able, to increase your appetite.
Southlake Regional Health Centre
596 Davis Drive, Newmarket, Ontario   L3Y 2P9
Tel: 905-895-4521   |   TTY: 905-952-3062
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