Managing Appetite Changes During Chemotherapy
Chemotherapy is a powerful anti-cancer treatment which can affect the inside of your digestive system (from your mouth, throat, and stomach, to your intestines) which is responsible for turning the food you eat into energy for your body. It’s no wonder that your appetite might be affected too.
Loss or lack of appetite is when you do not feel hungry, do not want to eat, or have no taste for food. This is a very common side effect from chemotherapy treatment.
So, how long will you lost of appetite last? Most chemotherapy medicines cause you to lose your appetite. How bad your loss of appetite will be depends on:
- The kind of chemotherapy medicine you are given
- How much chemotherapy medicine you get
- How you take your chemotherapy medicine
The good news is that your change in appetite will not last. In most cases, it takes two to six weeks after you stop chemotherapy for your appetite to come back. There are also medicines your doctor can give you that can help you if your loss of appetite is really bad.
You may lose your appetite because of nausea (feeling like you’re going to throw up), mouth and throat problems that make it painful to eat, or drugs that cause you to lose your taste for food. Appetite changes can also come from feeling depressed or tired. Appetite loss may last for a day, a few weeks or even months.
It is important to eat well, even when you have no appetite. Healthy eating habits promote healing. This means eating and drinking foods that have plenty of protein, vitamins, and calories. Eating well helps your body fight infection and repair tissues that are damaged by chemotherapy. Not eating well can lead to weight loss, weakness, and fatigue at a time you can least afford it. Surprisingly, some cancer treatments do the opposite of what you would think by causing weight gain or an increase in your appetite.
WAYS TO MANAGE YOUR APPETITE DURING CHEMOTHERAPY:
• Eat 5 to 6 small meals or snacks each day instead of 3 big meals. Choose foods and drinks that are high in calories and protein.
• Set a daily schedule for eating your meals and snacks. Eat when it is time to eat, rather than when you feel hungry. You may not feel hungry while you are on chemotherapy, but you still need to eat.
• Drink milk shakes, smoothies, juice, or soup if you do not feel like eating solid foods. Liquids like these can help provide the protein, vitamins, and calories your body needs.
• Use plastic forks and spoons. Some types of treatment may give you a metal taste in your mouth. Eating with plastic can help decrease the metal taste. Cooking in glass pots and pans can also help.
• Increase your appetite by doing something active. For instance, you might have more of an appetite if you take a short walk before lunch. Also, be careful not to decrease your appetite by drinking too much liquid before or during meals.
• Change your routine. This may mean eating in a different place, such as the dining room rather than the kitchen. It can also mean eating with other people instead of eating alone. If you eat alone, you may want to listen to the radio or watch TV. You may also want to vary your diet by trying new foods and recipes. Check back here as we provide great recipes for cancer patients under the “Healthy Living” section of our blog.
• Many people find their appetite is better in the morning. Take advantage of this and eat more then. Consider having your main meal of the day early.
• Keep snacks within easy reach so you can have something whenever you feel like it. Cheese and crackers, muffins, ice cream, peanut butter, fruit, and pudding are good possibilities. Take a snack you can carry with you when you go out, such as peanut butter crackers or small boxes of raisins.
• Talk with your doctor, nurse, or dietitian. He or she may want you to take extra vitamins or nutrition supplements (such as high protein drinks). If you cannot eat for a long time and are losing weight, you may need to take medications that increase your appetite or receive nutrition through an IV or feeding tube.