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How to deal with food tasting bad during Cancer treatments

Updated on May 15, 2013
Tasty Foods
Tasty Foods | Source

Taste Changes

Many people suffering from illnesses or undergoing serious medical treatments for conditions such as Cancer will find that they struggle to eat because foods no longer seem to taste the way they used to. This is not an uncommon side effect when receiving treatments like radiotherapy or chemotherapy. The good news is that this is usually only temporary, and once treatment is completed food usually begins to taste the same way it did beforehand.

Whilst undergoing treatments though patients may well find that foods and drinks either don't seem to taste of anything, taste different, or possibly taste too salty or too sweet. Naturally this is inclined to put the patient off eating because food loses its appeal and becomes unpleasant to consume. The problem is that in order to build yourself up it is important to eat as well as you can even though you may not be finding your food at all appetising.

Useful Tips for Patients

  • Try foods that are refreshing to eat such as salads because these are often more palatable than hot foods.
  • If your food is tastes bland and uninteresting strengthen the flavours by adding herbs and spices e.g. chilli, basil, mint, rosemary, paprika etc.
  • Make a note of which foods and drinks taste nice to you and then adapt your diet to incorporate these into it as much as possible. This might take quite a bit of experimentation (don't be afraid to try foods you didn't like previously in case they actually taste better during treatment).
  • It is quite possible that you will find tart or sharp foods and drinks now taste better and are actually rather refreshing on the palette, e.g. citrus flavoured desserts or fruit juices.
  • If meats and fish taste different you can try serving them with tasty sauces based on strong flavours such as peppercorn, garlic, red wine, oriental/Indian flavours etc. You can also serve them with small amounts of dressings such as mustard, chutneys etc.
  • Marinade meat and fish in fruit juices, honey, chutneys etc in order to intensify flavours even more.
  • Prepare yourself for the fact your tastes may continue to change during the course of your treatment so keep on trying different things to eat and vary the way you prepare them.
  • If you don't like a food or the way it has been prepared then don't rule out the fact you may enjoy it a few weeks later prepared the exact same way. Certainly once your treatment has finished it is likely your sense of taste will return to normal within a few weeks.

Please note that if you have a dry or sore mouth you might find some of these ideas unsuitable and you will probably benefit from reading my article on the subject of having a dry or sore mouth during treatment.

Also remember that this article is for general advice only and does not replace the advice of a medical professional. If you are concerned about your taste changes please consult with your specialist, doctor,dietitian or nurses.


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    • mistyhorizon2003 profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Lawson 

      5 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Thank you SimpleJoys, it is great to have validation of what I have written here from someone who has actually experienced this first hand. I hope you continue to make progress and are soon back to full health. Some good tips you have shared in your comment too, thank you :)

    • SimpleJoys profile image


      5 years ago

      Boy, do I know about this! The chemo I had last year was a daily adventure on what to eat. I enjoy eating, so I eagerly tried to find something I could tolerate. One spice that was always good was cinnamon. Lemon ice was always refreshing and cool in the hot weather. I have been lucky so far with my current chemo that it hasn't caused any taste problems yet ( I have 7 more to go). Thanks for a good hub about this!


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