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What To Do When You Lose Your Appetite?

Take these steps to get the nutrition you need to stay strong during treatment.

What To Do When You Lose Your Appetite?

“Loss of appetite is a common problem for people with metastatic breast cancer. It can be caused by treatment or the cancer itself. Stress, depression, nausea, constipation and changes in your sense of taste or smell can also affect appetite.” – source: komen.org  

Many cancer organizations share their tips on how to increase your appetite during chemo. We’ve curated a list of all the best tips. Oh, and you can submit your tips or add comments to tips submitted by others.

#1 Eat 5 to 6 small meals a day

"Eat 5 to 6 small meals a day, and snack whenever you are hungry."
"Do not limit how much you eat." - source: cancer.net

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#2 Make meals appealing and fun

"Encourage your family to eat together and make mealtimes relaxing and enjoyable."

"Eat slowly and chew your food well." - source: cancer.ie

"Appetite is very much affected by how food looks and by the eating environment. Try to help make meals appealing and fun. For example, you can change the form of food. Instead of fresh fruit, mix it in a milkshake. Try a variety of new tastes and textures to find those that are most appealing. Recognize that what is appealing one day may not be appealing the next day." -  source: cancer.ca

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#3 Food as a necessary part of treatment

"Talk with your cancer team about what may be causing your poor appetite."
"Think of food as a necessary part of treatment." - source: cancer.org

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#4 Eat more when you’re hungry

"Eat more when you're hungry. Take advantage of the times when you feel your best to eat more. Many people have their best appetite in the morning, when they're rested."

"Limit fluids during meals. Liquids can fill you up and limit your intake of higher calorie foods. It may help to drink most of your liquids at least a half-hour before or after meals." - source: mayoclinic.org

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#5 Take a snack – Get in the habit of having a bedtime snack

“An easy-to-digest snack such as yogurt and fruit, cheese and crackers, or peanut butter and crackers is an easy way to get some additional nutrition and will not impact appetite for the next meal.”

“If reflux or heartburn is an issue, have this snack at least one hour before lying down.” – source: pearlpoint.org

"Keep easy to prepare and nutritious foods within reach so you can have something whenever you feel like it. Do not forget to take a snack with you whenever you go out. Try these snack ideas:
- Cheese and crackers
- Muffins
- Ice cream
- Peanut butter
- Fruit
- Pudding
- Liquid supplements" - source: stanfordhealthcare.org

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#6 Talking With Your Health Care Team

"Ask your doctor about medications to help relieve constipation, nausea, pain, or other side effects you have." - source: oncolink.org

"Prepare for your visit by making a list of questions to ask. Consider adding these questions to your list:

- What symptoms or problems should I call you about?
- What steps can I take to feel better?
- What food and drink choices are best for me?
- Do you recommend supplemental nutrition drinks for me?
- Are there vitamins and supplements that I should avoid? Are there any I should take?
- Would you recommend a registered dietitian who could also help me?" - source: cancer.gov

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#7 Try to drink 8 eight-ounce cups of fluid a day

"Try to drink plenty of fluids. It is important to do this on those days when you don't feel like eating. Water is very important to keep your body working well. Getting enough fluids will make sure that your body has the water it needs. Try to drink 8 eight-ounce cups of fluid a day. Try carrying a water bottle with you during the day. That may help you get into the habit of drinking plenty of fluids." - source: ucla.edu

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#8 Take a short walk

"Gentle physical activity can stimulate appetite, e.g. take a short walk around the block." - source: cancercouncil.com.au

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#9 If you are sensitive to odors

"Eat foods that are cold or at room temperature if you are sensitive to odors."

"Let other people fix your meals. This will save you energy and keep you away from cooking odors." - source: lungcanceralliance.org

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#10 Clear your taste buds

"Try eating with plastic utensils if your food tastes like metal."

"Rinse your mouth with tea, ginger ale, salted water, or baking soda dissolved in water before you eat to help clear your taste buds. Some people say that sucking on ice chips in between bites of food helps numb their taste buds so they can eat." - source: breastcancer.org

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#11 Try liquid meal

"If you feel you can't eat regular food for any meal, try liquid meal replacements."

"If you can't eat solid foods and can't drink liquid supplements, try drinking other beverages. Juice, soup or broth, and other similar fluids can provide important calories and nutrients." - source: rochester.edu

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#12 Limit fried and greasy foods

"Limit fried and greasy foods. They can be difficult to digest and make you feel full quickly." - source: mdanderson.org

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#13 Use a smaller plate

"Use a smaller plate – a big, full plate of food may put you off eating." - source: cancervic.org.au

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#14 Add extra calories and protein

"Try to eat small amounts of high protein and calorie foods every 2 or 3 hours instead of 3 large meals a day. High protein foods include meat, fish, eggs, dairy foods, beans and pulses."

"Add extra calories and protein to any food that you eat (using butter, milk, cream, sugar, honey and cheese)." - source: cancerresearchuk.org

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#15 When choosing beverages

"When choosing beverages, select nutrient-dense fluids such as milk, milk shakes, juice and punch-type drinks." - source: chemocare.com

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#16 A small sherry or brandy

"You may want to try stimulating your appetite with a small sherry or brandy half an hour before you eat. A glass of wine with meals may also help digestion. Check with your doctor that you can have alcohol." - source: macmillan.org.uk

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#17 If you really don’t feel like eating

"Don't give yourself a hard time if you really don't feel like eating for a few days after treatment. It is important to drink, but you can make up for lost calories between treatments." - source: cancerresearchuk.org

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#18 Dietitians

"Dietitians may also recommend vitamin and/or mineral supplementation to make up for deficits in the diet. Additional supplements that contain fish oil or eicosapentaenoic acid, or EPA, may help correct underlying changes in metabolism." - source: cancercenter.com

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#19 Stock up on frozen and prepared foods

"To save time and energy, stock up on frozen and prepared foods, such as pizza, frozen dinners, mac and cheese, and rotisserie chicken. That way, you and your caregiver will always have something on hand."

"Comfort foods that are easy to prepare make life easier for patients and caregivers. Ask visitors for dishes that are easy to freeze and heat up, like soups, chilis, lasagnas, and casseroles that include calorie-dense ingredients, like pasta, cream, cheese, meat, and beans." - source: mskcc.org

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#20 Cannabis can improve the appetites

"Marijuana is also taken by mouth for medicinal purposes. A cannabinoid from marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), is used in the prescription-only, FDA-approved product dronabinol (Marinol) for the treatment of weight loss or appetite loss due to AIDS and for nausea and vomiting caused by cancer chemotherapy. Cannabinoids are at least as effective as some conventional medications for nausea, including prochlorperazine (Compazine), metoclopramide (Reglan), chlorpromazine (Compazine), and thiethylperazine (Torecan)." - source: komen.org

"The active ingredient in cannabis can improve the appetites and sense of taste in cancer patients, according to a new study published online in the cancer journal, Annals of Oncology." - source: sciencedaily.com

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#21 Surroundings of meals

"Try changing the time, place, and surroundings of meals.  Watch your favorite TV program while you eat." - source: chemocare.com

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