beth israel deaconess medical center a harvard medical school teaching hospital

  • Contact BIDMC
  • Maps & Directions
  • Other Locations
  • Careers at BIDMC
  • Smaller Larger

Find a Doctor

Request an Appointment

Smaller Larger

Food During Chemotherapy

Posted 4/10/2014

Posted in

  When I was on chemo, there were two things that I most disliked: losing my hair and losing my taste for almost any food. I am devoted to food, everything about it pleases me. I start thinking about the next meal as I finish the current one. I love to read food and cooking magazines and blogs; I have an enormous collection of cookbooks, and they are my favorite bedtime reading. I like to food shop, don't mind a trip to a small specialty store to track down an obscure ingredient (lime leaves anyone?). I travel to eat, and many favorite memories are about a dish or a meal. From our recent trip to Burma, I think about a breakfast at a local Yangon restaurant. We were the only Westerners there, and we took our cues from our guide and everyone around us, happily tucking into all kinds of unidentifiable and delicious things.

I know that I have lots of company with this obsession, and remember my growing relief when, after chemotherapy was completed, I gradually began to again enjoy my meals and food musings. A few days ago, listening to NPR on my daily commute, I heard this story about improving tastes while on chemo. There are two issue, at least: the lowgrade nausea and general unsettledness and the metallic taste in your mouth. This article has a couple of solid tips for the metallic taste, and most of us have comfort foods that help with the nausea. One nausea tip from India: keep a jar of equal amounts of grated fresh ginger and lemon peel/zest in the refrigerator. Take it with sugar or honey to taste--either on its own or stirred into juice or tea.

And here is the start of the article and then a link to read more:

Chemo Can Make Food Taste Like Metal. Here's Help

Cancer patients often lose their appetite because chemotherapy can cause nausea. But it does something else to make food unappetizing – it changes the way things taste.
Hollye Jacobs was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010, at the age of 39. As a
nurse she expected the extreme nausea that often accompanies powerful chemo
therapy drugs. But as a patient, she wasn't expecting the taste changes.
"Nothing tasted good, nothing was appealing, I didn't have  any desire whatsoever to eat," Jacobs, of Santa Barbara,  Calif., says. Food tasted like cardboard, textures were mealy and there was a near chronic taste of metal. "The metal mouth was horrible, even just saying it again, I can taste it," she says.
This "metal mouth" is caused by the chemo. When medications are injected into
the bloodstream, they also get into the saliva, and most medications have a very
bitter taste, according to researcher Beverly Cowart, who studies taste and smell


Add your comment