Is Miracle Fruit a Miracle During Chemo

Hester Hill Schnipper, LICSW, OSW-C Program Manager Emeritus, Oncology Social Work

FEBRUARY 18, 2019

How have you dealt with the metallic taste?

Most of us who have had chemotherapy are familiar with the unpleasant metallic taste that lingers in our mouths. In addition to whatever unsettled feelings we have in our stomachs, the metallic taste makes the idea of eating even less appealing. Everything tastes different, and less good than usual. Our tastes change in many ways during chemo, but this particular issue is pretty common. It can even make it tough to drink all the water we are instructed to do during the months of treatment. Plain water can be especially unpleasant, and many people revert to ginger ale or sparking water spiked with fruit.

My husband and I are just back from a wonderful two week trip to Singapore and Malaysia. He was teaching in Singapore, and we then spent a delightful and relaxing week on the island of Panang. I knew almost nothing about Penang before our trip, and took the advice of a friend who had grown up in that part of the world. She said that the capital city, Georgetown, was like Singapore in the 1970s and that the rest of the island was beautiful. She was right.

One day we took a fascinating tour of an enormous spice garden. It was green and lush and hot, and we were introduced to many plants that were unfamiliar to us. Of course there was a lot of conversation about the possible health benefits of many plants, and some claims of healing properties for many diseases. Putting those aside, or at least hearing them with the proverbial grain of salt, we were very interested in something called Miracle Fruit. Growing on an unimposing medium-sized plant, the berries are red and about the size of half a shelled peanut. The guide told us that chewing on a berry for half a minute would change our taste buds for at least an hour. The demonstration included a nibble of an incredibly sour fruit, more bitter than a lemon, then chewing on the berry, and than a second taste of the fruit. Astonishing! It tasted sweet.

As my husband and I discussed this later, we were interested in the idea, and, he a doctor/scientist, tried to figure out the reasons it might work. We both then had a Eureka! moment of wondering if it could help the chemotherapy-related metallic taste. Fortunately, that is not a current problem for either one of us, but he plans to mention it (with a big disclaimer that it may or may not work) to his patients, and I am writing about it here. If you Google Miracle Fruit, you will find lots of sources to purchase it as a tablet. There is no obvious disadvantage of giving this a try if you are currently in treatment and finding many foods distasteful. Good luck and would love to hear from you if you do it. If you have discovered other tricks to help with the metallic taste, please share them.

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