Changes in Appetite
Appetite (food intake) changes can be an increase or decrease in your food intake. It is very common with people who have cancer, specifically those in cancer treatment and those with advanced cancer. Some contributors that lead to changes in appetite can include:
- Certain drugs, such as steroids used to treat some cancers and/or manage symptoms that increase appetite.
- Antidepressants can also increase or decrease appetite.
- Some chemotherapies may cause to experience intense food cravings.
- Some other side effects like nausea, mouth sores, dry mouth, fatigue, pain, tumor pressure, bloating, and constipation can decrease your desire to eat.
- Emotions such as depression and anxiety can affect appetite.
- The cancer itself can decrease appetite and cause chemicals to signal “fullness” to the center of your brain, leading you to believe you’re full and so you eat less.
- Changes in taste may make food taste unpleasant and unappetizing, that may in turn affect appetite.
- Many factors will contribute to changes in appetite.
- Significant weight gain during your treatment might affect your health and even your ability to undergo treatment.
- If your food intake decreases this may lead to a serious complication including weight loss, lack of necessary nutrients, and loss of muscle mass and strength.
- Many complementary approaches might be helpful with appetite changes.
- We offer experts who will guide you in maintaining a nutrient rich diet and address your concerns and needs.
Managing Changes in Appetite
Many complementary approaches might be useful with the changes in your appetite. Any significant changes in your appetite might affect the way you react to your cancer treatment. The first step is to understand if the changes are caused by nausea, mouth sores, pain, or depression. Identifying this will help you understand how to manage your appetite.
Even if you may not feel like eating, remember that getting good nutrition and keeping a healthy balanced weight is important. Eating well will give you the physical and emotional strength you need on this journey. There are a few things you can do to eat well and receive the proper nutrition.
- Instead of having big meals or not eating anything, consider eating 5-6 small meals a day.
- Keep a note of the times you get hungry and plan to eat during those times so you are prepared.
- Eat foods that are high in calories and protein: dried fruits, nuts, yogurt, cheese.
- You can also increase your food and protein intake by adding sauces like gravy, cheese, cream, nuts.
- Increase your fluid intake between meals.
- If you feel nauseous at all times, consult a healthcare provider for anti nausea medication or herbs that will help reduce nausea.
- Credit: BCCT: Change in Appetite
- National Cancer Institute: Appetite Loss and Cancer Treatment
- American Society of Clinical Oncology:
- Iannotta J, Bratton S. The Meals to Heal Cookbook: 150 Easy, Nutritionally Balanced Recipes to Nourish You during Your Fight with Cancer. Boston, Massachusetts: Da Capo Press. 2017.
- Katz R, Edelson M. The Cancer Fighting Kitchen. Berkeley, California: Ten Speed Press. 2017.
- Plotnikoff GA. Introduction: what to eat when you can’t eat. Global Advances in Health and Medicine. 2014 Nov;3(6):56-72.
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