5 Ways to Manage Appetite Loss During Cancer Treatment

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Everyone needs food to survive, but if you’re undergoing chemotherapy or another cancer treatment, it’s even more crucial that you get enough calories and nutrients. However, you may find yourself losing your appetite and not being able to find very many foods (if any) that are palatable to you. This can make it difficult to get the nutrition you need to stay as healthy as you can and recover from your treatment.

You don’t have to just power through the hatred of your favorite foods, though. There are some ways you can combat this side effect. Below, we’ve included five of our favorites for you to try.

5. Drink liquids between meals.

Believe it or not, drinking water can help you regain the energy you need to work up an appetite. If you can’t stomach water, try juice or electrolyte-rich drinks or ginger tea—or a combination of different fluids. Do whatever you need to do to stay hydrated. However, try to drink your liquids in between meals rather than at mealtime, because they can fill you up fast.

4. Choose your food wisely.

If you’re not eating much, then what you are eating needs to give you the proper nutrients. Pick nutrient-dense foods, especially those with plenty of protein and carbohydrates. You may find breads, noodles, and other carb-rich foods too filling to eat much, but at least they’re unlikely to make your stomach queasy. Try to sneak in meat, eggs, nuts, and other proteins where you can, and don’t forget the veggies and fruits that are so chock-full of vitamins! Even if you can’t eat much, every little bit counts.

3. Avoid low-fat and low-calorie.

Certain food options, particularly low-calorie and low-fat snacks, are marketed as being “healthy.” However, it’s important to remember that many people are trying to lose weight, whereas you need to focus more on gaining nutrition. You need to get as many calories and macronutrients as possible, so choose foods that are high-calorie and full-fat rather than their supposedly “healthier” cousins. Some easy-to-eat high-calorie and high-fat foods include ice cream, pudding, yogurt, and creamy soups.

2. Eat several small meals a day.

If you haven’t been eating much lately, one of the most important things to do is never limit yourself. If you’re hungry, eat. If you’re craving something, go get it or send someone to get it for you. Pay attention to your appetite and give it whatever it wants. And if you aren’t hungry enough to finish a meal or snack, try saving it for later. You can eat as many times a day as you want to!

1. Get some exercise.

It may sound a little bit counterintuitive, but exercising can actually help you recover your appetite. You don’t have to do too much, but a short and light workout a half an hour before your meal may help you work up the appetite you’ve been missing. And it will help you keep your strength and increase your serotonin levels!

Do you have other tips for increasing your appetite during or following chemotherapy or other cancer treatments? Please clue us in by writing a comment!

Next: 10 foods that can help you overcome other cancer side effects.


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Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?
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