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Loss of appetite is one of the most common side effects of cancer and cancer therapy.  Many things affect appetite including illness, feeling sick (nausea, vomiting), pain, fatigue, anxiety, depression, or a combination of any of these.  These side effects may also result in weight loss. 

Keep these suggestions in mind to help stimulate your appetite:

  • Eat well during your “up” times.
  • Make mealtimes pleasant and enjoyable. A relaxed and attractive setting can increase appetite.
  • Eat whenever you are hungry. You do not need to eat just three meals a day.  Frequent small meals throughout the day may even be better.
  • Keep favorite foods readily available for meals and snacks.
  • Try a glass of wine or beer to help stimulate your appetite.  Check with your doctor beforehand.
  • Add variety to your menu.  Try a variety of new tastes and textures to find those that appeal to you the most.
  • Fill the house with good food aromas such as freshly baked bread, cake, or cookies.
  • Include a relaxing walk before mealtimes. Fresh air often helps.

The key to good nutrition is a balanced diet.  The National Cancer Institute recommends that you include servings from the following four groups each day:

  • Fruits and vegetables – raw, cooked, and juiced – are rich in vitamins A and C and minerals
  • Lean meat, poultry, fish, eggs, beans, peas, and nuts provide much needed protein plus vitamins and minerals
  • Grains – cereal, bread, and pasta –supply carbohydrates and the B vitamins
  • Dairy products – milk, cheese, yogurt and ice-creams, supply protein, calcium and several vitamins

During your treatment there are certain foods you may want to avoid:

  • Salt-cured, smoked and nitrate-cured meats.
  • Excessive alcohol
  • Excessive fat

Many people lose interest in eating during therapy.  Many foods seem to lose flavor.  Chemotherapy can make foods such as red meat taste bitter.  If you experience this, try cooking mean in soy sauce, fruit juice, or wine.  It is very important for you to keep up your calorie intake even on those days when food does not taste quite the same as before.  To make dinner more appetizing, try setting the table with good china and a bouquet of flowers.  Candles and soft music can make mealtime more pleasant.  Some people find that a walk before meals is a good way to stir the appetite.  Remember that you need to eat enough food so that your body can have the energy to heal itself.