It’s important to eat well and stay hydrated during cancer treatments. However, as many cancer patients know, one of the side effects of cancer treatment is a loss of appetite. These effects can be severe, with nausea and vomiting, or they can result from changes in the way food tastes and smells. Cancer–related fatigue can also cause a loss of appetite.
Loss of appetite can become a serious problem if patients:
- Begin to feel weak
- Become dehydrated (characterized by dizziness and dark yellow, urine)
- Lose too much weight
To avoid these complications, patients can use these four tips for managing loss of appetite:
- Keep the fluids coming. Dehydration can be dangerous, so make drinking plenty of liquids a priority.
- Eat the most important foods first. If you can’t eat much, focus on foods that are high in protein and calories.
- If you can’t tolerate 3 regular meals a day, eat smaller meals but eat more of them. Breakfast, lunch and dinner can be replaced with six small meals of nutrient-dense foods.
- Get up and move. Physical activity can increase your appetite. It doesn’t have to be major exercise. Every little bit helps. As with eating, if you can’t do much at once, try getting up and moving frequently, even if only for a short walk.