Wellness & Education

Cancer Patients: Eating When You Don’t Feel Hungry

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 more mild, with changes in the way food tastes and smells. Cancerrelated 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 six tips for managing loss of appetite:  

  • Keep the fluids coming. Dehydration can be dangerous, so make it a priority to drink plenty of fluids.  
  • 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. 
  • Eat the foods you love. It’s better to eat something you’re craving than to not eat at all.
  • If certain smells make you feel sick, stay away from them as much as possible.

The good news is that loss of appetite won’t last forever. Within two to six weeks of the end of your chemo, your appetite should return.