What Should I Eat If I Have Cancer and No Appetite?

Learning how to cope with the realities of cancer can be difficult in the extreme. Nearly every aspect of a person’s life can be affected by this deadly disease, from the ability to perform basic daily tasks to the options a person has when planning their next meal. In fact, food is one of the biggest concerns many cancer patients face; more specifically, patients often struggle to find ways to get the nutrients their bodies need to stay healthy while fighting their illness and the effects of its treatments, so they sometimes require nutritional support. Many of these patients experience a loss of appetite, which can make it tough to eat. So, what should you eat if you have cancer and no appetite? To find out, keep reading as the people at ENU explain.

What Cancer Patients Should Eat If They Have No Appetite

Patients battling cancer tend to have much greater energy needs than the rest of us, given that their bodies are under constant assault and so need to be constantly repaired. The two main things cancer patients should eat, even if they have no appetite, are plenty of calories and protein.

To get enough calories, a cancer patient should aim for calorie-dense foods, including those that are generally deemed unhealthy under other circumstances; this means plenty of milkshakes, cheese, peanut butter, ice cream, and other foods high in calories. Those that also offer protein, such as nuts, dairy products, and protein shakes for cancer patients, are an especially good option.

That’s because protein is maybe the most important macronutrient for those battling cancer; protein is responsible for powering the body’s healing process; this helps you to better handle the effects of treatments like chemo and radiation, which can cause significant damage to the body. While common sources of protein, such as red meat, may not be tolerable if you have no appetite, mixing protein powder into a milkshake or sprinkling seeds or nuts onto desserts like ice cream or pudding can add protein to whatever you’re already eating.

Tips for Eating When You Have Cancer and No Appetite

Figuring out how to eat enough calories and nutrients each day when you have no appetite can be tricky, to say the least. A good approach to this issue involves three specific strategies: mitigating symptoms, adapting the patient’s lifestyle, and considering medical intervention. Learn more about each of these below:

Mitigating Symptoms

There are a few specific symptoms common to cancer patients that can lead to a loss of appetite; these include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, mouth sores, and changes in a person’s sense of taste or smell. Addressing your individual symptoms can be an effective way to improve calorie and nutrient intake and help you stay energized during treatment.

One way to improve your appetite during cancer treatments is to avoid strong smells that could trigger or exacerbate nausea or vomiting. To do this, try eating foods that are relatively bland or have little odor; eating cold foods can help as well, such as refrigerated liquid nutritional supplements for cancer patients, as they tend to have relatively inoffensive smells. If a change in your sense of taste is an issue, try seasoning your foods to alter their tastes and make them more agreeable.

If you are at risk for developing mouth sores as a result of chemotherapy or radiation treatments, you can sometimes reduce the severity of these effects by maintaining good oral hygiene in advance of your treatments and after the emergence of the sores. In addition, treatments such as cryotherapy may be effective at mitigating symptoms; ask your oncologist for more suggestions.

Adapting Your Lifestyle

Though most of us are accustomed to three meals a day, this custom should be the first thing to go out the window when you lose your appetite. One of the best ways to increase your calorie and nutrient intake is to simply eat whenever you have an appetite, even if it’s only a little. This could mean eating heavier meals in the mornings or snacking throughout the day; whatever works for you is a winning strategy. If you have a favorite meal, consider relying on it for more calories than you usually would, as long as you can still tolerate it.

The priority for cancer patients with no appetite should be to maximize the number of calories they take in, since calories equal energy from a nutritional standpoint. Cooking with oils, adding condiments to foods, and stocking up on high-calorie snacks are all ways a cancer patient can boost their calorie intake.

Alternative types of food could provide additional options, such as meal replacement shakes like those from ENU. These products often contain a healthful blend of carbs, fats, and protein; ENU shakes also offer 340 calories per carton, and the fact that they’re liquid makes them much easier to consume.

Medical Intervention

Sometimes, it’s possible for a healthcare provider to adapt a patient’s treatment to make it easier for them to eat. Whether by changing the frequency of treatments, introducing new medications to induce hunger, or some other method, your doctor may be able to help your situation. Contact your cancer care team for options specific to your situation.

Balanced Nutritional Shake for Cancer Patients with No Appetite

Ultimately, the decision about what to eat if you have cancer and no appetite will come down to what high-calorie and high-protein foods you can tolerate. ENU meal replacement shakes offer a significant number of calories along with protein from whey and soy, fats from coconut and sunflower oils, and carbs from whole grain sources, plus more than 20 key vitamins and minerals. Learn more about our nutritional shakes for cancer patients by visiting ENU online or calling (855) 266-6733 today.