Up to 80% of people receiving cancer treatment report taste changes. Cancer treatments can damage taste buds and confuse the taste processing centre in the brain. For many people changes to their taste perception can make the experience of eating unenjoyable and a chore. Watch our taste changes video for some tips on how to manage taste changes whilst undergoing cancer treatment.
Strategies to help maintain good nutrition if you have taste changes include:
- Identify the type of taste change you are experiencing: sweet, salty, bland, cardboard/straw or metallic and see suggestions overleaf.
- Clean your mouth before and after each meal.
- Try using plastic cutlery instead of metal.
- Use extra sauces to add flavour and moisture.
- If the idea of eating is too much, try replacing meals with convenient, nourishing smoothies (some more recipe ideas can be found under loss of appetite).
- Try new foods and/or foods you don't normally like. This may help you find some foods or flavours you can enjoy whilst your taste is altered.
Who can help?
Common taste changes
Taste change strategies that may help when foods taste bland:
Increase seasoning in meals e.g. extra garlic, herbs, spices, lemon, honey
Increase fat content of meals – this will add extra flavour e.g. grated cheese, cream
Use marinades to add flavour to meat and vegetables
Bitter or Metallic
Taste change strategies that may help when foods taste bitter or metallic:
Clean your mouth before and after with mouth wash
If protein foods such as red meat taste unpleasant try swapping for chicken/fish/eggs/tofu/legumes
Try sweeter foods i.e. sweet potato, pumpkin, carrot, fruit yoghurt
Use plastic cutlery
Taste change strategies that may help when foods taste like cardboard/ straw/sand:
Sip fluids with your meals
Use extra sauce/gravy to add moisture to meals
Trial oral moisturisers and mouth sprays
Chewing sugar free gum can help increase saliva production