Dealing with Taste Changes During Lung Cancer Treatment

Kylie Buchan RDN, CSO, Savor Health

Taste alterations and aversions can be a common side effect from certain lung cancer chemotherapy drugs. When food does not taste the way you expect it to (or it has a bad taste taste), it can affect your appetite and contribute to weight loss. Luckily, there are tricks you can use to combat taste changes, whether it be lack of taste, metallic taste, or any other type of taste change. In this article, we will review common taste alterations along with some suggested foods to choose to offset those changes.

If food has a metallic taste:

  • Red meat is more likely to cause a metal taste in your mouth over other protein sources. Choose poultry, fish, beans, or tofu for your protein source to prevent the unpleasant flavor.

  • Avoid using metal silverware when eating. The metal touching your mouth can bring out the metallic flavor from your chemotherapy. Instead, use plastic silverware. This doesn’t just apply to silverware. Avoid putting any metal dishware to your mouth, such as cups or mugs; drinking out of glass or hard plastic is a good alternative.

  • Use glass or ceramic dishes and cookware when you can instead of metal. While stainless steel pans are some of the best for cooking, the metal taste can rub off on the food that you are cooking. Since your mouth is extra sensitive during treatment, you are more likely to taste it as opposed to when you were not undergoing treatment.

  • Adding a sweet flavor to your foods may offset the metallic taste as well. Pure maple syrup, honey, jam, or fruit sauces are a few examples of how to naturally sweeten your food.

If food tastes too sweet:

  • Limit your intake of sweet foods. For example, add butter to your oatmeal instead of brown sugar or use peanut butter on your toast instead of jelly.

  • Choose salty or non-sweet snacks, such as peanut butter crackers, vegetables with hummus, or a handful of nuts.

If food has a bitter taste:

  • Add a bit of sweetness to your foods to offset the bitter taste. Just like with metallic taste, honey, jam, and fruit may help your meals taste more pleasant.

  • Many times, water is the biggest culprit of bitter taste. Jazz up your water with lemon, lime, and orange slices or drink diluted 100% juice to prevent dehydration.

  • Make note of the foods that are causing your bitter taste and choose an alternative. If chicken seems to have an “off” flavor, eat fish, lean beef, or vegetarian-based dishes until your taste has returned to normal.

If food has no taste:

  • When food has no flavor, adding sauces, dressings, and condiments onto your foods can boost the flavor. Barbecue sauce, mustard, salad dressing, and soy sauce are examples of ways to add flavor.

  • Add spicy foods if you do not have mouth sores. Salsa, peppers, and buffalo sauce may help enhance the taste of the foods you are eating.

  • Suck on lemon drops or other tart candies before your meals. This trick may perk up the flavor you get from your foods.

  • Add a healthy fat to your meals to enhance the flavor. Avocado, nuts, olives, and olive oil are good examples of foods you can add onto many different types of meals to boost the flavor.


General Recommendations:

  • Stay hydrated. When you are dehydrated, you are more likely to get taste changes. Aim to drink at least 8 cups daily (or more) if you have been experiencing taste aversions.

  • Practice good dental hygiene and visit your dentist if you are experiencing any problems.

The good news is that there are helpful strategies to manage taste changes during lung cancer treatment.  If the above suggestions do not help for you or your loved one, be sure to follow up with your healthcare team and registered dietitian for further guidance and support.


Looking for instant and personalized nutrition advice? Check out Ina®, Your Personal Intelligent Nutrition Assistant. You can communicate with Ina® 24/7 to receive clinically appropriate and “on demand” nutrition support and guidance. She’ll respond with personalized nutrition tips, recipe, and answers to your questions—no phone calls or appointments necessary.

Visit LUNGevity’s website to learn more about Ina®. Click here to sign-up for Ina®.


Related Reading:

Lung Cancer and Nutrition Q&A

What are some healthy snack ideas for lung cancer patients?

How to Hydrate: Healthy Drink Choices for Lung Cancer Patients

Savor Health is a provider of personalized nutrition solutions designed exclusively for cancer patients based on evidence-based science and clinical best practices and provided by a team of oncology-credentialed registered dietitians.Savor Health

Submit your questions here and the experts at Savor Health may answer it in an upcoming blog!

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