Nutrition: Managing changes in taste/smell or a dry sore mouth

Friday 04 May 2018

Dietary help for those who experience changes in taste and smell/dry sore mouth.

What a glorious week it has been with the weather. Mind you I am not going to speak too soon last time I mentioned the sunshine to you and its relationship with vitamin D it rained for a month. So my comments are said in a whisper!!!

This week I am going to continue on the theme of side effects giving tips on how you may be able to manage them. I must emphasise again that if you are experiencing side effects and they are really bothersome then it is important to contact your medical team.

Senses of taste and smell are very often affected by treatment which can lead to loss of appetite as food and eating loses its pleasure. Many people complain of a metallic taste in their mouth which can be brought on by certain chemotherapy drugs. These are generally temporary but even so It can be a miserable situation.

When you find it difficult to eat for whatever reason it is important to make every meal and food that you eat count. If possible making it as nutritious as you can which will help support the immune system which in turn should help your body cope with the side effects.

Dietary support for coping with altered taste.

  • You may find that you go off some foods and crave others. It is a case of a little of what you fancy is the rule. I distinctly remember one lady that I saw years ago who was always ate extremely well and was very health conscious. When she was having chemo’ she craved pizza. My answer to her was to have the pizza and as soon as things return to normal then she can go back to her preferred way of eating.
  • Some good advice is not to eat your favourite food just before treatment because if your tastes change it can quite often put you off that food.
  • Make good use of herbs and spices to marinade your food to increase the flavour. If the tissues in your mouth are inflamed avoid hot spices.  Try using things like bacon bits or BBQ sauce, garlic and onion based dishes.
  • Foods that are cold or at room temperature may be more palatable than hot ones. Frozen smoothies, sorbets, citrus fruits and pineapple can sometimes cut through an odd taste..
  • Bottled water from glass bottles or filtered tap water can remove the metallic taste of tap water.
  • Try using plastic cutlery if you have a metallic taste, this can really help.
  • Keep your mouth as fresh as possible by regularly brushing your teeth. Gargle with salt water unless of course you have mouth ulcers or sores in the mouth.
  • Meat often tastes metallic so try eating chicken, fish, nuts and pulses to get your protein.
  • Try having sugar free gum or sucking a strong mint or sharp sweet like lemon sherberts.

Dietary support for coping with loss of taste.

  • Food is not just about taste, 70% of taste comes from smell. Try to stimulate your appetite by cooking with things like garlic and spices that give off an aroma.
  • A colourful plate of food can also stimulate the taste buds and therefore appetite.
  • Use small plates so that the serving size does not look overwhelming. You can always go back for more.

Dietary support for coping with a sore mouth (mucositis)
This usually begins with the tissues feeling dry and looking red. The mouth and throat look sore. This can be followed by swelling, ulceration and in some severe cases bleeding. This is naturally painful, limits food intake and enjoyment and may cause difficulty swallowing. The main cause is chemotherapy.  Because its aim is to destroy rapidly dividing cells, it adversely affects the digestive system because these cells also divide rapidly. Radiation to the head and neck area will cause similar problems.

  • I am sure that common sense will lead you to choosing the right foods as you will naturally avoid dry rough food like toast and sharp acidic tasting foods like tomatoes, citrus fruits and spicy foods. You will probably be naturally inclined to soft bland foods like mashed potato, soft cooked grains like rice and quinoa, softly cooked vegetables or soups, yogurts and smooth puddings like egg custards.
  • If your mouth is very painful try having soups and protein based drinks (see blog 5 3rd May) and having them through a straw.
  • Always serve food luke warm or cool.
  • Tea tree oil applied directly to the sores may help as this acts as a topical antibiotic.
  • L Glutaimine powder with some added water as a mouthwash usually helps.  L glutamine is an amino acid (building block of proteins) and aids the healing of the mucosal lining of the whole digestive system, which begins in the mouth.
  • Aloe vera Juice is also very soothing and known for its healing properties. Gargle with it neat and then swallow.
  • You can also buy a zinc liquid. Add a few drops to some water and garlic. Zinc is very good at boosting the immune cells in the mouth which may aid healing.
  • Some people find relief by sucking ice cubes which not only moistens the mouth but may also numb the pain.
  • It is important that you try and keep your mouth as clean as possible because bacteria is a breeding ground for infection, aloe vera, L glutamine or zinc liquid may help hear but if the mouth is not too sore brushing your teeth is a  good idea.

I hope that some of these tips help those of you with these problems. It is a little bit of trial and error I am afraid to see which suits and works for you. Next week I will look at difficulty swallowing, nausea and vomiting

Blog originally posted by caroline July 2012

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