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Managing Your Side Effects

Appetite Loss

During cancer treatments, you may find that you feel less hungry, or notice you do not have an appetite. This is a common side effect of chemotherapy
treatment and below are a few tips to help make eating easier:

  • Eat a small meal or snack every 2-3 hours
  • Eat foods that are appealing
  • Try new foods to keep your interest
  • Remain active to boost your appetite
  • Drink high-calorie beverages like juice, sports drinks, or high-calorie protein shakes between meals to increase calorie intake
  • Make the most of each bite by eating high calorie, high protein meals, and snacks

Changes in Taste

You may find that foods no longer taste the same as they did before treatment. This can occur with chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Try these tips
below to increase the flavor of your foods:

  • Try new spices or fresh herbs to give your food more flavor
  • Be mindful of foods that taste good and try to add those flavors to other foods (for instance, if Asian foods taste really good to you, try adding salt or ginger to other foods as a flavor enhancer)
  • Brush your teeth right before you eat to remove any bacteria and unwanted flavors
  • Continue to practice good oral hygiene to prevent the growth of bacteria and other dental problems


Constipation is when you are having fewer bowel movements than normal, or your bowel movements become painful and hard to pass. Constipation can be caused by medications, chemotherapy agents, and lack of physical activity. Try these steps for symptom relief:

  • Eat high fiber foods such as whole-grain bread and cereals, raw fruits and vegetables, nuts, and seeds
  • Drink a minimum of 8 cups of liquid per day. Water and prune juice are great for constipation
  • Be active for at least 15-30 minutes per day. Ask your TCI care team about safe physical activities for you
  • Take stool softeners as prescribed


Diarrhea is soft, loose, or watery stools. Diarrhea may occur due to chemotherapy agents, radiation to the abdominal region, or other medications. If you
are experiencing diarrhea, try these tips to feel better:

  • Eat small meals every 2-3 hours instead of 3 large meals
  • Eat low fiber foods such as bananas, applesauce, white bread and rice
  • Drink a minimum of 8 cups of liquids per day to maintain hydration. Fluids such as sports drinks or Pedialyte can help balance electrolytes
  • Avoid spicy or fried foods, as these can make diarrhea worse

Nausea and Vomiting

Nausea and vomiting can be caused by chemotherapy and certain medications. It is important to take your anti-nausea medications as prescribed to help
minimize the severity. If you are experiencing nausea or vomiting, follow the tips below:

  • Try eating cold or room temperature foods instead of hot foods. Cold foods have less of an aroma and can decrease nausea
  • Sip on water and high-calorie beverages instead of drinking a whole glass at one time
  • Limit greasy, fried, or spicy foods due to the increased flavor and aroma
  • Try to eat 4-6 small meals per day instead of 3 large meals


Swelling can be caused by chemotherapy, hormone changes, or other health-related conditions. If you notice swelling in your face, hands, abdomen, or legs let your
physician know and follow these steps below:

  • Limit your salt intake to 1500-2000 mg/day. Salt is in all pre-packaged foods and beverages, look at the nutrition facts label and try to consume foods that have lower than 5% of your daily intake
  • Either add salt when cooking or at the table, not at both
  • Try using salt-free seasonings to increase the flavor of food without increasing the salt

Mouth and Throat Pain

Mouth and throat pain may be caused by the location of cancer, chemotherapy agents, and radiation therapy. Below are some tips to help
reduce your symptoms:

  • Brush your teeth and tongue before and after each meal with a soft toothbrush and toothpaste with baking soda
  • Rinse your mouth with a baking soda, and warm water mixture (see recipe in your guidebook)
  • Use lip balm and suck on ice chips to keep your lips and mouth moist
  • Choose foods that are soft, wet, and easy to swallow to avoid increased pain
  • Try adding gravies and sauces to meats to make it easier to swallow
  • Avoid acidic foods such as oranges, lemons, or tomato products
  • Avoid crunchy or spicy foods
  • Alert your TCI care team if you have difficulty swallowing, pain when eating, or if you develop sores in, or around, your mouth.