TASTE: Using Diet to Fight Cancer-Related Side Effects

In The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen, Rebecca Katz lists specific foods that can be recommended to patients experiencing many of the common side effects of cancer treatment. Today, let’s look at a symptom commonly associated with cancer treatment, including chemotherapy.

Dysgeusia, or altered sensation of taste, is a common oral side effect of cancer therapy. Few effective treatments have been found for this side effect, which can significantly affect a patient’s quality of life. With the right techniques, you can restore good taste to food. Katz developed an acronym — FASS — which stands for fat, acid, salt, and sweet. These 4 flavors (what Katz calls “fast fixes for taste-bud troubles”) can make food taste better when a patient is experiencing dysgeusia. Food tastes best when these 4 flavors are in balance.

Here’s how it works. For patients who have a persistent metallic taste in their mouths, or who find that foods taste bitter, a little sweetener (Katz recommends grade B organic maple syrup) can counteract the bad taste. If food tastes too sweet, patients should add a few drops of acid (lemon or lime juice). Lemon juice also balances the taste of overly salty foods. If the patient complains that all food is tasteless, or “tastes like cardboard,” the best fix is adding a little sea salt, and possibly a spritz of lemon juice. Patients with mucositis, however, might find the addition of salt or citrus painful. For those with mouth sores or difficulty swallowing, Katz suggests soothing, nonspicy foods, such as broths, soups, and smoothies.

I’m Dr. Michael Hunter.

The small print: The material presented herein is informational only, and is not designed to provide specific guidance for an individual. Please check with a valued health care provider with any questions or concerns. As for me, I am a Harvard- , Yale- and UPenn-educated radiation oncologist, and I practice in the Seattle, WA (USA) area. I feel genuinely privileged to be able to share with you. If you enjoyed today’s offering, please consider clicking the follow button at the bottom of this page.

Available now: Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Brain Glioma in 60 Minutes. Both can be found at the Apple Ibooks store. Coming Soon for iPad:  Understand Breast Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minute; Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Brain Glioma in 60 Minutes. Thank you.

Reference: Hovan AJ, Williams PM, Stevenson-Moore P, et al; Dysgeusia Section, Oral Care Study Group, Multinational Association of Supportive Care in Cancer (MASCC)/International Society of Oral Oncology (ISOO). A systematic review of dysgeusia induced by cancer therapies. Support Care Cancer. 2010;18:1081-1087.

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Harvard AB Yale MD UPenn Radiation Oncology Radiation Oncologist, Seattle area

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