October is Breast Cancer Awareness month and it is a cause close to my heart! As a professional nutritionist, it has been my privilege to work with cancer patients in optimizing their nutrition as they recover during or after treatment. When my staff and I create nutrition plans specific to cancer recovery, we always focus on the clients individual needs. Nutritionally, cancer patients encounter special challenges, such as taste bud changes, which can impact the strength and efficiency of their recovery due to a decreased desire to eat. I was so honored to be invited by the American Cancer Society as a guest to appear on Fox13 The Place, to talk about how my staff and I are helping make nutrition a little easier and better tasting for our clients, who are fighting the taste bud battle. To see both TV segments, just click here.
Want to join us in raising awareness for breast cancer research, prevention and treatment? Just copy and paste this link http://fox13now.com/2016/10/13/recipe-healthy-smoothie/ into your social media feed for your followers.
If you or someone you know is undergoing cancer treatment right now, or taking care of someone in recovery, I hope that the questions and answers below will help you have a better understanding of how and why the taste buds are impacted by cancer treatment.
What happens to people’s taste buds when they are undergoing cancer treatment?
The taste buds are very sensitive to radiation and chemotherapy, and due to the intense levels of medical treatment, many patients often experience a partial or complete loss of taste (and decreased sense of smell) as one of the first side effects. The sense of taste will most likelycome back after treatment is complete, but when taste will come back and how much taste comes back is different for each patient. Unfortunately the craving for sugary items may be the first sense to return, which can become a serious problem for patients who are not taking proper care of their health and teeth, as both taste buds and saliva (which is needed for breaking down food and keeping a healthy PH balance) can be drastically decreased.
What are some of the signs that patients may be losing their taste?
Dental and/or gum problems
Nausea and vomiting
Bitter, sweet, and/or salty foods might start to taste differently than before
Some spicy or savory foods might begin to seem bland
Foods may begin to all taste the same
Patients can experience a chemical taste after eating red meat protein
How can the loss of taste effect the patient’s health?
The loss of taste buds can present many health challenges for patients including;
Loss of appetite and food aversions which can lead to nutritional deficiency, weight loss, and weakened immune system make recovery even more difficult to go through. It is really important to let your health care team know if you experience any taste changes and food aversions that begin to impact your weight.
How can patients manage changes in their nutrition based on taste bud changes?
First of all, patients should always talk to their doctors about the specific symptoms they are experiencing and depending on the specific type of treatment they are undergoing, their doctor might recommend different tips, including recommending work with a dietician and/or nutritionist, such as myself, who can get very diet specific to help re-balance patient nutrition in a healthy manner.
In the meantime, here are some basic tips that can help patients manage their food:
- Use glassware to avoid potential metal tastes in cooking
- Eliminate cooking smells by using an exhaust fan, cooking on an outdoor grill, or buying fresh, organic and/or pre-prepared foods from a food delivery service (like Meals That Transform).
- Try sugar-free gum or infused water with flavors such as mint, lemon, berry or orange. These flavors can help mask a bitter or metallic taste in the mouth and help to generate a little more saliva.
- Try protein sources, like poultry, eggs, fish, nut butter, and coconut oils which have heart healthy fats and branch amino acids for cell strength and repair.
- Marinate meats to seal in juices.
- Use extra herbs, spices, lemon, and/or organic and fresh made sauces to help boost the taste in your meals.
- As per many expert recommendations; don't eat 1 to 2 hours before chemotherapy (and for 3 hours after chemotherapy) to help prevent food aversions, nausea and vomiting.
How does the OM Power Protein Shake act as a nutrient rich dietary supplement for recovering cancer patients or those still undergoing treatment?
Our Meals That Transform OM POWER Protein shake is the perfect grab-and-go meal supplement for anyone undergoing cancer treatment. Our shakes come in 4 delicious flavors, and are organic, gluten-free, casian-free and sugar-free, they have 10 grams of protein for helping to repair muscle and tissue cells, and can be mixed with coconut milk, almond milk or water for a quick and healthy nutrition boost throughout the day.
Here is Our Basic OM POWER Smoothie Recipe which can be varied with different fruits and veggies for delicious and nutritious flavors:
20 grams OM Power Protein (all natural from our OM POWER Powder)
8 oz. coconut milk
Scoop of coconut oil
1 Cup of spinach
1 Cup frozen peaches
1/2 Cup frozen mangoes
Blend and enjoy
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