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Home About Us Blog Restoring the Joy of Food while Navigating Dysgeusia

Restoring the Joy of Food while Navigating Dysgeusia

Nov 15, 2023
cancer patient prepares food in a kitchen

What is Dysgeusia?

Dysgeusia is a common side effect of chemotherapy or radiation treatments that is characterized by changes in taste perception. This often presents itself as an undesirable taste in the mouth, even when not ingesting food. A metallic taste or burning sensation are possible symptoms you may experience with dysgeusia. While you are managing the various side effects you may experience as you go through treatment, enjoying a meal may seem like a daunting task. However, with a few diet modifications and the willingness to frequently adapt, you may see that the joy once found in food can be restored. 

Go With The Flow

While undergoing treatment, the energy your body needs increases above your usual energy requirements. With higher energy needs, ensuring that you are receiving adequate nutrition is important to continuing to fuel your body. Adjusting to alterations in taste perception is essential to maintaining a healthy eating pattern while also eating enough food to provide your body with what it needs. If you are experiencing dysgeusia, you may notice yourself eating less than what you were accustomed to eating. While your taste buds are sensitive to certain foods, replacing or modifying those foods with other high-calorie options may help you to maintain adequate nutrition. For example, if yogurt is no longer tolerable, try mixing in your favorite nut butter or a spoonful of cocoa powder.

Focus on The Good

What tastes good today may not taste so good tomorrow. Experimenting with new foods and recipes can help keep mealtimes exciting while allowing you to explore what is desirable to you each day. If acidic foods are your friend, try a squeeze of lemon juice on fish for added tartness. Brighten up a pasta dish with basil or oregano to mellow the flavor profile of tomatoes. If you need a palate cleanser before meals, try rinsing your mouth with a solution of 1 quart of water mixed with ¾ teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of baking soda.

Give Yourself Grace

Although it is important to maintain an intake of fresh fruits and vegetables, varied protein sources, and enough energy to meet the body’s needs, sometimes what is tolerable does not fit within these guidelines. Allow yourself to enjoy the foods that are delicious to you today. Mix it up each day, maintain an open mindset, and you may just restore the joy of food while you do.

Kara Wilson, Dietetic Intern, The University of Memphis
Kara is a dietetic intern studying clinical nutrition at The University of Memphis. What she enjoys most about clinical nutrition is the opportunity she has to build relationships with patients and their families. In her spare time, she enjoys cooking, working in her garden, and spending time with her family.