Changes in Appetite

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Appetite changes, whether an increase or decrease in customary appetite, are very common in people with cancer, especially those in cancer treatment and those with advanced cancer. Poor nutrition can slow recovery and lead to delays in treatment.

Changes in Appetite

Appetite changes, whether an increase or decrease in customary appetite, are very common in people with cancer, especially those in cancer treatment and those with advanced cancer. Some common contributors to changes in appetite:

  • Certain drugs, such as steroids used to treat some cancers and/or to manage symptoms, may increase appetite.
  • Antidepressants can increase or decrease appetite.
  • Chemotherapy for breast cancer may cause some women to experience intense food cravings.
  • Some symptoms of cancer or side effects of cancer treatment can decrease appetite: nausea, mouth sores, dry mouth, fatigue, pain, tumor pressure on organs, bloating and constipation.
  • Emotions such as depression and anxiety can affect appetite.
  • The cancer itself can decrease appetite and cause anorexia by secreting chemicals that signal “fullness” to the satiety center of your brain.
  • Taste changes that make foods taste unpleasant and unappetizing may also affect appetite.
  • Increased sensitivity to food odors can also cause nausea and decrease appetite.

Since significant weight gain during cancer treatment may affect your health and ability to undergo treatment, be aware of your risk for increased appetite and weight gain and ask your healthcare team to help you with weight control.

ASCO’s Cancer.Net says that people with poor appetite or appetite loss may eat less than usual, not feel hungry at all, or feel full after eating only a small amount. Ongoing lack of appetite may lead to serious complications including weight loss, a lack of necessary nutrients, and loss of muscle mass and strength. Talk with your healthcare team if your appetite is diminished. They can help find the cause and make sure you are getting the nutrition you need. Poor nutrition can slow recovery and lead to delays in treatment.2

Managing Changes in Appetite

Many complementary approaches may be helpful with appetite changes. Because some supplements and other therapies can cause adverse effects or interfere with other therapies, be sure to have your doctor or pharmacist check for interactions. Tell your healthcare providers about all the therapies and approaches you are using or considering.

  • Dietary strategies such as eating six small meals throughout the day and eating a variety of nutrient-dense high-protein, high-calorie foods can help with reduced appetite.
  • Small adjustments in seasonings can make a big difference in how food tastes.
  • For more information on dietary strategies, refer to these resources: 

In addition to complementary therapies, consider seeing a professional such as a therapist, oncology social worker or oncology navigator to help you explore your stressful situation and identify an approach that is right for you.

Integrative Programs, Protocols and Medical Systems

References

  1. Cancer.Net. Appetite Loss. American Society of Clinical Oncology. July 2016. Viewed February 21, 2018.
  2. CancerNet. Appetite Loss. American Society of Clinical Oncology. July 2016. Viewed February 21, 2018.
  3. Lapedis M, Adler SR et al. Qualitative analyses from a prospective clinical study of a whole systems Ayurvedic intervention for breast cancer survivorship. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 2014 May; 20(5):A75.
  4. Block KI. Life Over Cancer: The Block Center Program for Integrative Cancer Care. New York: Bantam Dell. 2009. p. 513.
  5. Block KI. Life Over Cancer: The Block Center Program for Integrative Cancer Care. New York: Bantam Dell. 2009. p. 513.
  6. Alschuler LN, Gazella KA. The Definitive Guide to Cancer, 3rd Edition: An Integrative Approach to Prevention, Treatment, and Healing. Berkeley, California: Celestial Arts. 2010. p. 131.
  7. Abrams DI. The therapeutic effects of cannabis and cannabinoids: an update from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine report. European Journal of Internal Medicine. 2018 Mar;49:7-11; Mücke M, Weier M. Systematic review and meta-analysis of cannabinoids in palliative medicine. Journal of Cachexia, Sarcopenia and Muscle. 2018 Feb 5.
  8. Alschuler LN, Gazella KA. The Definitive Guide to Cancer, 3rd Edition: An Integrative Approach to Prevention, Treatment, and Healing. Berkeley, California: Celestial Arts. 2010; Alschuler LN, Gazella KA. The Definitive Guide to Thriving after Cancer. Berkeley, California: Ten Speed Press. 2013.
  9. Block KI. Life over Cancer: The Block Center Program for Integrative Cancer Treatment. New York: Bantam Dell. 2009.
  10. McKinney N. Naturopathic Oncology, 3rd Edition. Victoria, BC, Canada: Liaison Press. 2016.

Credits

This article has been taken from Beyond Conventional Cancer Therapies.

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