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Food tastes funny…!

“I feel that the worst part was losing the taste buds, everything I tried to eat tasted funny so I had a lot of trouble eating. I eventually found that food tasted better in the mornings and right after my treatments so these became my main meals.” Victor

Medically reviewed by Urologic Oncologist Dr. Robert J. Hamilton on 07/02/2022 

What are your taste buds for?

You experience taste through your taste buds, which are found mostly on your tongue but also on the roof, back and sides of your mouth, and in the back of your throat. The basic sensations that your taste buds deliver are sweet, sour, salty, bitter and savouriness (strawberry waffles, whipped cream, lasagna, pizza, bacon, spices), in short, all foods that excite your taste buds.

However, when you have cancer treatment, the tasty foods you’ve enjoyed before can suddenly taste weird. It is well known that some chemotherapy drugs can damage your taste buds and alter your taste and these side effects can vary a lot from person to person. 

Taste alterations are particularly noticeable with bitter, sweet and/or salty foods. Some patients also perceive a metallic taste and others will feel that the food creates a tasteless ball of goo in their mouth. Since the throat and the nose are interrelated, the sense of smell could also be affected during the treatment period.

There are no medications that treat changes in taste and smell. However, the good news is that once the chemo is over, your taste buds usually return to normal. During the treatment period, there are some things you can do to help you feel like eating. Consider the following tips for dealing with changes in taste.

How to consume enough calories when you lose the desire to eat?

  1. Keep your mouth clean – Brush your teeth and floss to keep your mouth clean.

  2. Use a baking soda-based mouthwash – Dilute a teaspoon of baking soda in a glass of water at room temperature. You can add a pinch of salt. Use a small amount to rinse your mouth 3-4 times a day. Spit out the mouthwash. Don’t swallow it! 

  3. Use mints or lemon if your mouth doesn’t hurt – Suck on mints or sugar-free candies or add lemon to your food. It can help freshen your mouth. 

    • If you have a sore mouth or throat, try soft or frozen fruits and avoid spices, acidic foods, and hot foods or drinks, which can be irritating.

  4. Try new foods or enhance the flavor of your foods – Sometimes it’s easier to eat foods you’re not used to. Incorporate new spices, marinades, herbs or new flavors to enhance the bland taste of certain foods. 

  5. Try fresh or cold foods – Foods served cool, cold or chilled have less of a strong taste. They are often easier to eat. 

What, how and when to eat?

  1. Eat light meals 

  2. See if using plastic utensils or bamboo chopsticks helps

  3. Try to eat in the morning or at times of the day when you feel better.

The cooking smell can also take away your appetite.

If your family situation allows it, ask someone else to cook for you and wait in another room before starting your meal, until the smells disappear. Avoid cooking foods that smell bothersome, such as onions, cabbage, broccoli, or fish. You can reintroduce them if necessary. 


There is no magic solution for taste changes that works for everyone. Finding foods that taste appealing can be a process of trial and error. Some people avoid their favorite foods during this time to preserve them once their taste returns. As mentioned above, these changes are usually temporary and will improve over time.

If the change in taste is preventing you from eating healthy foods and maintaining a decent weight, talk to your medical team who can refer you to a dietitian. These professionals will be able to give you advice and tips on how to manage changes in taste.

Additional Tips and Ideas

Click here for additional tips to make foods tastier 


Take the time to visit each of our pages on this website, as well as our YouTube channel, in order to get familiar with the disease, our expert lectures and webinars, our section on available resources, the support that is offered to you, our events and ways to get involved in advancing the cause.

You have questions or concerns? Don’t hesitate. You can chat with us or contact us at 1-855-899-2873 to discuss with one of our nurses specialized in uro-oncology. They are there to listen, support and answer your questions, as well as those of your family or loved ones. It’s simple and free, like all of our other services.

Pages on our site that might interest you
Want to know more? Just click on one of the links below.
The importance of healthy eating

PROCURE blog articles that will enlighten you
Every week, we publish a blog article. Here are a few for you.
Tips and advice when chemo comes on your plate

Written by PROCURE. © All rights reserved – 2023

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