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How to manage breast cancer treatment side effects with nutrition: Sore mouth, taste changes and nausea

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**A continuation of our series on breast cancer and nutrition.

A sore mouth is one side effect of some breast cancer treatment. Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center nutritionist Mary Eve Brown says you can manage it better if you: 

  • Eat soft, moist foods, such as yogurt, eggs, avocadoes, soups, fruit cups, pudding, hot cereal, cottage cheese, applesauce, hummus, baked beans, soft pasta, mashed potatoes, and mashed vegetables such as sweet potato, carrot or squash.
  • Avoid foods that require lots of chewing, or with acid, spice, or sharp edges.
  • Rinse your mouth every 3 hours with this recipe: 1 cup of warm water, 1/8 teaspoon of salt and ¼ teaspoon of baking soda. During treatment, you may become susceptible to yeast infections of the mouth, which can make eating painful or give foods an off taste, and this rinse will help control the overgrowth of yeast and keeps your mouth healthy.
  • Inspect your mouth to stay aware of its condition. Do this every morning when you are brushing your teeth. Look at your tongue and the roof of your mouth, notice any white patches, and discuss changes with your health care team.
  • Drink your nutrition along with your hydration.

The taste of foods can change throughout your treatment or your taste buds may change, Brown notes. This common but often misunderstood side effect might prompt you to stop eating, but she advises “Don’t give up.”  Experiment with different foods to find the taste sensation that is most enjoyable for you. For example, if sweet tastes work well for you, add  healthful sweet tastes like smoothies or fresh fruit, or by marinating other foods in fruit juices or adding fruit to other dishes. Too sweet? Balance overly sweet foods by adding a little salt. Avoid metal and meats if they are affecting your taste. You may need to switch to plastic utensils, drink through a straw, and substitute dairy, beans or nuts for meat during this time.

Nausea can be a distressing side effect of some breast cancer treatments. It may not seem as if nutrition can help with nausea, but here are some tricks of the nutrition trade Brown recommends:

  •  Take your anti-nausea medications as prescribed, even if you are not experiencing nausea. Alert your health care team if the medications are not working for you
  • Eat cold foods, which have less aroma and may help you avoid nausea.
  • Sip on clear liquids to lessen the feelings of nausea.
  • Don’t forget protein-rich foods, like baked chicken, eggs or dairy, cottage cheese or yogurt.
  • Make your own ginger tea: Boil 4 cups of water with sliced ginger root for 20 minutes. You can add lemon or honey to your taste. Or, let the tea cool and add club soda to make your own “ginger ale.”

You can find out more about nutrition and your breast cancer journey in Brown’s recent free webinar, What’s Food Got to Do With It? Eating Well Before, During and After Treatment.

Videos from Mary Eve Brown:
Colon Cancer and Nutrition

Pancreatic Cancer and Nutrition