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Tips for coping with taste changes

Some chemotherapy drugs for pancreatic cancer can make food taste different. People often describe it as a metallic or cardboard taste, or as if they have cotton wool in their mouth. Food may lose its flavour and taste bland, or you might be put off your favourite meal or drink.

Taste changes usually improve with time. You might find the following tips helpful in the meantime.

  • Eat the foods that you do like the taste of, and avoid those that you don't. Try different foods to find some that you do like.
  • Try foods that you no longer like again after a few weeks, as your taste may have returned to normal.
  • If meat tastes bitter or metallic try marinating it before cooking – for example, in wine, barbecue sauce or sweet and sour sauce. Cold meats may taste better served with pickle or chutney.
  • If you find you can’t eat meat, other good types of protein include fish, eggs, beans, pulses, lentils, milk, yoghurt and cheese.
  • Season your food with strong flavourings, such as mustard, herbs, pepper, spices or lemon juice.
  • Sharp tasting foods such as grapefruit, lemon, and drinks such as bitter lemon may help stimulate your taste buds, increase the flow of saliva and get rid of any unpleasant taste in your mouth.
  • Try foods that you need to chew – this will also increase saliva.
  • Some people find cold or warm foods easier than hot food.
  • If tea and coffee taste strange, try milky drinks, fruit juices or fizzy drinks.
  • Some people find that artificial sweeteners taste metallic – avoid them if they do.
  • Try to drink plenty of fluids and keep your mouth and tongue clean. Brush your teeth regularly, and use a soft toothbrush to clean your tongue if necessary.
  • Use plastic or wooden cooking spoons, rather than metallic ones.
  • Ask your doctor or nurse to check for oral thrush. This can cause taste changes and sickness, and is usually easy to treat. 

More tips for managing different pancreatic cancer symptoms

Updated November 2017

To be reviewed November 2019

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