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Loss of appetite can be a common side effect from chemotherapy.  In my opinion loss of appetite is dangerous because the patient’s nutritional needs are especially high while undergoing treatment. Also, eating is one of the simple pleasures in life that should not be lessened or taken away from any patient – its too important. Here are some tips that have been learned through trial-by-fire, with my daughter, who is in treatment for Leukemia.  These were found to be workable and I obtained permission from our doctors for any of the listed supplements.

Please know that I am not a medical doctor, nor medically trained in any way. If your interested in any of this information, please use your web browser to print out this document and bring it to your doctor for consultation.  I am not responsible for any actions taken without medical consultation and approval.


This suggestion was given to me by a retired oncology nurse regarding appetite: “Ask her physician about giving your daughter zinc as a potential appetite stimulant. Chemotherapy tends to lower zinc levels in the body, which is what helps us to appreciate the taste of food. We had noticed that with adult patients, their sense of taste had actually improved, (from taking a zinc supplement) but sometimes fatigue would still lower overall interest in eating.”


 When I received the above email suggestion, our oncologist approved of Kayla taking 10 milligrams of zinc everyday.  This worked and her appetite increased dramatically the first day she took this vitamin.   What a relief in not having to cook and throw away food!     

Protein Shakes

Protein shakes proved to be very helpful when Kayla’s appetite was low.  Jay Robb protein powders are the best because they have no added ingredients, are smooth in texture and absolutely delicious. One of our doctors told me that egg whites are the best form of protein because it is very easy for the body to digest and absorb.  You can go to the Jay Robb website here: Or you can call their number 1.877.529.7622 for customer service and they will send you samples of the protein powders to try.  This way you can test flavors and see what works for you.


Our doctor told me to incorporate spices on Kayla’s food because the chemo makes the sense of taste change drastically.  She said to try garlic powder and other spices to see if that helps.  It worked like a charm.  For Kayla it was garlic powder along with salt and pepper.  Eggs are gentle on digestion while providing the perfect balance of fat and protein, yet, Kayla would not eat them until we incorporated spices.

Metallic Taste

Chemo can cause the patient to have a metallic taste in their mouth, which stops the desire for food.  Switch to using plastic utensils instead of metal. Increasing the use of spices on your food may help. For some reason we found that eating seaweed helps to get rid of the metal taste as proven by studies with seaweeds.  We used Japanese Miso soup with seaweed. It tastes great and takes five minutes to make while being incredibly healthy.  Fresh lemon in your water may also help.

Natural Appetite Stimulants

Papaya is naturally loaded with enzymes and could possibly help with a lack of appetite. P1010906

Apples are another fruit that is good for the stomach and may help appetite.

Barley is thought to stimulate appetite.  The Original Fannie Farmer 1896 Cook Book has “recipes especially prepared for the sick.”  The barley recipe is as follows:

Barley Water

3 tablespoons of barley                                            Salt

4 cups of cold water                                                 Lemon juice

Xylitol instead of sugar available through

Pick over barley and soak in water overnight, or for several hours.  Boil gently one and one-half hours. Strain liquid into a container; season barley with salt, lemon juice, and xylitol.  Re-heat and serve.

Another way to prepare this drink is in keeping just the actual barley liquid. This provides a very nutritious drink for the patient, which contains protein and many natural vitamins.  It is also gentle on the digestive tract. Boil as instructed above then strain liquid from kernels, add milk and xylitol to taste.  You will be surprised how good this tastes.

The cooked barley can also be blended and made into a cereal.  Just add Almond or Coconut milk and sweeten.


Oranges are extremely beneficial for low blood sugar, which is a by-product of not eating. Fresh squeezed orange juice or fresh oranges may help to stimulate the flow of digestive juices and thus help in improving digestion and appetite.  Sip slowly.

Ginger: Ginger has certain elements that may help you regain your lost appetite. Here is my recipe for a homemade Ginger drink.

Home made Ginger Drink

1-½ cups sliced fresh ginger.  No need to peel.  Wash thoroughly. This is about 2 ½ large chunks of fresh ginger root.

4 tablespoons of Xylitol sweetener (sugar is not good for cancer patients, for more information go to Xylitol page.)

¼ cup of fresh lemon juice or 1 tablespoon of concentrated lemon juice.

Water to taste.

Combine xylitol, and ginger slices in a medium saucepan and add 2 cups of water.  Bring to a boil then simmer for 20 minutes.  Allow to cool, strain into a glass jar.  This is your syrup base for ginger ale.

Pour a tablespoon of ginger syrup into a glass, and add water.  I made white grape juice ice cubes and add two ice cubes of this to the drink.  You can also add more ginger. This recipe has worked for Kayla with nausea and because of this we now keep this in the refrigerator for her at all times.  The ginger syrup will last approximately a week if kept in your fridge.  Add a twist of lime, which is also believed to help stimulate the appetite.  The only drawback to the ginger water is that the taste of ginger can be quite strong.  I used this on myself, for a stomachache and I could not believe how fast it worked.  Even if you do not like the taste of ginger, like me, it still works for many stomach problems.

Small Meals

Small meals are better than large meals when having difficulty eating.  Our Chinese doctor recommended vegetable and meat stews, he said they are easier to digest.  Even a broth from this meal would be helpful.

I cannot tell you how many trips we made to the grocery store trying to find something that was palatable to Kayla.  All I can say is that you have to keep trying and if nothing works at least do protein shakes, as protein is the building block of life.


Every time Kayla was not eating she also did not want to drink, which is dangerous.  The patient must drink!  Alacer Corporation manufactures an excellent electrolyte drink called Ellectro-mix.  It is in a green box and contains 36 packets.  One packet is placed in a 32 ounce container of water.  What makes this product so good is the fact that there is no added sugar and the pricing is very reasonable for the amount of product that you get.  Each box is $11.99 and the box will make over 1000 ounces of electrolyte water.

No claims are made here regarding appetite or health.  This is just a good product that we use daily. Our oncologist approved this product for Kayla even while on chemotherapy.

It takes creative energy to figure out all the things that accompany cancer.  But we have found, that with persistence, ingenuity, and drive, most hurdles can be overcome.