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Taste Changes

Symptom and description

Change in taste can be a change in the sensation of sweet, salty, sour, or bitter. A change in the way foods taste may cause a dislike for foods, which may lead to lack of appetite or weight loss. The taste buds are affected by the cancer or its treatment.

Learning needs

You will need to learn the possible changes in taste sensation and inform your doctor if a lack of appetite occurs. The following are possible changes in taste you could experience:

  • Foods are not sweet enough.

  • Foods taste too sweet.

  • Foods taste too salty.

  • Foods are not salty enough.

  • Foods taste spoiled or very bitter.

  • Foods taste metallic.

Prevention and management

  • Avoid food found to be unpleasant.

  • Eat small meals and healthy snacks several times a day. Also, eat when you feel hungry rather than at set mealtimes.

  • Brush your teeth before and after meals to keep your mouth clean.

  • Use gravies or sauces on foods, and try marinating meats to make them more tender.

  • Freeze fruits like grapes, oranges, and watermelon, and eat them as frozen treats.

  • Try fresh vegetables. They may be more appetizing than canned or frozen ones.

  • Avoid unpleasant odors.

  • Avoid cigarette smoke or smoking, which can affect your sense of smell, thus changing your sense of taste.

  • Try sugar-free mints, lemon drops, or gum, if you have a metallic or bitter taste in your mouth.

  • Try plastic utensils if foods have a metallic taste. Use glass pots for cooking.

  • Serve foods cold or at room temperature. This can decrease the foods' tastes and smells, making them easier to tolerate.


Notify your healthcare provider if taste changes affect your appetite:

  • Ask to talk with a dietitian if you experience weight loss or loss of appetite.

Online Medical Reviewer: Dozier, Tennille, RN, BSN, RDMS
Online Medical Reviewer: Gersten, Todd, MD
Date Last Reviewed: 6/1/2018
© 2021 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare provider's instructions.