8 tips to beat cancer-related appetite loss

8 tips to fight cancer-related appetite loss

Patients receiving cancer treatment need to meet their nutritional requirements in order to maintain energy for treatment completion, healing and recovery.

Coping with cancer-related treatments and their side effects, however, can make maintaining good nutrition a challenge for even the most health-conscious patients.

One of the most common side effects during cancer treatment is experiencing loss of appetite, and this loss of appetite is the most common cause of malnutrition, which can delay treatment, lead to hospitalization and poor health outcomes.

Appetite loss can occur for many reasons, including the presence of disease, pain, stress, fatigue, surgery and such side effects of chemo and radiation treatments as nausea, vomiting or change in taste.

Appetite loss can occur during any cancer stage, as well as throughout the duration of treatment. The patient may eat significantly less, does not have a desire to eat or feels full very quickly, resulting in the inability to achieve enough calories throughout the day.

Regardless of the cause or type of appetite loss, it is essential to begin management right away.  Some of the following nutritional tips can help manage or alleviate poor appetite:

  1. Eat five to six small meals throughout the day to avoid feeling too full too quickly.
  2. Keep your favorite foods handy for snacking when you do feel hungry.
  3. Go for a walk to get light exercise to boost your appetite.
  4. Sip your liquids at mealtime and drink more fluids between meals so you don’t fill up early and end up consuming less calories.
  5. Try more nutritionally dense food choices such as peanut butter, nuts, eggs, chicken salad, avocados, cheese, smoothies or milkshakes when it is difficult to eat.
  6. Eat meals in a relaxed environment with family and friends.
  7. Have ready-to-eat or pre-made meals convenient for when your appetite has increased.
  8. Talk to a dietitian for nutrition and meal planning advice.

The following recipe offers calorie-dense and nutritious foods – before, during or after your treatments. Feel free to share it with a friend!

Pink breakfast smoothie

Total Time: 5 minutes

Serves: 2-4


  • 1 cup strawberries
  • 1 banana
  • ½ cup oats
  • 1 Tbsp. honey
  • 2 tbsp. almonds
  • ½ cup peanut butter
  • 1 cup milk (almond, soy, or cow’s)
  • Handful of ice


  1. Combine all ingredients to a blender. Cover with lid and blend until ice is broken up, smooth, and at desired consistency.
  2. Serve and enjoy!

337 calories, 33g carbohydrates, 19g fat, 9g protein, 209mg sodium, 19g sugar

Smoothie recipe retrieved from:


By Guest Blogger, Rachel Flanery, University of Kentucky Dietetics and Human Nutrition student

Gardner and Jon Wes Adams

Gill Heart Institute saves 27-year-old identical twins

Jon Wes and Gardner Adams share a lot. Both have a profound love for baseball. Both are in phenomenal physical condition. And as identical twins, they share the same genetic profile.

The Adams twins, now 27, began playing baseball almost before they could read.  Both were offered scholarships to Asbury University. Gardner was drafted by the Braves. Their work ethic was a big factor in their success on the diamond, running 25-30 miles a week, regardless of weather, each pushing the other to achieve.

It was that closeness — and their shared genes — that ultimately saved both their lives.

In June 2014, as Jon Wes was running in the Lexington Arboretum, his heart suddenly stopped beating.  He collapsed near a concert, and audience members performed CPR for almost 20 minutes until emergency crews arrived to transport him to UK HealthCare. Doctors there told his frantic family that Jon Wes had about a 30 percent chance of survival.

But Jon Wes is a fighter. After several days in a medically induced coma, he began to wake up. Now the real work fell to Gill Heart Institute cardiologists Dr. Samy-Claude Elayi and Dr. Alison Bailey, who needed to figure out why a physically fit 26-year old would have sudden cardiac death. And after some sleuthing, they had their answer: Brugada Syndrome.

According to Elayi, Brugada is a fairly rare diagnosis, affecting only about one in 1,000 people, typically of Asian descent. It can cause dangerous arrhythmias, or abnormal heart rhythms, which in extreme cases can cause sudden cardiac death.

An implantable defibrillator — a tiny version of the paddles that doctors use to shock people back to life in medical television dramas — monitors arrhythmias and delivers a shock to the heart whenever one occurs. Jon Wes was implanted with an ICD in late June and was cleared to resume exercising shortly afterward.

In the meantime, Drs. Elayi and Bailey took note that Jon Wes had a twin — an identical twin. Gardner was put through the same paces.  While the ECG was inconclusive for Brugada, the genetic tests indicated he had Brugada as well. Gardner and his family agreed with the Gill team’s recommendation, and on Aug. 29, 2014 — six days after his 26th birthday — Gardner was implanted with an ICD.  His first words out of surgery: “Look Mom, we’re identical again.”

Fourteen months after Jon Wes collapsed, and almost exactly a year after Gardner received his ICD, a short run revealed just how sound that decision was.

Gardner and his wife, Mary Ann, went to a local park in Anderson County, where they now live, to get some exercise and fresh air.  Elayi had warned the twins never to run alone, so the plan was for Gardner to run one direction around the circle while Mary Ann walked in the opposite direction. Just four minutes in, however, Gardner knew something was very wrong.

“I was dizzy and short of breath,” Gardner said.  “The next thing I knew, I woke up face down on the pavement.”

Within a minute Mary Ann appeared on the path and immediately drove him to UK Chandler Hospital.  There they learned the incredible news: during Gardner’s run, his heart had stopped.  The ICD had shocked his heart back to life.

Read more:

Wesley Burks, executive dean at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, will speak at UK's medical campus as an EVPHA candidate.

UK HealthCare doctors are among the best in the U.S.

UK HealthCare has more than 125 physicians practicing medicine with UK Albert B. Chandler Hospital, Kentucky Children’s Hospital, UK Good Samaritan Hospital and Shriner’s Hospitals for Children who appear on the Best Doctors in America list for 2015-16 – more than any other hospital in Kentucky. Only 5 percent of doctors in America earn this honor, decided by impartial peer review.

The Best Doctors in America list, assembled by Best Doctors Inc. and audited and certified by Gallup, results from polling of more than 40,000 physicians in the United States. Doctors in more than 40 specialties and 400 subspecialties of medicine appear on this year’s List.

The experts who are part of the Best Doctors in America database provide the most advanced medical expertise and knowledge to patients with serious conditions – often saving lives in the process by finding the right diagnosis and right treatment.

See the full list here.