Cancer treatments like chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and some cancer medications can cause dry mouth, mouth sores, thick saliva, and loss of taste. Dry mouth is not a dangerous side effect of these treatments, but it changes the quality of life and becomes a daily irritation. Here are some suggestions if you are experiencing dry mouth.
Chicken, Fish, and Casseroles
It is important to continue to get protein in your meals every day; soft-cooked poultry and fish are a great substitute for red meat which can be more difficult to chew and swallow. Casseroles are another great way to get protein and vegetables into your diet; why not try an egg casserole; the eggs will add moisture to the casserole and supply a boost of protein. To pump up taste buds that are sluggish and dull try using spicier sauces, red pepper flakes, or a variety of tasty herbs.
Soups, Gravies, and Salads with Dressing
Soups can be used to supplement any lunch or dinner item and increase your nutritional intake. They are easy to swallow and full of vegetables, protein and great flavor. Adding gravy to less tender cuts of beef is a smart trick to ease swallowing. Sauces that are added to, or mixed with, dryer foods will increase moisture and improve taste. Salad dressings can help to make salads go down smoothly while still keeping greens in your diet.
Smoothies, Yogurt, and Milkshakes
Smoothies are cold, soothing, and easy to drink. There are so many flavors and varieties that you won’t feel like you are drinking the same thing over and over again. Check out the wide range of yogurt types and flavors; they are a healthy and moist snack option. When you are craving a cookie, brownie, or piece of cake, remember that milkshakes make a great dessert and they can provide a nutritional boost from milk and fruit that other sweets cannot.
Fruits (Canned) and Vegetables
The acid in citric fruits can make them difficult to eat for people who have lingering mouth sores or sensitivity. If fresh fruits do not bother your mouth then try mangos, kiwi, grapes and assorted berries which provide antioxidants and loads of vitamins. Canned fruits are a great option for those who cannot eat fresh fruit. The fruit is softer and has less acid content. Be sure to look for varieties that are packed in water or light syrup to avoid unnecessary calories. Fresh vegetables are wonderful sources of health nutrients and should be part of your diet every day; however, dry mouth can make them difficult to eat. Try pairing fresh vegetable with dips or salad dressings, or cooking vegetables until they are soft but not mushy. Add some flavorful herbs or a light butter or cheese sauce to elevate the flavor.
Many cancer patients find relief from dry mouth problems by sucking on hard fruit flavored candies such as Jolly Ranchers® or Lifesavers®. Lemon drops seem to be a favorite for many people, however, be sure to use them in moderation. The acid content and sugary coating in these candies can often create mouth sores and the tart flavor can be overwhelming. But used in moderation, the tartness of the lemon drop candies can actually stimulate saliva in your mouth and go a long way in relieving the dryness.
The easiest way to keep your dry mouth moist and comfortable is to stay hydrated. Keeping a bottle of water, fruit juice or flavored drink nearby at all times is essential for keeping your mouth healthy and happy. Ice chips are a great alternative to bottled water. For a really nice treat you can freeze a thin layer of flavored water or juice and then break it up into ice chips that you keep in the freezer for quick snacking. Liquid meal replacements can be important supplements to maintain a healthy weight and regain strength. Boost and Ensure are two of the most popular brands and they come in lots of delicious flavors. Be creative and try substituting different types of foods for items that have become uncomfortable to eat. Biotene® is a mouthwash that fights dry mouth at night or after meals and many cancer patients have found it to be very helpful. Biotene® can be found in all major drug and grocery stores.
Foods to Avoid
Peanut butter, soft breads and even some sandwiches often stick to the roof of your mouth when you suffer from dry mouth. Dry snack items like crackers and chips can cause problems as well. Red meats, dried fruit, nuts and pastas can make a dry mouth feel even worse. Try to avoid these items or eat them in small quantities with plenty of liquids on hand.
Implementing some of these savvy tips will minimize dry mouth issues and lead to an overall healthier life. Try a few of these solutions each day to prevent weight loss and increasing your quality of life. Solving dry mouth could be the key to maintaining a healthy and balanced diet.
American Cancer Society (ACS). Nutrition for the Person With Cancer During Treatment. Accessed by clicking here on January 31, 2013.
Cookin’ Canuck. Baked Egg Breakfast Casserole with Mushrooms, Spinach & Salsa Recipe. Accessed at by clicking Here on February 7, 2013.
Mayo Clinic. Dry Mouth: Lifestyle and Home Remedies. Accessed by clicking Here on January 31, 2013.
The Scott Hamilton Cares Initiative (Chemocare). Dry Mouth - Managing Side Effects. Accessed by clicking Here on January 31, 2013.
Yahoo Voices. Smoothie Recipe for Cancer Patients. Accessed by clicking Here on January 31, 2013.