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What foods taste good?

Posts: 10
Joined: Nov 2004

I had surgery for stage 4 squamos cell cancer in my throat (and removal of approx 50 lymph nodes) on June 28th. I had my 33rd, and final, radiation treatment on 15 October. My salivary glands aren't working and neither is the "Salagen" I am taking to help produce "spit". Most foods taste horrible, but I keep experimenting...lettuce/tomato salad, pot pies (who knows why?), oatmeal with apple sauce, some smoked sausage, and scrambled eggs are all tolerabe (not necessarily tasting GOOD..just palatable) What foods have you been able eat? I live in New Mexico and love foods with green and red chile...they burn the living daylights out of my mouth and tongue now. Am looking for some hints and culinary delights.

Posts: 23
Joined: Jul 2004

My friend is having the same problem.He did not have surgery but had chemo which made him very sick and 38 radiation treatments which left his salivary glands fried.He had stage 4 scc of the throat also.

He is experimenting with foods but his taste buds are okay.He is having more trouble eating and swallowing without saliva. sleeping is very tough too!He can only sleep 1 hour or 2 at a time without a drink of water. He has not tried the salagen tablets as of yet. I hope things improve for you. This is a tough thing to go through. God bless!

Posts: 10
Joined: Nov 2004


I have found that taking a sip of liquid (water, tea, coffe) before taking a bite of food, and then another small sip while chewing, makes eating a little easier. Sleeping on my stomach has allowed me to sleep longer. If I sleep on my back, my mouth opens, and it dries out a lot faster. I hope this helps your friend....God bless you as well!

dbaker331's picture
Posts: 4
Joined: Apr 2004

Couple of things.. Put a humidifier by your bed at night and it will help with the dryness while sleeping.

While water does dilute the taste of food and spicey foods are difficult, I absolutely love cereal and foods that do not require water to help down. Steaks, Hamburgers, breaded items are very difficult. My taste buds changed dramatically after radiation, and I still struggle eating. I've recently found that tonic water or Perier is good to cleans the mouth and keep it wet while eating dryer foods. This is, in some cases better than water to wash down foods.. In early stages, I ate alot of yogurt, ice cream, smoothies, but had to really learn to eat new foods.. Hardest thing was accepting the fact that I will never eat the same as I used to, so just accept it and get on a new diet. I imagine you've already experienced the weight loss that goes with feeding tubes, so now is the time to get healthy (work-out) and begin to eat lots of veggies, smoothies etc.. If you do decide to work out.. take into consideration the dry mouth as well. I use a "camel pack" that bike riders use to keep my mouth from getting too dry...

Hope these tips help...

My best,

Posts: 10
Joined: Nov 2004

How long has it been since you finished radiation? My surgeon and radiation oncologist both insist I shouldn't give up on my salivary glands yet..that they could come back 8 months to a year after the last radiation. My taste buds are still going "goofy"...things that tasted "fairly decent" a couple of weeks ago now taste horrible. I also have discovered that most beef is out of the question...cheese, potatoes, pasta, etc., are a real chore. Right now the only thing (aside from shakes, power drinks, and Ensure) that actually tastes good to me is oatmeal. You mention vegies...most are very dry...how do you overcome that?

Thanks much...Oldhippie

cherithclark's picture
Posts: 2
Joined: Feb 2004

I am one year past treatment, both chemo and radiation. In my case my salivary glands will never come back. I cannot take spicey food of any kind. It tastes at least 10x's more spicy to me. I gave up on the fake saliva and spend most of my day drinking fluid and going to the toilet. I know where every John is, first thing I search out. My taste buds are good with sweet but nothing else. Carbs taste like paste, breads etc. too hard to get down. I have been somewhat sucessful in retraining my brain to recognize how things taste now, rather than being dissapointed about how they used to taste. Eating is a chore the enjoyment is 80% gone, this coming from a previous foodaholic, and constant weight watcher. The only thing that keeps my weight up is ice cream..... just wish it tasted like it used to. hang in ... we all seem to have different expierances.

Posts: 5
Joined: Jan 2005

My last radiation and chemo for my throat cancer was in July of 2004 and my taste buds are now back to 90% of like they used to be. Early on I found that Campbell's Chunky Soups that were milk and cheese based tasted good and and enough liquid in them to go down. Also black olives. Who knows why. McDonalds vanilla milkshakes were the best. Spicy foods are still a no go for me. Keep trying different foods. God Bless.

Posts: 12
Joined: Jan 2005

I have been able to eat pork, bacon and eggs, pineapple chunks that are cold. Lost all taste of hamburger, my favorite but the other has been eatible. Had my last radiation treament today, Good luck my friend

Posts: 2
Joined: Jan 2005

My mother, who had the same problems years ago, always tells me that all she could eat was watermelon and crackers. However, over the years, her taste buds have come back to normal, but the majority of her salivary glands are still not functional. For this, she insists that milk (particularly coffee with lots of milk) is the only thing that will help.
On the side, I am trying to find her a saliva substitute that works better than the past one she's used. I don't know the name of it, but her description is that it caused her functioning glands to unload all their fluids, and caused a lot of pain. If anyone knows of a substitute that doesn't cause this unfortunate side effect, please let me know.

Khanghi's picture
Posts: 5
Joined: Mar 2005

Hey Old Hippie!
(great handle...I think I can relate!)
I have one week and a couple of days left of IMRT (intensity modulated radiation therapy) as well as one more round of chemo. As far as I'm concerned, I've already beat that little piece of s#it that thought it could make itself at home in my body, now, it's all about getting strong again. I've been lucky in a few respects; my radiation oncologist is well trained and my anatomy accepted the adanced patterns of IMRT well. I have plenty of saliva and even a faint bit of taste left. I've always been a bit of a "foodie" so the idea of not tasting what I'm eating is unacceptable! I'm still on a G-Tube so I'm starting to dump into it all the things that help rebuild cells; good fruits and vegetable juices, spirolina, etc. Don't know what your spiritual leanings are, but a healthy dose of prayer always helps! Good luck! Keep fighting the good fight!


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