No taste after chemotherapy is one of the many side effects of head and neck cancer treatment. Your saliva is likely the key here, if you have had radiotherapy too then you’ve been fried as well. There are 5 key flavours in cooking, we perceive these almost sub-conciously. Sweet, salty, sour, bitter & unami. During the worst of the ‘wet cardboard flavour’ for me, I lived on hot chicken stock / soup and tried experimenting with highly flavoured spreads like Vegemite (for us Aussies) devilled spread, anchovy paste added to pasta sauces and a myriad of different herbs and spices. Some of them were successful and others not. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that I could consume Za’taar and lavishly sprinkled it on homemade baba ghanoush. It provided some much needed texture too.
Taste is subjective and balancing flavours is an art form. Think winemaking and perfumery.
But like all good masters, you need to experiment and be brave and just try things.
Saliva has a very complex role and if you have xerostomia (dry mouth) it can affect your chew, taste and swallow. I tried Rubyfruit and must say they certainly woke up my very fatigued taste buds! They may work for you too. Details below.
“Hunger gives flavour to the food”
If you haven’t already tried them – Rubyberry – freeze dried miracle fruit cubes.
May help people whose sense of taste has changed due to certain medical treatments.
You may read more about Rubyberry and Slo Drinks here on the Free Resources page.
It was for me a very unsettling period and I recall saying to my surgeon please try and save my saliva glands and ensure my taste buds come out intact! As a result, I came through not too badly with my ability to ‘taste’ and only suffered for a relatively short amount of time (3 to 4 months).
For most people their taste buds do return- they can even become hypersensitive after treatment
I don’t fully understand the side effects of radiotherapy, except I blame it for all alcohol tasting like rocket fuel to this day. I had my PEG tube for over a year and I missed so much the process of chewing, tasting and swallowing. That’s just the mechanics. There is a whole other side of the process of eating around the social aspects and I will cover that in other posts.
Layering food was the best way to experience any sort of taste when I was in the middle of the ‘no taste’ zone, the humble cup of tea was even out of reach for me. I simply could not tolerate the taste of it and subsequently I did not drink tea or coffee for nearly a year. I am living proof however that I did get back to tea & coffee and in fact I think my sense of taste is better now than it ever was.
Another product that may be of use in your time of no taste and likely exhaustion is Slo Drinks I found that I could sip on these and they provided much needed hydration and nutrients when I was at my lowest. You can check out their products here just scroll right to the bottom of the recipe page where I outline some of the products I used.
A new to market product is Savorease, currently only available in the USA.
You can read about this ingenious transition food here. Savorease
Above all else, persistence is the key. Results can happen quickly and you might be surprised at what does finally start to taste ‘normal’ .