Poor appetite and weight loss
After surgery, swallowing will be difficult and this may make it hard to eat. It is important to maintain your weight to avoid malnutrition. Even a small drop in your weight (e.g. 3–4 kg), particularly over a short period of time, can make your recovery slower.
How to prevent unplanned weight loss
- Have a snack or small meal every 2–3 hours if you have lost your appetite and don’t feel hungry.
- Keep a variety of snacks handy (e.g. in your bag or car).
- Eat when you feel hungry or crave certain foods. Eat slowly and stop and rest when you are full.
- Avoid filling up on liquids at mealtimes, unless it’s a hearty soup, so you have room for nourishing food.
- Try to drink fluids that add energy (kilojoules), such as milk, milkshakes, smoothies or nutritional supplement drinks recommended by your dietitian.
- Prevent dehydration by drinking fluids between meals (30–60 minutes before or after meals).
- Try eating different foods to see if your taste and tolerance for some foods have changed.
- Ask your dietitian how you can increase your energy and protein intake.
- Don’t eat for a few hours before bed. It may make you uncomfortable, bring on reflux and disturb your sleep.
Podcast: Appetite Loss and Nausea
Download a PDF booklet on this topic.
Dr Spiro Raftopoulos, Gastroenterologist, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, WA; Peter Blyth, Consumer; Jeff Bull, Upper Gastrointestinal Cancer Nurse Consultant, Cancer Services, Southern Adelaide Local Health Network, SA; Mick Daws, Consumer; Dr Steven Leibman, Upper Gastrointestinal Surgeon, Royal North Shore Hospital, NSW; Prof Michael Michael, Medical Oncologist, Lower and Upper Gastrointestinal Oncology Service, and Co-Chair Neuroendocrine Unit, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Dr Andrew Oar, Radiation Oncologist, Icon Cancer Centre, Royal Brisbane Hospital, QLD; Rose Rocca, Senior Clinical Dietitian: Upper Gastrointestinal, Nutrition and Speech Pathology Department, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Letchemi Valautha, Consumer; Lesley Woods, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA.
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