Coping with dietary issues

Below are some steps you can take to help you cope with dietary issues that may arise as a result of the pancreatic cancer, and your treatment.

These dietary issues include:

Poor appetite

  • Eat small meals frequently, e.g. every 2–3 hours.
  • Have your biggest meal of the day when you are hungriest.
  • Add extras to your basic foods at mealtimes.
  • Add milk powder to cereals, sauces, desserts, mashed vegetables, soup, drinks and egg dishes.
  • Add cheese to sauces, soup, vegetables, baked beans, casseroles, salads and egg dishes.
  • Add golden syrup or honey to cereal, fruit and drinks.
  • Use food-type nutrition supplements.
  • Relax normal low-cholesterol and other dietary restrictions. Gaining weight or maintaining your weight is more important than avoiding extra fat and sugar.

Change in taste or smell

  • If food tastes bland, use seasoning, i.e. herbs, lemon, lime, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, honey, chilli, pepper, Worcestershire sauce or pickles.
  • Some drinks may taste different or be off-putting because of the smell or texture. Choose non-alcoholic alternatives or try a milkshake, fresh juice or hot chocolate.
  • Choose cold food or food at room temperature without a strong smell.
  • If cooking odours affect you, ask family or friends to cook.
  • If you have a bitter or metallic taste in your mouth, eat moist fruits such as berries or suck boiled lollies.
  • Try plain breakfast cereals with less added sugar such as porridge or bran flakes, instead of cereals with added dried fruit, honey or other sweeteners.
  • If meat is less appetising, try other protein sources, e.g. cheese, eggs, nuts, dairy foods or legumes.


  • Talk to your doctor if your stools are pale in colour, have bad odour, or float and are difficult to flush. This may be a sign that you do not have enough pancreatic enzymes. You may need to start enzyme replacement therapy or adjust your dose.
  • Talk to your doctor about anti-diarrhoea medication.
  • Drink plenty of liquids (e.g. water, fruit juice or weak cordial) to replace lost fluids.
  • Avoid fried or greasy foods.
  • Avoid alcohol and limit caffeine and spicy foods as these can make diarrhoea worse.
  • Try soy milk or lactose-reduced milk if you develop a temporary intolerance to the sugar in milk (lactose). This can sometimes occur when you have diarrhoea. Cheese and yoghurt in small amounts are usually okay.


  • Talk to your doctor about trying anti-nausea medication.
  • Try snacks such as dry crackers or toast.
  • Try to eat a little bit at regular intervals – not eating can make nausea worse.
  • Eat and drink slowly. Chew food well.
  • Choose cold foods instead of hot, fried, greasy or spicy foods.
  • Avoid strong odours and cooking smells.
  • Suck peppermint or lemon-flavoured boiled lollies.
  • Try drinking ginger beer, ginger ale or ginger tea, or sucking on candied ginger.
  • Find out about ways to deal with vomiting.

This information was last reviewed in February 2016.
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