Tips for dietary issues

Below are some tips that may help you cope with dietary issues resulting from pancreatic cancer treatment.

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Poor appetite

  • Eat small meals frequently, e.g. every 2–3 hours. Have your biggest meal of the day when you are hungriest.
  • Ensure that meals and snacks are nourishing and include protein, e.g. meat, chicken, fish, dairy products, eggs, tofu and nuts.
  • Choose nourishing drinks such as milk. Nutritional supplement drinks may be prescribed after surgery.
  • Add milk powder to cereals, sauces, desserts, mashed vegetables, soup, drinks and egg dishes.
  • Add cheese to sauces, soup, baked beans, vegetables, casseroles, salads and egg dishes.
  • Add golden syrup or honey to cereal, fruit and drinks.
  • Talk to a dietitian before cutting out particular foods.
  • Relax any low-cholesterol and other dietary restrictions. Gaining weight or maintaining your weight is more important than avoiding extra fat and sugar at this time.

Changes in taste or smell

  • If food tastes bland, use seasoning, e.g. herbs, lemon, lime, ginger, garlic, honey, chilli, pepper, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce or pickles.
  • Some drinks may taste different or be off-putting because of the smell or texture. Choose milkshakes, fresh juice, hot chocolate and other non-alcoholic drinks.
  • 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 you don’t feel like eating meat, try other protein sources, e.g. cheese, eggs, nuts, dairy foods or legumes.


  • Talk to your doctor if your stools are pale in colour, smell particularly bad, 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 whether to take anti-diarrhoea medicine.
  • Drink plenty of liquids (e.g. water, fruit juice or weak cordial) to replace lost fluids.
  • 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.
  • If diarrhoea occurs 15 to 30 minutes after eating, you may be experiencing dumping syndrome. Speak to your treatment team about this.


  • Talk to your doctor about taking anti-nausea medicine half an hour before some meals.
  • Snack on bland foods 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.
  • Avoid strong odours and cooking smells.
  • Suck peppermint or lemon flavoured boiled lollies.
  • Drink ginger beer, ginger ale or ginger tea, or suck on candied ginger.
  • See our information on Vomiting for more on this.

Listen to our podcast on Appetite Loss and and Nausea

This information was last reviewed in February 2018
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