Poor appetite and weight loss

After surgery you may have a poor appetite caused by changes to your digestive system. Your stomach may be smaller and you might feel full more quickly. You may not feel like eating or you may have lost your sense of taste.

Chemotherapy and radiation therapy can also affect your appetite, due to nausea, irritation to the oesophagus or a sore mouth. If your oesophagus is very sore from radiation therapy, your doctor may prescribe pain-relieving medicines.

See Nutrition and Cancer to learn about eating well during and after cancer treatment.


Listen to a podcast on Appetite Loss and Nausea


How to prevent unplanned weight loss

  • Snack during the day – eat 5–6 small meals rather than three large ones each day.
  • Ask your family and friends to cook for you and offer you food throughout the day.
  • Keep a selection of snacks handy, e.g. in your bag or car.
  • Test your ability to eat different foods. Your taste and tolerance for some foods may have changed and may continue to change.
  • Ask your dietitian how you can increase your energy and protein intake.
  • Make the most of the times you feel hungry or crave certain foods, but be careful not to become too full by eating too quickly.
  • Ensure you have room for nourishing food – avoid filling up on liquids at mealtimes, unless it’s a hearty soup.
  • Prevent dehydration by drinking liquids between meals (e.g. 30–60 minutes before or after meals).
  • Don’t eat late at night. This may make you uncomfortable and disturb your sleep.

This information was last reviewed in September 2017
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