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Battery Acid Taste During Chemo?

By Expert HERWriter February 4, 2010 - 9:23am
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A friend has been doing chemo for 9 weeks and about 3 weeks into it he started tasting a "battery acid" type taste in his mouth. It got worse over the course of the chemo and now its one of the worst side effects. Is there anything he can do? Does it go away? Anything he can take for it? Does this happen to most people who've had chemo treatment?

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HERWriter Guide

Hi Michelle - First, thank you for reaching out on behalf of your friend. The "new normals" that go along with cancer are often overwhelming, and having the support of a friend makes a world of difference.

In addition to Diane's excellent suggestions, I wanted to make you aware of the book "Eating Well through Cancer" by Holly Clegg and Gerald Miletello, M.D. It provides many helpful diet suggestions for chemotherapy days and following treatment. There are detailed tips on how to deal with changes in the taste of food, and specific menus for meals for chemotherapy day and the next 24 hours. There are recipes galore too! Your friend may experience additional side effects as his treatment continues, and this book addresses those as well. I've looked at several books about diet during cancer treatment, and this one has been the most practical and helpful.

Another good resource for information on diet during chemotherapy is the Wellness Community http://www.thewellnesscommunity.org/ This is a national nonprofit supporting people with cancer with multiple locations. In Phoenix they offer classes, taught by a chef, that deal with the unique nutrition and taste needs of cancer patients. http://www.twccaz.org/

Take good care,

February 5, 2010 - 5:41pm


Your friend is not alone. Many people describe it as a "metallic" taste in their mouth and, like your friend, say it is one of the worst side effects of the chemotherapy. And then they lose their appetites because food tastes differently, and they lose weight because they have no appetite. Has your friend also experienced foods tasting differently?

The good news? The Cleveland Clinic's web site says yes, that bad taste will go away over time. Here are a few of their tips:

* Tart fruits or fruit-flavored sourballs might decrease the metallic taste.
* Foods that are chilled might be better tolerated, such as milkshakes, flavored gelatin, pudding, and applesauce.
* Clean your mouth thoroughly before you eat to help improve the taste of food.
* Try using strong flavorings or seasonings, such as salad dressings, to help provide food with more pleasant flavor.

(I'm also wondering whether something like cinnamon gum would help?)

Here's a great page from chemocare.com about managing taste side effects:


It says that they aren't sure why the changes in taste occur, except that cells in the oral cavity are especially susceptible to destruction during chemo. They say that up to 50% of patients having chemotherapy have changes in taste. Some tips from that site:

* Use plastic utensils if food tastes like metal.
* Eat mints (or sugar-free mints), chew gum (or sugar-free gum) or chew ice to mask the bitter or metallic taste.
* Substitute poultry, eggs, fish, peanut butter, beans and dairy products for red meats.
* Marinate meats in sweet fruit juices, wines, salad dressing, barbeque sauce, or sweet and sour sauces.
* Flavor foods with herbs, spices, sugar, lemon, and tasty sauces.
* Chilled or frozen food may be more acceptable than warm or hot food.
* Try tart foods such as oranges or lemonade (this may be painful if mouth sores are
* Increase liquid intake.

Is your friend taking vitamins, and if so, is his doctor aware of what they are? ChemoCare says "some studies have suggested that deficiencies in zinc, copper, nickel, niacin and vitamin A may contribute to taste changes. Do not take more than 100% of the recommended daily allowance."

A couple more tips, from OncoLink.com:

"Try to overpower the metallic taste by sucking on lemon drops; mints, or chewing strong flavored gum. Try adding extra seasoning to foods to overpower the taste, such as herbs, lemon juice, vinegar, marinades, and pickled foods. Lemonade is a beverage that may be better tolerated because of the strong flavor (although this would not be good if you have mouth sores). You can try rinsing your mouth with ginger ale, tea, or salted water before eating to clear your taste buds. Also, try using plastic utensils rather than metal."


Another site I found said that dill pickles can help with the metallic flavor.

There is a small fruit being called "the miracle fruit" for how it changes taste sensations. Here's a New York Times story about it:


The fruit apparently turns sour things sweet. And an oncologist at Mount Sinai is apparently doing a study to see if it helps chemo patients with that metallic taste. Here's a CNN story:


Here's the home page for miracle fruit, if you want to see what it looks like:


I hope some of these tips help your friend. Many people seemed to get a lot of help from just switching to plastic utensils and finding one or two strong-flavored things (korean pickled cabbage, for one person!) that helped them clear the taste. But at least the problem WILL ultimately resolve itself.

February 4, 2010 - 10:16am
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