Recipes for Managing Side Effects Series: Mouth Sores
Mouth sores are common during cancer treatment, including chemotherapy and radiotherapy, and can make it difficult to enjoy your food. Oftentimes this can make eating completely unappealing, during a time when proper nutrition is needed the most. This may lead to dehydration, unintended weight loss and malnutrition [i]. Below are a few tips to manage mouth sores and make your mealtimes a little more enjoyable.
Try to avoid:
- Rough and sharp foods that can hurt your mouth, such as potato chips, crackers, and coarse, raw fruits and vegetables
- Dry foods including dry meats, breads, and pretzels
- Acidic and spicy foods that can irritate your mouth, including chili pepper, citrus fruits, tomato products, and vinegar [ii]
- Tobacco and alcohol
- Soft, pureed foods such as cream soups, smoothies, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes and cauliflower
- Foods with a lot of extra fluid including gravy and sauces
- Cold summer soups
- A straw to direct the food away from the source of pain
- Supplemental nutrition drinks
Managing eating food while struggling with mouth sores can be hard. Research suggests that there are also ways to reduce the severity of mouth sores with some preventative measures:
- Keep your mouth clean by rinsing with a homemade mouth rinse of 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon baking soda, and 4 cups of warm water.
- Use ice lollies, popsicles, or iced foods 20 minutes prior to and/or during therapy to numb some of the pain [i].
- Gargling with pure undiluted honey 15 minutes before and after radiotherapy and every day within a week after has been shown to be helpful to reduce mouth sores [iii]. If you have prediabetes or type 2 diabetes, first consult with your doctor. In general, it is recommended to spit the honey after swishing in the mouth.
- Starting therapy well-nourished can reduce the likelihood of developing mouth sores [iv]. Work with your dietitian to make sure that you are starting therapy adequately nourished.
Below is a nutritious ice pop recipe that you could even bring along to your treatment to numb the pain from the mouth sores. Not only is it high in protein due to the yogurt and high in fiber from the chia seeds, but it can also supply you with much needed fluid.
Banana Mango Chia Yogurt Pops
Serving Size: 1 popsicle
- 1 cup Greek Yogurt (or dairy free yogurt alternative)
- 1 ripe mango
- 1 ripe banana
- 6 tbsp chia seeds
- 6 Popsicle molds
- Blend Greek yogurt, bananas and mango in the blender on high speed until smooth. Then fold in the chia seeds.
- Pour the mixture into the molds evenly. If your molds have special sticks, put the popsicle stick in. If your mold comes without the sticks, use wooden popsicle sticks. Insert the wooden sticks after 2 hours in the freezer.
- Freeze for another 4 to 6 hours or overnight. Use warm water to loosen the popsicles from the mold. Enjoy!
- If you don’t have popsicle molds, that is not a problem. You can use paper cups for the mixture. Let it freeze for 2 hours and insert wooden sticks into the middle of the popsicle, and then freeze overnight.
- You can also substitute mango with berries, peaches, pears or apples. Use your creativity, but make sure to avoid citrus fruits that are too high in acid.
[i] Edwards, A., Santos, C., Chen, A., & Bauer, J. (2021). Nutritional interventions for oral mucositis: a systematic literature review. Nutrition & Dietetics, 78(1), 101-114. https://doi.org/10.1111/1747-0080.12656
[ii] Brown, T., & Gupta, A. (2020). Management of Cancer Therapy–Associated Oral Mucositis. JCO Oncology Practice, 16(3), 103-109. https://doi.org/10.1200/jop.19.00652
[iii] Xu, J., Xia, R., Sun, Z., Sun, L., Min, X., & Liu, C. et al. (2016). Effects of honey use on the management of radio/chemotherapy-induced mucositis: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. International Journal Of Oral And Maxillofacial Surgery, 45(12), 1618-1625. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijom.2016.04.023
[iv] Shu, Z., Zeng, Z., Yu, B., Huang, S., Hua, Y., & Jin, T. et al. (2020). Nutritional Status and Its Association With Radiation-Induced Oral Mucositis in Patients With Nasopharyngeal Carcinoma During Radiotherapy: A Prospective Study. Frontiers In Oncology, 10. https://doi.org/10.3389/fonc.2020.594687