Nutritional Supplements  Non-Mucus Forming

Last Modified: April 2, 2006


Dear OncoLink "Ask The Experts,"

What are some liquid, non-mucus forming nutritional supplements, preferably over the counter? My relative has head/neck cancer, has completed radiation therapy, and has a feeding (PEG) tube.


Ellen Sweeney Cordes, RD, Registered Dietitian at the Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania, responds:

Dairy products are usually associated with increased mucus production. Also, if your relative has recently completed radiation for head and neck cancer, he/she will most likely have severe mucus production as a side effect of the radiation. This side effect may not get better for several weeks. If your relative has trouble with swallowing due to mucus and throat pain from radiation, it will be important to have him use his PEG tube until he can begin eating and drinking comfortably again. Furthermore, most liquid supplements that are used for PEG feeding, as well as for drinking by mouth (i.e. Ensure, Ensure Plus, Nutren, etc.) are milk-free and thus shouldn't make the mucus production worse.

It is often a good idea to transition from taking formula through the PEG to drinking formula by mouth once the patient is able. This can then be followed by progression to soft foods, as tolerated. You may want to consult a dietitian at the medical center where your relative was treated to get more guidance with this process and to determine what is appropriate specifically for his nutritional needs.