by Dr. Marli Botha

Many of us take our sense of taste for granted, but a taste disorder can have a negative effect on your health and quality of life. If you are having a problem with your sense of taste, you are not alone. Scientists believe that up to 15 percent of adults might have a problem with their taste or smell senses. The senses of taste and smell are very closely related. Most people who go to the doctor because they think they have lost their sense of taste are surprised to learn that they have a smell disorder instead…

Here are a few more interesting facts regarding our taste perceptions:

  1. Lucy Donaldson, a senior lecturer in physiology and pharmacology at the University of Bristol, explains that anxiety and depression can make things taste of cardboard. That’s not just the effect of the anxiety not allowing you to concentrate on eating. The brain actually activates what happens on the tongue.
  2. People with dementia often have taste abnormalities. The taste buds are connected by nerves to the brain. Taste abnormalities can occur when the portion of the brain related to taste is not working properly.
  3. Diabetes may also cause a serious complication called diabetic ketoacidosis. This happens when the body cannot use sugar for fuel and begins using fat instead. This causes an acid called ketones to build up in the body. Excess ketones in the body can cause a sweet, fruity smell and taste in the mouth.
  4. Pregnant women sometimes experience an alteration in the sense of taste, particularly in the early stages of pregnancy. The change in your sense of taste, is likely caused by pregnancy hormones. It may cause you to hate a food that you normally love, or enjoy foods you normally dislike. Sometimes it can cause a sour or metallic taste in your mouth, even if you’re not eating anything. It is most common during the first trimester. As your hormones begin to settle down in the second trimester, your taste buds should return to normal.
  5. Burning mouth syndrome may affect the tongue and other parts of the mouth. It appears suddenly and can be severe as if the mouth was scalded. In addition to a burning sensation, symptoms may include a dry mouth with increased thirst, loss of taste or a bitter or metallic taste.
  6. Some prescription drugs can cause a change in taste perception. These medicines include antibiotics such as tetracycline; the gout medicine allopurinol; lithium, which is used to treat certain psychiatric conditions; and some cardiac medications. When your body absorbs and metabolises the drug or some of the metabolites can be present in the saliva. Medicines that can cause a dry mouth, such as antidepressants, can also be a culprit.
  7. The most common taste disorder is phantom taste perception: a lingering, often unpleasant taste even though there is nothing in your mouth — a condition called hypogeusia.
  8.  Some people can’t detect any tastes, which is called ageusia. True taste loss, however, is rare.

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