Have you ever tasted your food and suddenly everything tastes sour, bitter, or metallic? If that’s the case, you may wonder, “do I have dysgeusia?”
Dysgeusia is a taste disorder that distorts your perception of taste. People with this condition describe food as having a sour, sweet, bitter, or metallic taste. Dysgeusia can be from several factors, such as infection, vitamin deficiencies, and some medications. Fortunately, there are remedies to this issue.
The information below explores everything you need to know about dysgeusia, including symptoms, causes, treatment options, and related topics.
How the Sense of Taste Works
Taste is one of the primary senses that help you gauge drinks and food to ascertain what’s safe to consume.
Your tongue has numerous small bumps known as papillae. Several taste buds exist on each papilla, each with 10 to 50 receptor cells. Other receptor cells can be found in the lining of your throat and the hard palate.
The receptors examine the chemical elements in your food when you eat. Then, your brain receives nerve signals from receptors and creates the impression of taste. Receptors respond to one of at least five basic taste qualities, i.e., salty, bitter, sour, sweet, and umami. Umami occurs from glutamate found in cheese, meat extracts, and chicken broth.
The entire tongue can sense all five tastes, contrary to conventional assumption. It has different taste cells scattered throughout without a particular zone for each.
Another way to experience particular food is through a chemosensory mechanism known as chemical sense. This involves numerous nerve endings on moist surfaces of the throat, mouth, nose, and eyes. They bring about a feeling of burning or irritation of chili peppers or the coolness of mint. When you eat, sensations from the chemical sense and those from the five taste qualities, cold, heat, and texture, mix with the aroma of food. They produce a flavor that lets you know what food you are consuming.
If you purport to have a taste disorder, you also have a problem with smell. While chewing, released aromas stimulate your sense of smell using a unique channel that connects the hard palate to the nose. If this pathway is blocked, odors cannot reach sensory cells in the nose triggered by scents. As a result, you lose a lot of the flavor’s appeal. Foods can become tasteless, with little or no flavor, when they lack smell.
Symptoms of Dysgeusia
The main symptoms of dysgeusia revolve around how you perceive taste. There might be no sense of saltiness or sweetness in food, or food might taste rotten, sour, or even metallic. People with dysgeusia may also experience a burning sensation in the mouth, which results in pain.
Dysgeusia can arise from several factors, including:
Fungal, viral, or bacterial infections found in the throat, mouth, or gums may cause affected tissues to swell. As a result, a decrease in blood flow to the taste bud ensues, which can change your sense of taste.
This results in a metallic sensation. An article in Toxicological Sciences suggests that more than 200 medications are likely to cause taste disorders, yet researchers frequently ignore this side effect. Additionally, certain drugs, such as diuretics, antibiotics, and angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE), can cause this side effect.
During the first trimester of pregnancy, women often complain of having a metallic or bitter taste in their mouth.
The body’s hormone levels change during pregnancy. This variation may influence the senses, which may result in certain desires or render some meals or odors repulsive.
Pregnant women may also notice a bitter, metallic, or tinny taste. While it can be inconvenient, this usually disappears after giving birth or later in pregnancy.
When your mouth doesn’t produce enough saliva, a condition known as xerostomia, or dry mouth, develops. Since saliva helps to get rid of bacteria in the mouth, less of it means more bacteria can survive.
People with xerostomia experience a dry, sticky feeling in their mouth. Among the few causes include tobacco use, pre-existing disorders, and medications. Also, a dry mouth may result from having a stuffy nose since breathing through the mouth might dry it out.
If this symptom persists, consider talking to your doctor for a proper diagnosis.
Mineral Or Vitamin Deficiency
Deficiencies in minerals like zinc and B vitamins, particularly B12, have also been linked to loss of taste.
Dysgeusia is a side effect of radiation and chemotherapy. While it may arise with any cancer therapy, it’s more frequently seen when treating neck and head tumors. Cancer treatments can either temporarily or permanently impair our ability to smell or taste food. If you are undergoing any cancer treatment, discuss these side effects with your doctor to avoid malnutrition and weight loss.
Just like other senses, taste buds are directly connected to the brain’s nerves. A person’s ability to perceive flavors may vary due to nerve damage.
Nerve damage can be a result of head injury or the following conditions:
- Bell’s palsy
- Brain tumors
- Multiple sclerosis
Treating taste disorders like dysgeusia usually entails tackling the root cause whenever possible. In some instances, the condition may be self-limiting and resolve. You can also manage symptoms caused by smoking or vitamin deficiency by taking supplements or quitting smoking. But when it results from medications or systemic issues, you can manage taste disturbance through dietary, nutritional, and palliative care.
Lastly, controlling any underlying disorders, such as diabetes, may help reduce symptoms. If you believe you are experiencing symptoms, a doctor or dental professional can help you determine the best course of action.
Apart from being mild, dysgeusia can be embarrassing. This taste disorder can affect your eating habits and may bother you even when not eating. Make sure to talk to a professional healthcare provider if you experience a distorted taste that lasts more than a few days.
These tactics, coupled with a healthy lifestyle and routine home care, should diminish or reduce dysgeusia and get you excited about enjoying meals.