Reaching for the salt and pepper more often than you used to? Wondering why everything suddenly tastes so bland … or awful? Totally indifferent to the dishes you once loved? Don’t blame the cook – your sense of taste may be the culprit.
It’s not uncommon for people to lose their sense of taste either completely or partially for a short period of time. Chances are you’ve noticed a change or reduction in how things taste whenever you have a bad cold. Thankfully it is rare to completely lose your sense of taste permanently.
More than 200,000 people visit a doctor each year for problems with their ability to taste or smell, and up to 15 percent of adults might have impaired abilities to taste or smell but don’t seek medical help.
An impaired sense of taste can refer to a lessened ability to taste specific flavors, an overall reduction in the vibrancy of all flavors, or a strange (often metallic) taste in the mouth.
What Causes It?
Very often a problem with your sense of taste will be connected to your respiratory system. If you’re suffering with a cold, flu, sinus infections, strep throat, or allergies – you will probably notice your sense of smell is impacted too. Smell and taste are so entwined that one sense doesn’t function well or at all when the other is impacted.
- Gum inflammation, dental decay, and other problems in your mouth can taint the taste of your food with metallic and other unpleasant flavors. Dry mouth conditions can have the same result.
- Some medications (including lithium, thyroid medications, and cancer treatments) will diminish your ability to taste food and may also cause your mouth to taste of metal.
- Nutritional deficiencies, especially a lack of vitamin B-12 and zinc, can suppress your sense of taste
- An injury to your head or ear may cause your sense of taste to diminish for a time.
- Gastric reflux can diminish your ability to taste
- Smoking’s detrimental effect on a person’s ability to taste is well-known. Quit and your taste of smell will start to return in as little as two days.
- Aging – most people over the age of 60 will notice that they are less sensitive to even the strongest flavors.
- Nervous system disorders, such as a multiple sclerosis and Bell’s palsy, can sometimes cause short bouts of impaired taste.
What Fixes it?
Healing or treating the underlying condition helps restore an impaired sense of taste. This could range from just waiting a week to get over a cold to seeing an allergist or an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist. Your healthcare professional can help you address any loss of your ability to taste that is caused by physical conditions or your prescription medications.
If your ability to taste is fading as you grow older, now’s the time to try the foods you may have disliked when you were a kid with an overly sensitive palette. Re-taste those aged cheeses, salty olives, strong fish and other highly-flavored foods. Indulge in the darkest chocolate. You may rediscover a whole new world of food to enjoy.
You may wish to speak to a nutritionist to develop a healthy eating plan as well as discuss supplements if you suspect your sense of taste is connected to a dietary issue.
Your dentist can give you a treatment program to address dental issues that are affecting your ability to taste. Good oral hygiene – the basic twice daily brush and floss, and twice a year checkups/cleanings– can help keep your mouth healthy and free from the problems that can diminish your sense of taste. To learn more about this great alternative to insurance, click here or call one of our AtYourService Customer Care Representatives at 1-800-238-5163.