Imagine you sit down to eat your favorite dinner. You can remember how this meal used to make your mouth water… how you couldn’t wait to take the first bite. But now, you’re dreading the first bite because you know it’s not going to taste like you remember. It’s not going to taste like it’s supposed to.
Millions of people live with “taste dysfunction”. Some people with taste disorders lose their sense of taste entirely, but this is rare. For most people, a taste disorder distorts tastes or it affects some types of tastes, like sweet or salty, but not others. A taste disorder is not a life threatening condition, but it’s disruptive and reduces your quality of life.
Unfortunately, the medical community often overlooks taste disorders. There are many reasons why a taste disorder might occur and there are different things you can do to get your sense of taste back. Being an informed patient can help you bring your situation to your doctor’s attention so that you can get the help you need.
The Common Causes of Taste Disorders
There are a number of reasons why your sense of taste might not be working the way it should.
Prescription medications are a leading cause. Many medications can alter your taste perceptions. The most common drug that triggers a taste disorder is captopril (commonly prescribed under the name Capoten). This is a drug prescribed to treat high blood pressure or congestive heart failure.
Other drugs that cause taste disorders include antibiotics, antidepressants, decongestants, anti-inflammatory agents, lipid-lowering drugs, muscle relaxants, and drugs for high blood pressure among others. Exposure to toxic chemicals like benzene, formaldehyde, or paint solvents can also trigger a taste disorder.
Oral infections can often lead to taste disorders. An oral yeast infection, gingivitis, an oral herpes outbreak, or periodontitis can all cause disruptions in your sense of taste. In some cases, oral appliances like dentures can also interfere with your sense of taste.
Another common cause of taste disorders is smell disorders. Often your sense of smell will play an integral role in how well you are able to distinguish different tastes. If you have a sinus infection, nasal polyps, an upper respiratory infection, or another type of sinus problem, that can disrupt your sense of taste.
Finally, a taste disorder can signal that you have a more serious condition such as a tumor, an endocrine disorder, or a nutritional deficiency. These causes are less common, but still something to consider.
Steps You Should Take To Kick Your Taste Buds Up A Notch!
If you notice that your sense of taste seems off—if foods taste funny or if the intensity of flavors is lower than you’re used to—it’s important that you don’t ignore it. According to studies, taste disorders can dramatically affect your eating habits. Many people with taste disorders don’t eat properly and their health suffers for it.
If you’re taking any prescription medications, schedule an appointment with your doctor. It may be that the medication is causing your taste dysfunction, and your doctor may be able to provide you with an alternative.
If you are not taking any medications, it’s a good idea to schedule an appointment with your doctor anyway. Because a taste disorder can signal a more serious condition, it’s important that your doctor rule those possibilities out. Also, many taste disorders are actually a smell disorder stemming from nasal polyps. This is another condition where you will benefit from your doctor’s help.
In many cases, taste disorders are caused by an oral infection or because of an oral appliance like dentures. If you suspect that’s the case, make an appointment with your dentist to discuss the best ways to remedy the situation.
Most of the time, a taste disorder is a temporary condition. Working with your doctor or dentist can help the disorienting condition pass more quickly. In the meantime, it’s important that you take extra care in what you eat and how you season your food. Try to avoid overusing salt and sugar to make food palatable. Search for healthy foods that still taste good to you and build your meals around them.
Mark Rosenberg, M.D.