Taste Disorders – Take Them Seriously
Nearly all of us love food. There may be hardly anyone who doesn’t look for the food items served on any occasion. But have you ever thought that the joy of eating is not in the food, but it is in our perception of taste? It is our taste buds which give us the pleasure of eating and so, someone may love sweets, while someone else may hate it and love savory.
What are taste disorders?
There are various types of taste disorders. The commonest taste disorder is an unpleasant sensation of taste lingering in mouth, though you don’t have anything inside. This condition is called phantom taste perception. Another taste disorder is hypogeusia in which we experience reduction in the ability to taste. When this ability is totally lost, the condition is called ageusia. However ageusia is very rare. Most of the times, people take the loss of smell wrongly as loss of taste. Dysgeusia is one more condition in which there is a foul, metallic taste persisting in mouth. This may also comes together with burning mouth syndrome in which mouth experiences a hurtful burning sensation. This is commonest in middle-aged and old women, although it can affect anyone.
Rarely, it is found that taste disorders are since birth. Otherwise mostly the disorders develop following an illness or injury. The commonest causes are:
Infections of upper respiratory tract and middle ear
Dental problems and poor oral hygiene
Exposure to some chemicals, like insecticides or even some medicines like antibiotics and antiallergics
Radiation therapy for cancers of neck and head
Certain surgeries of nose, ear and throat, like wisdom tooth extraction or middle ear surgery
Sense of Taste
For diagnosing taste disorders you will have to visit an otolaryngologist, i.e. a doctor of ear, nose, throat, neck and head. An otolaryngologist can decide the severity of taste disorder by evaluating the least concentration of taste which you can identify. He or she may also ask you to compare tastes of varied substances or to make a note of how the potency of taste increases when concentration of the substance is increased.
Taste tests have been developed by scientists in which it is observed how the patient responds to various chemical concentrations. The tests either include an easy ‘sip, spit, rinse’ test or application of chemicals directly to particular regions of tongue.
The extent of taste loss can be told exactly only after physical checking of your throat, ears and nose, dental checkup and evaluation of oral hygiene, study of your health history and taste test monitored by a health care professional.
How serious are taste disorders?
Taste disorders hamper the mechanism of our body to warn us of spoilt food and drinks, and also in case of some people, of presence of substances in a food which causes them allergy.
Sometimes serious health problems may also be caused by taste disorders. E.g. in patients of diabetes, heart disease, stroke and other such illnesses, an impaired taste may bring change in dietary habits, when a specific diet is recommended. Some such people may eat very less and some others may eat a lot and gain weight.
Reduction of ability to taste may also cause tendency to eat too much salt or sugar in order to make the food tastier. This may certainly cause serious medical conditions, like hypertension, or diabetes. Taste loss may even cause depression.
Loss of taste may also indicate some degenerative disorders of nervous system, like Alzheimer’s disease or Parkinson’s disease. Therefore, if you are experiencing taste loss, you must consult your doctor.
Tips for those who have lost taste totally
Use various colors as well as textures while preparing the food
For more flavor, use aromatic herbs and spices, but don’t add more salt or sugar to the food.
Don’t eat foods like casseroles which dilute taste by covering individual flavors.
If your diet allows, you can add small quantities of bacon pieces, cheese, roasted nuts, etc to vegetables.
Is treatment possible?
Good news is most of the taste disorders can be cured. If they are not curable in some patients, these patients should get proper counseling to cope up with the problem.
Some people with respiratory or middle ear infection undergoing taste loss recover their lost sense of taste after the recovery from the disease. Sometimes certain medicine is found to be the underlying cause and stopping or changing it is the solution. However, unless the doctor doesn’t recommend, you should not stop the medicine. Oral hygiene is the most important factor in recovering from taste loss.