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Why Can’t I Taste Anything?

Minerals, Immune | January 28, 2017 | Author: Naturopath

Immune, sinus, autoimmune

Why Can’t I Taste Anything?

Impaired taste is caused by interruption of the transfer of taste sensations to the brain, or by a problem in which the brain translates these sensations. The medical term for complete loss of taste is ageusia and partial loss is referred to as dysgeusia. Most people only experience a temporary loss of taste, such as when you have a cold, and only tend to lose part of their ability. It is very rare to lose your sense of taste completely.

When your sense of taste is reduced, it takes the pleasure out of eating food. It may lead to a decrease in appetite or an increase in sugar or salt in the diet in an attempt to enhance the flavour of food.

It is estimated that up to 75% of people over the age of 80 have impaired taste. To a certain extent, it is considered a normal part of ageing.

A bit about our taste buds

Gustation, or the sense of taste, allows us to distinguish between potentially harmful or yummy foods. We are essentially programmed to eat foods with a higher calorie content, which are typically salty, sweet and/or savory.

By contrast, detecting bitter in foods has allowed us to reject foods that are potentially toxic.

The taste system also detects sour foods which can indicate acidic, fermented or even rotten foods. When we detect these basic tastes, it informs us of whether the foods in our mouth are safe to enter the body.

Taste is mediated by taste buds located primarily on the tongue which then transmit signals to our sensory nerves.

The link between taste and smell

80% of our taste is related to smell – So if you have lost some or all of your ability to smell, this will affect how well you taste flavour in foods. In some cases, your taste buds may be functioning just fine, but your sense of smell is the problem. This can be the case with sinusitis, nasal polyps and allergic rhinitis. Your doctor might send you to an ear, nose, and throat specialist, called an otolaryngologist, to determine if you have a smell disorder.

What causes a decrease in taste?

A wide variety of reasons could account for loss of taste and range from the common cold to more serious disorders of the nervous system. Other common reasons include:

  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Salivary gland infection
  • Sinusitis/allergic rhinitis
  • Cold/flu
  • Throat infections, such as strep throat and pharyngitis
  • Poor dental hygiene, gum inflammation and periodontal disease
  • Infection of the mouth or tongue
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Smoking
  • Medication, including lithium, thyroid medications and cancer treatments
  • Sjogren’s syndrome, an autoimmune disease that causes dry eyes and mouth
  • Head or ear injuries
  • Nutritional deficiencies, especially vitamin B12 and zinc.
  • Nervous system disorders
  • Bell’s Palsy and multiple sclerosis

How to treat your loss of taste

Respiratory problems

It is important to ascertain what is causing your loss of taste to get results. If your symptoms are due to a cold/flu, be assured that the symptoms will only last a week.

Nasal congestion

If there is a considerable amount of nasal congestion consider using decongestant herbs such as: 

  • Garlic
  • Horseradish
  • Eyebright
  • Elderberry

Infection

If there is an infection consider taking

  • Echinacea
  • Andrographis
  • Golden seal.

However, if there is an underlying allergy such as allergic rhinitis (hay fever), antiallergy herbs and nutrients as well as lifestyle considerations should also be addressed.

Other safe fast and effective ways to drain the sinuses include using inhalations with Essential oils, Saline nasal sprays and Sinus rinses.

Poor dental health

Poor dental hygiene requires a trip to a dental hygienist to treat underlying infection and inflammation. Thorough brushing and flossing is important to remove plaque and to protect the teeth from decay and disease. Reducing sugar and processed foods in the diet is also important to help reduce infection.

Antibacterial herbs such as: 

  • Echinacea
  • Thyme
  • Tea tree
  • Propolis

These can be diluted and swished around the mouth.

Could it be reflux?

GERD is a very common cause of loss of taste, especially if there is a metallic or acidic taste in the mouth. The acid in the mouth can damage the taste buds on the tongue.

Eating less acidic, spicy foods and eating smaller meals may reduce the symptoms of GORD. 

Slippery elm can help reduce the amount of acid as well as help to reduce inflammation and damage to the oesophagus and mouth.

Zinc deficiency

A common side effect of zinc deficiency is smell and taste disturbances. Zinc deficiency may also lead to impaired immune function, loss of appetite, delayed wound healing and mood disorders. It is worth supplementing if you suffer from chronic sinusitis and recurrent infections that lead to loss of taste as your immune system may be depleted of zinc.

Food sources of zinc include red meat, pulses, fish, chicken, oysters, nuts, seeds and oysters. To determine whether you are low in zinc speak to your Naturopath or GP who can assess you for zinc deficiency.

Vitamin B12

Deficiency signs of vitamin B12 in relation to loss of taste include irregularities of the mouth and tongue, including inflammation of the tongue (glossitis) and conditions affecting the health of our nerves. Vitamin B12 is a common deficiency in the elderly and vegetarians but can affect people of all ages.

Vitamin B12 is found in fortified cereals, cheese, milk, beef, kidney, sardines, poultry, shellfish and eggs.
To assess for vitamin B12 deficiency your doctor or naturopath can run a simple pathology test.

In conclusion

A loss of taste can have many different underlying reasons. It is important to find the cause and treat accordingly. It is also important to check for zinc and vitamin B12 deficiencies, as supplementing if there is deficiency has been shown to regain the ability to taste.

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References

http://www.healthline.com/health/taste-impaired#Overview1

Ermilov AN, et al. Maintenance of taste organs is strictly dependant on epithelial hedgehog/GLI signalling. PLoS Genet. 2016 Nov 28;12(11):e1006442

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27893742

Bromley SM. Smell and taste disorders: a primary care approach. Am Fam Physician. 2000 Jan 15;61(2):427-36, 438

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10670508

Nagraj SK, et al. Interventions for the management of taste disturbances. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2014 Nov 26;(11):CD010470

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25425011

Pisano M, Hilas O. Zinc and taste disturbances in older adults: A review of the literature. Consult Pharm. 2016 May;31(5):267-70

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27178656

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