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Why do I have a metallic taste?

Digestion, Dental | October 7, 2020 | Author: Naturopath

Central Nevous System, sinus, Digestion

Why do I have a metallic taste?

A metallic taste in the mouth is both unpleasant and concerning. It can develop suddenly or over time. Taste is important. It helps us discern the quality of food we eat and warn us against danger of ingesting potentially dangerous substances. When taste sensations are disturbed it can lead to loss of appetite due to the unpalatable taste which may result in malnourishment. Dysgeusia or parageusia is the definition of a distortion of the sense of taste. 

Alterations in taste or smell are usually a secondary process connected to other disorders. These can include:

  • upper respiratory infections
  • gastric reflux disease
  • allergies
  • nutritional deficiencies
  • dementia  - Alzheimer’s disease
  • head injury or damage to the central nervous system
  • aging can also alter taste perception

Experiencing a specific metallic taste is common and may be caused by upper respiratory infections, oral infections, indigestion, prescription medications, over-the-counter medications/supplements, pregnancy, dementia, chemical exposure and cancer treatments.

Taste Disorders

Classification of taste disorder may be based on the following:

  • Epithelial Disorders – where there is a disorder of the oral mucosa or taste buds. Dry mouth, coated tongue, atrophic glossitis, burns, exposure to toxic substances, for example.
  • Neural Disorders – where there is a defect in the way taste stimulus is transmitted due to neural disorders
  • Central Disorders – due to such things as brain tumour, head trauma, Alzheimer’s disease or surgery for example

Resolution

Being able to resolve a metallic taste involves diagnosing and treating the cause where possible. 

Upper respiratory infections

The sensation of taste is controlled by taste buds found in the oral cavity of the mouth and the olfactory sensory neurons (in the nose) – responsible for smell.

Taste DisordersCold, influenza and infections involving the sinuses, nasal passages and tonsils can sometimes result in a change in taste. Treating the infection should resolve the problem. Help clear congestion with tea tree or eucalyptus oil steam inhalations, saline nasal rinses or nasal sprays. Help resolve upper respiratory infections with zinc, vitamin C, echinacea, andrographis eyebright and elderberry.
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Oral infection

Oral infection such as periodontitis, gingivitis, tooth infection and tooth fillings may be the cause of taste abherrations. A visit to the dentist is important to rule out dental/oral causes of metallic taste. Thorough dental hygiene including brushing, flossing and tongue cleaning is important to prevent the changes in taste and re-occurance. 
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Indigestion

Stomach reflux can leave a metallic taste in the mouth. Tips for preventing reflux include avoiding eating large meal portions at one time, reducting fats and spicy foods, avoiding eating close to bed time, wearing clothes too tight, reduce alcohol and coffee consumption and not smoking.
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Medications

Saliva protects the external environment of taste buds within the oral cavity. It acts as a solvent and a transporter for taste substances. Many medications can come through saliva as they absorb and are known to cause changes in the saliva. Others medication will cause the taste buds to turn off. Check with your doctor whether your prescription medication could be the casue of your metallic taste.

Over-the-counter medicines/supplement

Multivitamins and minerals containing heavy metals such as copper, zinc, chromium, iron and calcium can sometimes be the cause of a metallic taste. Check the dosage to ensure too much is not consumed. Minerals such as zinc, for example, can be found as an ingredient in a number of different products such as- medication for cold and flu (zinc lozenges), in your multivitamin and mineral, calcium complex, hair, skin care, prostate and immune support formulas. You may be getting more than you planned. The taste should abate as the supplements are metabolised.

Over-the-counter medicines/supplementThe Benefits of Zinc

It should be noted zinc is needed for both repair and maintenance of taste buds. It is needed for the production of gustin, also known as carbonic anhydrase VI, a protein linked to taste bud development. When salivary gustin is deficient smell and taste can be affected. Zinc is also a co factor for an important enzyme, alkaline phosphatase, in the membrane of the taste buds. Supplementing with zinc can treat these disorders. Zinc is also needed for efficient functioning of the immune and digestive systems.

Pregnancy

In the early stages of pregnancy some women find their taste changes and metallic taste have been noted.

Dementia

Dementia is associated with changes in the function of the brain. Taste buds are connected by the nervous system to the brain, and if the part of the brain associated with taste is affected it can interfere with taste perception.

Exposure to Chemicals

Lead and mercury inhaled in high doses produces a metallic taste.

  • Mercury is a natural forming element found  in earth, air and water and everyone is exposed some mercury through both natural and occupational activities. Eating certain fish, shell fish and dental almagams and certain environments can lead to higher exposure. 
  • The use of lead in Australia is restricted, however lead is still used for ceramic glazing and lead-acid batteries. Some imported products may still contain lead. Older house, car and boat restorations can also be a source of risk.

Cancer treatments

Radiation and chemotherapy are associated with metallic taste in the mouth. Protecting tongue and taste buds if possible, from the effects of radiation to minimalize damage. Zinc supplementation has been shown to improve taste in patients receiving neck and head cancer radiotherapy.

Other serious illness associated with alterations in taste include kidney, liver, diabetes and cancer.

Improving taste perception

Once the reason for experiencing a metal taste has been found and addressed in most cases the metallic taste will resolve. For some conditions or with idopathic reasons the taste abheration may remain, in which case there are some suggestions to help imporove taste perception. These include:

Following good oral hygiene practices. This includes regular teeth brushing, flossing and tongue cleaning. Cleaning the tongue has been shown to improve taste perception.

The surface of the tongue is irregular and with the regular deposits of food remains and desquamated epithelial cells, it providing an ideal site for putrefaction and oral bacterial growth.

Drink plenty of water to stay well hydrated and flush out toxins.

Avoid smoking cigarettes

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References

https://health.clevelandclinic.org/8-possible-causes-for-that-metallic-taste-in-your-mouth/

Oral adverse effects of drugs: Taste disorders https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6988472/

Ambaldhage VK, Puttabuddi JH, Nunsavath PN, Tummuru YR. Taste disorders: A review. J Indian Acad Oral Med Radiol 2014; 26:69-76: http://www.jiaomr.in/text.asp?2014/26/1/69/141864

Preventive effects of zinc sulfate on taste alterations in patients under irradiation for head and neck cancers: A randomized placebo-controlled trial https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3724372/

Halitosis: the multidisciplinary approach https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3412664/

https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/lead-poisoning

https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/environment/factsheets/Pages/mercury.aspx

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