What are some taste disorders?
The most common taste disorders involve
- Phantom taste perception: A lingering, unpleasant taste in the mouth without the presence of any substance.
- Hypogeusia: Reduced ability to taste sweet, sour, bitter, salty and umami.
- Ageusia: Loss of all taste.
- Dysgeusia: Persistence of foul, salty, rancid or metallic taste in the mouth.
A loss of smell may accompany taste disorders; hence, it would be difficult to distinguish between the two.
Taste disorders may be related to certain health conditions, such as
What causes a taste disorder?
Some people are born with a taste disorder, but most of them develop it after an injury or illness. Other causes of taste disorders include
How does your sense of taste work?
Taste cells or gustatory cells are scattered throughout the tongue. When you chew food or drink, some molecules from food are released that stimulate the taste cells. The taste cells then send messages to the brain and the brain can identify the taste. Receptors in the taste cells respond to one of the five basic taste qualities: sweet, sour, bitter, salty and umami.
The sensations like the coolness of mint and the burning or irritation of chili pepper are not taste sensations. These are identified via separate chemosensory mechanisms.
Smell and taste are interrelated probably because when you smell the aroma of food, you can enjoy the taste of food. However, without smell, food tastes bland and has little flavor.
Aromas activate the sense of smell through a special channel which connects the roof of the throat to the nose.
How can taste disorders be diagnosed?
An otolaryngologist or an ENT doctor diagnoses taste disorders by
- Measuring the lowest concentration of taste quality that you can recognize
- Asking you to compare the tastes of different foods
- Asking you to do the sip, spit and rinse test
- Applying chemicals directly to specific areas of the tongue
- Doing a physical examination of the ears, nose and throat
- Administering the scratch and sniff test
How are taste disorders treated?
Treatment may include
- Treating the underlying medical condition
- Stopping or changing medicines that contribute to the disorder
- Surgical removal of obstructions that may be causing the disorder
- Quitting smoking
Some tips that may help make food taste better include
- Preparing foods with a variety of foods and colors
- Using aromatic herbs and spices to make the dish more flavorful
- If your doctor permits, adding small amounts of cheese, bacon bits, olive oil or toasted nuts on vegetables to enhance flavor
- Avoiding combination dishes that may dilute individual flavors and taste
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