We define food to be tasty or bland with the help of our taste buds. Taste enables us to relish food and enjoy eating them. It also helps us choose the kind of foods that we like to eat and also to find out if any food has gone stale. There are quite a few people who cannot differentiate between different tastes or rather, cannot sense the taste at all. Such people are said to suffer from taste disorders that can be due to different reasons.
Spicy or Sweet, I Will Eat!
Many of us take our sense organs for granted. Our eyes, ears, nose, tongue and skin work incessantly to enable us experience happiness and fulfillment in life. We don’t even realize this until we face problems with our quality of life. Among these sense organs, taste plays a crucial role in helping individuals relish the food they eat. After all, we earn and live to eat and enjoy! Sometimes, people can have problems with their sense of taste which they don’t realize or don’t care about. Almost 2,00,000 individuals visit a doctor annually for problems with their taste or smell ability and surprisingly these two are closely related to each other. While we may go to the doctor for declined sense of taste, the doctor might surprise you with his/her diagnosis of smell disorder.
Taste Buds for Savor
At birth, each of us are blessed with about 10,000 taste buds which you slowly start losing after the age of 50. Our ability to taste comes from tiny taste cells (gustatory cells) that are present within these taste buds. Every time we chew, drink or digest food tiny molecules are released that trigger these taste cells in the mouth and throat. When these cells are triggered they send message via three taste nerves to the brain which is the crux of identifying different tastes.
Taste cells are dispersed throughout the tongue and receptors in these cells help identify one of the five basic tastes-sweet, sour, salty, bitter or umami (taste from glutamate that is present in foods such as chicken broth or some cheeses). Taste and smell are connected in a way that when you chew your food, aromas are released that trigger your sense of smell via a channel that links your throat to your nose. When this channel is blocked due to cold or flu, you lose the power to relish the food as the meal you eat has little flavor as per your sense of smell. That is how most people confuse between taste and smell disorders. While they think that their sense of taste has vanished, it is their sense of smell that is actually troubled.
Taste disorders might be inborn or acquired. Common reasons for a taste disorder include:
Some people have a constant unpleasant feeling in their mouth even when they don’t eat or drink anything-this is phantom taste perception. Some people have a decreased sensation of five basic tastes which is commonly termed as hypogeusia. Certain other people are unable to detect any taste, and this is called as ageusia, but true taste loss is rare, and it is mostly loss of smell that people experience and falsely assume it to be loss of taste.
Some other disorders are characterized by odor, flavor or taste distortion and dysgeusia is one such taste disorder where the individual experiences a persistent foul, rancid, salty or metallic taste sensation in the mouth. This is present along with burning mouth syndrome sometimes and the individual suffers from a burning sensation in the mouth along with these taste distortions. Burning-mouth syndrome is common in middle-aged and older women.
An otolaryngologist (ENT specialist) is the person apt for diagnosing you of a taste disorder. He/she makes the patient taste different food and compare their tastes. The physician would be able to diagnose if a certain medication is inducing the taste problem and correct the same.
Revive Taste Buds
If little or all of your taste sensation is lost, you can try a few things to make your food taste better:
AVOID FRAUD. EAT SMART.
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Dietitian & Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.