Dysgeusia: Why Can't I Taste My Food?
Mmmmm. . . food. Face it--eating and drinking are one of the greatest pleasures in life! But what happens when you lose your sense of taste? The medical term for losing your ability to taste is known as dysgeusia, and it impacts about 1 in 5 people over the age of 40.
Aside from enjoyment, the sense of taste gives us the heads up if something is tainted or spoiled. But most of all, taste allows us to literally enjoy the spice of life and explore a variety of foods which leads to increased sources of nutrients. When taste buds aren’t working optimally, it might be difficult to maintain a healthy appetite. It may also be a warning sign of a nutrient deficiency or arising health issues.
If you’re wondering how the concept of tasting even works, here is some background information: Our nose, mouth, throat and brain are all involved in the sense of taste. Nerve cells send messages to our brain after receiving communication from our food via our taste buds. This provides us with the ability to taste and identify whether something is salty, sweet, sour, bitter or savory. The full array of flavor is assisted by our sense of smell, so the nose definitely knows how to taste-- in its own way. To test this theory, simply hold your nose while tasting something delicious and you will discover that the flavor is greatly deflated, no matter how wonderful it is!
Although our sense of taste may decline as we age, there are factors that may influence the acuity of the sense of taste which are in our control.
Pharmaceutical medications, such as antibiotics, statins, blood pressure medications and chemotherapy drugs, for example, may lessen our ability to taste. Dental surgeries, radiation and smoking cigarettes, low thyroid levels, diabetes and neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease all play a role in affecting our sense of taste, as well.
Inflammation or infection in the mouth may also result in the loss of taste and smell. Even a sinus infection or tooth abscess might be the culprit. In addition, inflammation that impacts facial nerves, such as Bell’s palsy, can play a number on your ability to smell and taste. Even vitamin and nutrient deficiencies can contribute to their loss. The big ones are B vitamins and zinc:
Folate is an essential B vitamin that may impair the sense of taste. Low levels of folate may present as a swollen and smooth red tongue, which impacts the taste buds.
Foods high in folate include legumes, leafy green vegetables and whole grains.
When supplementing with B vitamins, be sure they are in a bioavailable form—stay away from synthetic forms. Look for methyl folate, not folic acid. Methyl Folate (methyltetrahydrofolate) is the body’s most active form of folate. Our Methyl B Complete, for example, contains methylated forms of B vitamins in their natural forms.
Vitamin B12 may influence your sense of taste because it reduces olfactory function, even resulting in a complete loss of smell. Low levels of B12 can also affect the nerve cells and transmission from your taste buds to your brain.
Because B12 is found mostly in animal-based foods, vegans are more susceptible to B12 deficiency. Common pharmaceuticals, such as PPIs (Nexium, Prilosec, Protonix, to name a few) as well as Metformin, the diabetic medication, reduce your body’s ability to absorb and utilize B12. About 40% of the US population is B12-deficient.
Vegan sources of B12 include nutritional yeast and fortified coconut and almond milk—but food sources are usually not enough. Supplementation with a bioavailable form or forms of B12, such as our BioActive B12, might be necessary.
Be sure to choose methylcobalamin, the active and natural form of B12 rather than its synthetic step-sister, cyanocobalamin. There are also other forms of B12 that are bioavailable and help support optimal energy production, methylation and detoxification.
It is important to note that microwaves deplete food of B12, so avoid cooking/warming your food this way, if possible.
Zinc is a micromineral with multiple bodily functions. It is instrumental in supporting immune function, the transcription of our DNA and helping with the absorption of folate. Zinc also promotes optimal wound healing and has antioxidant properties that contribute to your wellness and vitality. When it comes to supporting your sense of taste and smell, zinc plays a huge role. It is responsible for influencing one of the enzymes involved in taste and smell, known as carbonic anhydrase.
Zinc can be found in plant-based foods, however, it is thought that meat sources are more bioavailable sources of zinc. Vegans and vegetarians may need to supplement with zinc more so than meat-eaters for this reason.
Since zinc and copper work together, it is vital that these micro minerals are in balance. Too high of a copper content compared to zinc may result in health issues. poor health including immune dysfunction, chronic inflammation, mental and cognitive decline, accelerated aging, cardiovascular disease, increased oxidative stress and the development of cancer--so this could impact more than one’s sense of smell and taste!
The good news is, our Zinc Defense will be available soon!
If you’ve noticed recently that you’ve lost your ability to fully smell and taste your food, your body might be trying to tell you something! Symptoms are frequently warning lights that your body needs something—and if you are aware of what it’s telling you, it may save your health!