If your food seems a little bland, don’t be so quick to blame the chef. It could be that your tongue is letting you down.
By Yelena Sapin
Problem: Losing Your Sense of Taste or your nose, to be exact.
“A true loss of the sense of taste is extremely uncommon,” says Dr. Kenneth Martin Hodge of Advanced ENT and Allergy. “In over 95 percent of cases, what is perceived to be a loss of sense of taste is actually a loss of sense of smell.” Our tongues can only distinguish four tastes: sweet, sour, salty, and bitter. Because it is aroma that is responsible for imbuing food with the complexities of flavors we enjoy, disruption of the sense of smell can render even the best of dishes tasteless.
Solution #1: Check Your Nose
Chronic sinus infections, nasal congestion due to polyps, and even the common cold are frequent culprits of both short- and long-term loss of the sense of smell. Have your doctor examine your nasal passages for any obstructions and get to the root of the problem so you can breathe easier and appreciate the smells and flavors of your food. Less common, but potentially more serious, is when head trauma due to an accident or fall impairs your brain’s ability to process scent stimuli, Hodge says. An ENT (ear, nose and throat specialist) can administer a test to diagnose the severity of the problem and help you cope if the loss is permanent.
Solution #2: Check Your Medications
When flavors seem off because of a bitter or metallic taste in your mouth, it’s often due to medications or medical procedures. “A dental injection or a tooth extraction can disturb the nerve,” Hodge says, “which can sometimes cause a loss of taste. More often, it results in an altered, unpleasant taste.” Dental disease, sinus infections, and medications that cause dryness of the mouth can also play tricks on your taste buds, but it’s important not to overcompensate with extra salt and sugar, Hodge says. See your doctor if you’re experiencing problems, and if you’re using nasal sprays, be sure to read and follow the directions on the package. “We see a lot of people whose addiction to nose sprays is actually creating their congestion.”
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