When Food Doesn't Taste Good

Image for iron If you don't enjoy your favorite foods as much as you used to, it may be time to see your doctor. Strange as it seems, your problem may lie in your nose or mouth. Seemingly flavorless food can result from either a diminished sensation of smell or taste, but usually not both. In fact, the loss of smell is actually more common than loss of taste. Even when food seems to become less flavorful, the ability to sense the basic four tastes—salty, sweet, sour, and bitter—often remains intact.Certain medical conditions, medications, and a lack of certain nutrients can all contribute to decreased senses of smell and taste.

Tasty Team Work

Smell and taste work as a team to allow for the sensation of flavors. With one sensation diminished, the flavor experience can be entirely different.Think of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies, for example. Nerves in the nose sense the airborne molecules released from the odor-causing agents in the cookies. After the molecules drift up to the nose or are drawn up through breathing or sniffing, the detected odor is sent to the smell area of the brain.The average adult has 10,000 taste buds coating the tongue's surface, all of which are responsible for the sensation of taste. Taste buds on the tip of the tongue detect sweetness; bitterness is detected by the back taste buds, while the side taste buds detect salt and sour tastes.Taste receptors send nerve impulses to the taste center of the brain. The brain then uses both the taste and smell sensations to distinguish the flavors you recognize.

Medical Conditions

Simple tastes such as salty, sweet, sour, and bitter can be detected without smell, but the more complicated flavors—like the rich, velvety sensation of a mixture of chocolate chips, walnuts, butter, and brown sugar—require the sensations of both smell and taste to be fully appreciated. Some common medical conditions, such as sinus infections, nasal polyps, upper respiratory infections, and allergies can trigger a loss of smell and an altered ability to taste. Other medical problems that may affect smell include head trauma, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and multiple sclerosis. Even certain dental conditions can affect taste perception. Gingivitis, tooth infections, and periodontal disease can leave enough of an unpleasant taste in your mouth to disrupt normal taste perception.

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