Numerous individuals do not appreciate their sense of taste. Basically, we experience taste countless times every day and most of us do not even imagine how it would be if this form of sensation was gone.
Unfortunately, more than 200,000 people visit their doctors every year, complaining about a partial or total loss of the sense of taste, usually taking place hand-in-hand with the loss of the sense of smell.
How Does or Sense of Taste Work?
Basically, every time we chew, drink or digest something, special molecules are released, stimulating certain sensory cells in the mouth and throat area. These cells are called the taste cells and are mostly located on the tongue and the roof of the mouth, as well as the lining of the throat. Just on the surface of our tongue, we are originally born with more than 10,000 taste receptors. However, as we grow older, the numbers decrease, especially once we are older than 50.
So, once the taste buds get activated, they send information to the brain, helping us perceive the taste itself. Different groups of receptors are in charge of noticing and transferring information about different tastes. So, we can sense five kinds of tastes – sour, bitter, sweet, salty and umami. The final taste is the one we also refer to as the savory taste, usually found in meat extracts, some types of cheese and chicken broth.
Even though many sources claim that our tongue has different areas dedicated to different taste receptors, this is not true since, in humans, the receptors are randomly scattered all over the surface of the tongue.
Yet, our sense of taste does not rely on these receptors only. Rather, we sense taste with the moist surfaces on our eyes, nose, mouth and throat, allowing us to experience tastes which we call “cool” or “minty”, along with those referred to as “burning”. Also, many other factors such as the texture of the eaten object, its warmth and other qualities add on to the tasting process. Therefore, we can tell whether we are eating an apple or a pear even when our eyes are closed, picking up all the information about the flavor, taste, feel etc.
So, tasting is crucial for eating and smelling plays a crucial part in the process too. Many times, people who complain about having lost their sense of taste end up finding out that they actually had issues with their sense of smell. Smell grants us the flavor and, commonly, when we are suffering from cold or flu, leading to nose impaction, we cannot sense the real taste of food.
What are Taste Disorders?
Taste disorders can manifest through various ways. Usually, these involve people feeling strange tastes in their mouth even when they are not eating, individuals being incapable of sensing sweetness, sourness or some other tastes properly, or people losing their sense of taste completely.
Often, when the chemical senses are affected by some kind of a health problem, one experiences disorders related to the flavor, the odor or the taste, feeling persistent metallic odor or rancidness, or experiencing constant burning sensations in the mouth.
Taste disorders usually appear after certain situations which jeopardize one's health. Basically, many individuals suffer from taste disorders once they have survived an injury or an illness. So, upper respiratory and middle ear infections can lead to this problem, along with radiation therapy used for treating cancer located in the head or the neck areas. Chemicals of certain types can damage one's sense of taste, along with some antibiotics and antihistamine drugs. Alternatively, direct blows to the head area, or surgeries done to the ear, nose or throat, all can take ones sense of taste away. Finally, dental decay and inadequate oral hygiene can have the same effect.
Are Taste Disorders Serious?
Losing your sense of taste can have a catastrophic impact on your life. For instance, taste can tell us whether a type of food is spoiled or not or whether some food or drinks can cause allergic reactions in our body.
Furthermore, the loss of taste that a person experiences may be a premonition of heart diseases, strokes, diabetes and various other health issues. You can return your sense of taste once you change your diet, eating more or less, depending on your current state of affairs.
Additionally, once we do not have our sense of taste to guide us, we might salt, sweeten or spice our meals excessively, triggering many digestive problems later, being unaware of their causes due to our impairment. This factor can be especially dangerous for people suffering from chronic illnesses such as diabetes or hypertension. Finally, loss of taste can trigger depression and lack of variety in our life.
All in all, many problems can stem from the fact that your sense of taste has been lost. Therefore, do not ignore or neglect this problem. Rather, seek medical assistance as soon as you notice that something is wrong with this form of perception. Taste is crucial for our experience of the world around us. Do not let it go away.