A transient alteration in taste is often attributed to viral infections such as colds and flu, or recent food intake. However, certain digestive health disorders may also be responsible for dysgeusia or a change in taste perception. If you frequently encounter such changes, it is recommended to consult one of our specialists for a thorough evaluation.
Further in this text, we provide insights into the symptoms and underlying causes of taste alteration, as well as effective treatment options.
When to seek emergency care
In most cases, a change in taste does not require emergency treatment, but accompanying symptoms may indicate otherwise. For instance, if you encounter a sudden loss of taste coupled with difficulty breathing or swallowing, immediate medical attention may be necessary. It is also essential to seek emergency care if you experience a sudden change or loss of taste following a head injury.
Eating at least three times a day is essential to maintain good health. Therefore, it can be distressing when you lose your enjoyment of food due to altered taste. We have five primary tastes which are sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and umami. However, digestive health conditions can cause an altered sense of taste.
You may notice that all the foods you eat have a similar taste or a particular tang to them. Some people experience a lack of taste or a complete loss of taste (ageusia). These symptoms may occur intermittently or persistently.
A change in taste may be a sign of an underlying condition. We advise speaking to one of our specialists for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.
An altered taste sensation may persist even after brushing your teeth, which can be an unpleasant experience. However, the type of taste experienced may vary depending on the underlying cause. For instance, acid reflux and indigestion can cause a bitter taste in the mouth, while a metallic taste may be a side effect of over-the-counter medications or vitamins, gastritis, or a temporary infection. Both can also be an indication of pregnancy.
Symptoms that could indicate digestive problems
A change in taste may be an isolated symptom, or it may manifest along with a range of other symptoms. In addition to altered taste, you may experience:
Causes of a change in taste
An altered sense of taste may be a result of certain lifestyle choices such as smoking or dental issues. It can also be a side effect of certain medications or oral supplements. Additionally, undergoing cancer treatment can lead to a change in taste.
Moreover, some digestive health conditions can cause persistent or frequent changes in taste. These conditions include:
Gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD) is a prevalent cause of an enduring unpleasant taste in the mouth. It results in long-term acid reflux. Along with a persistent bad taste, GORD may also lead to bloating, halitosis, dysphagia, and chronic sore throat (oesophagitis). Laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR), also known as silent reflux, presents with the same symptoms as GORD but is often asymptomatic.
Burning mouth syndrome
Burning mouth syndrome, though uncommon, frequently results in a bitter or metallic taste in the mouth. The primary symptom is a burning sensation that occurs on the lips, tongue, or other regions of the mouth. You may notice that your symptoms worsen as the day progresses, whereas symptoms of GORD tend to be strongest in the morning, after sleep.
Certain medications can impact your sense of taste and smell. These include:
In your initial consultation, we will conduct a visual assessment and discuss your symptoms in depth. We will enquire about any associated symptoms, the severity and discomfort of your symptoms, and if this change in taste is more prominent at certain times of the day or after consuming certain foods. We will also ask for your medical history and possibly the medical history of your close family.
The specific diagnostic tests we recommend will depend on the information gathered during your initial consultation. An upper endoscopy, also known as gastroscopy, is a common diagnostic test that can be used to investigate various digestive problems, such as GORD, LPR, functional heartburn, functional dyspepsia, and gastritis.
If we suspect burning mouth syndrome, a blood test may be recommended to identify any nutritional deficiencies that could be contributing to your symptoms. Additionally, a mouth swab may be performed to rule out a fungal infection, such as oral thrush, which could lead to secondary BMS.
We customize our treatment plans to suit your specific symptoms and diagnosis. The recommended treatment will be based on the results of the diagnostic tests we perform. If you suspect that a dental problem is causing your symptoms, we advise you to consult a dentist.
The treatment options range from simple lifestyle modifications to prescription medications and in some cases, surgery. Surgical intervention may be considered if the symptoms, such as acid reflux, are severe and do not respond to medications.
If you are currently taking medication for another medical condition, such as diabetes or depression, it is important to discuss the potential side effects with your doctor. If your symptoms of altered taste persist, it is not advisable to simply tolerate them. Instead, we recommend scheduling an appointment with a qualified doctor or gastroenterologist for further evaluation and potential treatment options.
If we identify a deficiency in vitamins, we may suggest taking a vitamin supplement. We may also recommend consulting a dietician to discuss how to modify your diet. You may need to alter any supplements you are currently taking if we believe they are causing your symptoms.
If you frequently experience acid reflux, we may prescribe medications to reduce your reflux. These may include H2 blockers, such as famotidine, or proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), such as omeprazole. We may also suggest lifestyle changes, such as limiting your consumption of coffee and alcohol and sleeping at an incline.