What Does It Mean When Everything Tastes Bitter?

Have you ever sat down to engulf your favorite meal (or any meal, for that matter!) only to find a bitter and unpleasant taste in your mouth? If so, you may be suffering from dysgeusia. Dysgeusia is defined by the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery Foundation as a condition that alters a person’s taste causing everything to taste “sweet, sour, bitter, or metallic.” Dysgeusia is persistent and may be accompanied by other symptoms, including bad breath, fatigue, or an upset stomach (via Verywell). This is because dysgeusia is usually caused by something else, such as a cold, chemotherapy, or dental problems.

According to Healthgrades, each individual is born with approximately 10,000 taste buds. As you age, this number decreases — smoking can also reduce the number of taste buds a person has (via Kids Health). Your taste buds aren’t the only reason you can distinguish the differences between light and fluffy whipped cream and the strawberries hiding underneath, however. In fact, your nose (more specifically, your olfactory receptors) has a lot to do with how certain foods taste (via Science Underground). To get the true flavor, your nose and your tongue work together to tell your brain: “Hey! This is pizza.” If something messes with what Healthgrades calls this “normal taste process” it could result in Dysgeusia.

Other common causes of a bitter taste in the mouth

If you’re drinking coffee or munching on something that’s supposed to be bitter, like dandelion or cranberries, having a bitter taste in your mouth is expected (via Spruce Eats). Experiencing a chronic or persistent bitter taste in your mouth, however, is not normal and may be the cause of an underlying disease or condition such as gingivitis or inflammation of the gums, Bell’s palsy, glossitis or inflammation of the tongue, an upper respiratory infection, or Sjogren’s syndrome (via Healthgrades). Being pregnant or menopausal, taking certain medications, or having acid reflux or GERD can also cause a bitter taste in the mouth (via Medical News Today).

Having a bitter taste in the mouth shouldn’t be an immediate cause for concern. If the taste doesn’t go away after one-to-two days, you should consult your doctor to try and pinpoint what’s causing it as it could be a sign of something serious. If you’ve noticed a change in your sense of smell or your appetite, be sure to include that information during your appointment. “There are several reasons you may have a sour taste in your mouth,” family medicine physician Amber Tully, MD, tells The Cleveland Clinic. “In general, if you don’t have other symptoms it isn’t a cause for concern. But you should discuss it with your doctor.”

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