All My Taste Is In My Mouth? I Wish!

Is there a doctor in the house?! Or maybe someone else expert in physiology? Or maybe someone who has experienced something similar to what I am going through right now?

Because a funny thing happened to me two weeks ago;  I lost my taste.  Now before you start in with the jokes about my obviously pre-existing  lack of taste, let me jump in and tell you that  I seem to have primarily lost my ability to taste natural sugar. Which really sucks because it changes the flavor profile of just about everything with the exception of things like brussel sprouts, dandelion and chicory. (By the way, did you know that cats, from little kitties to big lions, can’t taste sweet either? Perhaps I should give Fancy Feast a try. Or a Thompson gazelle? )

And before anyone else suggests that I should have my nose checked out, I can smell just fine, thank you. (Please, no jokes!)  In fact, foods that are mostly tasted through the nose (like very dry Italian wines, coffee, kimche and boiled eggs) are even tolerable (if not quite palatable) to me.  Umami is good, when  it’s not linked to sweetness (such as with pine nuts, blue cheese and Parmesan) but we are not presented with many choices there.

Almost all beer is impossible (lots of maltose) although a recent triple hop IPA was marginally drinkable, but still not much more flavorful than your standard Budweiser. Even my beloved bone-in rib-eye (cowboy) steak tastes like cardboard soaked in Crisco. Celery still tastes like…celery. I feel like crying.

I have not been hit on the head,  struck ill,  had recent surgery or received radiation or chemo-therapy. I am not vitamin B-12 or zinc deficient.  I have not burned or cut my tongue.  I DID smoke the occasional cigar but have not done so since  this has happened. OK maybe a little more than occasionally, but not more than a couple of times a week and I have friends that have been two-packers-a-day for thirty years and they don’t have this problem.

What’s weird is that I CAN taste some artificial sweeteners like saccharine and Xylitol. But not Splenda, Equal or Nutrasweet.  Haven’t checked Stevia out yet.

It has been an enlightening (if rather unappetizing ) experience.  After having spent my entire life preparing and serving food I now understand the physiology of taste in a way that absolutely no cook (or text) book ever could convey it.  I don’t believe this will effect my career adversely – I remember recipes and can still read them,  I just need a taster by my side (anyone seen “Tortilla Soup”?) It may even be possible for me to explore new avenues in cooking.  Right now some of our cutting edge chefs are introducing bitter tasting foods on their menus, something that other culinary cultures are much more familiar with. Perhaps for me, bitter is better.

There is a silver lining to this gustatory cloud;  my appetite is so diminished that I’ve lost about ten pounds. This is the world’s most effective weight loss program. I’m pretty much convinced  that the biggest enticement to overeating is that food just tastes so damn good. (There is even an Indian herb and a pill made from it that claims to deaden your sense of taste and has allegedly helped people lose weight.) It’s convenient for me, I guess,that the foods that taste the worst right now are those containing the most sugars and simple carbs, the biggest contributors to weight gain (through insulin resistance). So maybe I really don’t want this problem fixed….Nah!  Good food is one of God’s greatest gifts, much more so than sex, fame, money or skinny-ness – believe me!

So, what the hell happened?  I know some of you folks have some understanding of the science behind food and eating. If anyone has any ideas or any suggestions….HELP!

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  1. #1 by Christian Beyer on October 15, 2009 - 8:11 pm

    Friedrich, have hope. You may have missed my follow up, but after nearly two months of this my taste finally returned. It came back fairly quickly – I started to notice that some things weren’t quite so vile tasting as they had been and about a week or so later it’s all back. Looking back on the situation after hearing from someone in Australia that this had been linked to a virus, I remembered being very sick for just one day right around the time this started – extreme dizziness, nausea, mild vomiting and extreme fatigue – I slept for about 20 hours. The idea is that this virus attacks the nerve or never sheaths that conduct taste sensation. Do you remember being ill at all?

  2. #2 by Friedrich Feuerstein on October 15, 2009 - 9:32 pm

    “extreme dizziness, nausea, mild vomiting and extreme fatigue – I slept for about 20 hours. The idea is that this virus attacks the nerve or never sheaths that conduct taste sensation. Do you remember being ill at all?”

    Well, now- as a matter of fact. I do remember experiencing a brief period of fatigue culminating in a period of a few days of very mild nausea (I had only one incident where I became so nauseated that I almost vomitted). As I recall, a day or two after that, I lost my sense of taste. Now I do remember an earlier poster here suggesting a virus. Yes, I just found your blog so I must’ve missed your follow up. I’ll go look for it. So, there is hope. :) Thanks!

  3. #3 by J M Schechtman on December 19, 2009 - 4:45 pm

    Hey Christian
    How’s the taste disorder going? Are you any better? I had the *exact* same problem following a virus last April. I went to two ENT specialists, and neither was much help, other than saying that it would probably get better over time. Well, it was getting better – *VERY* slowly – as it’s been 8 months. I could finally taste sweet things somewhat – though throughout it always helped if they were heavily salted or a savory/sweet combination (such as those honey-pretzels or Carr’s whole wheat biscuits, and some granolas)…well I just contracted another upper respiratory infection (mostly a cough) and actually had to fly yesterday, and that has sent me back to ZERO taste! So apparently it can reoccur…I hope it doesn’t take another 9 months to get back to where I was a few days ago.

  4. #4 by Christian Beyer on December 23, 2009 - 2:21 pm

    Sorry took me so long to respond.

    Yes, I got it back after about 3 months. Pretty sure it was because of a virus.

    With your cold symptoms, be careful about zinc and citrus combination, although zinc alone can help. B-12, too. Good luck.

  5. #5 by Joe on December 22, 2011 - 11:57 am

    Hi Christian,
    Yes it is a terrible fate not be able to taste food!! I have been searching for an answer also!!! I finally did read an article by Andy Belatti “Even Atificial Sweeteners Are 100 % Safe Are They?” IT basically implies that the artificial sweeteners dull our taste to foods since they are 600 times as potent as sugar…Removing them from your/our diet is suppose to bring back the sweet taste of foods..yet, I still wonder about the the rest of the food spectrum…have you found any other info or
    causes? If you do, please let me know!! Thanks!! Joe tyboro@charter.net

    • #6 by Christian Beyer on December 22, 2011 - 12:18 pm

      Well, after about 6 months the taste came back. I think it had something to do with a virus because I remember being violently sick for one day only right before this happened. In a small way I regret it coming back because I immediately began to eat more and put on weight. Right now I’m trying to stick to my proven “Can’t taste any sweet” diet. Not bad, not too hard.

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