Our ability to taste is one of the most pleasurable senses we have and even though the ability to taste as we once did may decline as we age, most of the time there isn’t a huge change and we should be able to enjoy foods as we age as much or more than before. Taste sensitivity helps us enjoy our food and drink and helps us determine if food is good or bad for us.
Seniors with a serious taste sensitivity problem may experience loss of appetite, which leads to weight loss and less socialization. Depression may occur and the person may find it more and more difficult to eat – or enjoy what she’s eating. If the problem gets this serious, the immune system may suffer and she may be more susceptible to diseases.
When the ability to taste is impaired, food may seem unimportant. Older individuals may eat too much trying to get some satisfaction from non-nutritional food choices or simply from filling up and gain too much weight. Or, the opposite may occur and the person may forget to eat and lose so much weight that it becomes detrimental to her health.
Taste sensitivity may be caused from certain medications or the result of certain illnesses and infections. Dental problems such as gum disease can also cause loss of taste as can a serious head injury. Other causes that you should be aware of are smoking, Sjogren’s syndrome, Bell’s palsy and particular vitamin deficiencies.
If you’ve had radiation therapy for cancer located near the head or neck, taste sensitivity may also occur. And, diseases that affect the central nervous system such as multiple sclerosis can affect your sensitivity to taste.
Chronic disorders such as dysgeusia sometimes happens in senior citizens and can also affect taste. Dysgeusia causes you to have a bad taste in your mouth that can affect the way you taste food. It can be caused from medications such as antidepressents, drugs used to reduce cholesterol levels and blood pressure pills.
Since taste and smell are so closely related, a loss of smell might cause taste sensitivity. In fact, you may think you have a problem with taste, when it’s actually a problem associated with being able to smell. Loss of smell is much more common in seniors than loss of taste, so if you think you’re losing the ability to taste certain foods, consider that it might really be loss of smell.
If you’re not able to stick to a diet because to taste sensitivity issues, talk to your health care provider about what might be the cause and how you can get back to a satisfying experience with the foods you eat. You may be able to change medications that are having an impact on your tasting abilities or be treated for gum disease or any other factor causing the problem.
You’ll want to prepare for the visit to your doctor by writing down your symptoms and answers to questions that she may ask, such as when did you first become aware of taste sensitivity issues, how has the change affected your eating habits and whether or not you’ve also experienced changes in smell.