why do you lose your sense of taste when sick

SUMMARY: While the tongue identifies four primary tastes - salty, sweet, sour and bitter - your nose is responsible for the sumptuous flavors in food. Posted: June 4, 2014
When we come down with a cold, oftentimes our senses of smell and taste get kicked to the curb. Although taste and smell are separate senses with their own receptors, they are closely intertwined. Your nose plays a big role in what flavors your tongue can identify, and when your nasal cavity becomes congested with mucus, it may leave food tasting as bland as a board. On a basic level, it s helpful to think about it like this: The nose and the mouth are connected. Literally, the nasal and oral cavities run into each other. That s why the mucus clogging your nose - which may also be the culprit behind bad breath - nullifies the delicious and not-so-delicious flavors of food. Receptor cells in the mouth and nose The tongue has thousands of taste buds that identify the four primary tastes - salty, sweet, sour and bitter - while the olfactory receptor cells in the nasal cavity measure odors that provide the sumptuous flavors in our food. These cells, when stimulated, send signals to specific areas of the brain, which make us conscious of the perception of taste. In this way, the messages that process taste and smell converge, giving us a more rounded idea of what we consume.


Chemicals in foods called tastants are detected by taste buds, the special structures embedded in the tongue. Every person has between 5,000 to 10,000 taste buds. Each bud consists of 50 to 100 specialized sensory cells, which become piqued by tastants like salts, sugars or acids. Meanwhile, odorants, or odor molecules, are identified by the specialized sensory neurons in a small patch of mucus membranes lining the roof of the nose. To get these flavors - whether savory or not so savory - the odorants get stimulated by smells or chemicals in food that initiate a pattern of activity sent to the olfactory bulb. After passing to the primary olfactory cortex at the part of the frontal lobe in the brain, the message is relayed to adjacent parts of the orbital cortex where the combination of odor and taste information helps create the perception of flavor. Mucus blockade If mucus in your nasal passages turns too thick, molecules from the air and food can t reach your olfactory receptor cells. Therefore, your brain receives no signal identifying the odor, and everything you eat seems to taste the same. With that being said, you can still feel the texture and temperature of the food, since this information is processed on the tongue.


The lack of taste may be accompanied by post-nasal drip, a condition where mucus drips down the back of the throat instead of out through the nostrils. is normally caused by an illness such as the cold, a flu virus or nasal allergies. All of these can wipe the flavor from tasty foods. In short, the inability to taste anything when you have a cold is intimately related to all of the sniffling. Both tastes and smells are the perception of chemicals in the air or in the food we eat. But don t blame your taste buds for the loss of flavor. It s the fault of your stuffed-up nose. Dear Reader, As if a runny nose, coughing, and a sore throat weren't bad enough, you and millions of others coping with a cold can't even savor the flavor of homemade soup. Your inability to taste anything when you have a cold is closely related to all the sniffling that keeps you inside and under the blankets. While the tongue has thousands of taste buds to measure the four primary tastes в salty, sour, sweet, and bitter в the olfactory receptor cells at the top of the nasal cavity measure the odors that provide you with the sumptuous (or not-so-sumptuous) flavors associated with certain foods.


The sense of smell is actually responsible for much of what is typically thought of as the sense of taste. So, if your nasal passage is blocked by mucus that keeps you sniffling and sneezing, your olfactory receptor cells aren't being visited by those odors. This leaves everything tasting pretty much the same. When you have a cold, your nasal passages become inflamed and produce excess mucus that can make you feel stuffed up. Keeping your nasal passages and sinuses moist can help decrease congestion. Using a humidifier, taking long showers, drinking lots of fluids, or using a saline nasal spray can all help to ease congestion. You can also irrigate your nasal cavity with salt-water or use warm compresses on your face. Over-the-counter medications like decongestants or antihistamines can help, too. If your symptoms become severe or last more than a week, itвs recommended that you speak to your health care provider. Fortunately, colds normally go away within a few days, regardless of treatment. Try to look on the bright side: if you canвt taste, it makes taking those unpleasant cold medicines much more bearable. Here's hoping your ability to taste comes back soon! Alice!

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