Saturday, 7 January 2017

Why Food Taste Weird (Bitter) When You Are Sick

Prepared by Musa Suleiman

Image: leavingbio

It is a common thing among humans that the taste in their mouth suddenly change when they become sick from one or more diseases. These change in taste most times makes the sick individual to feel that the food is bitter and cause the individual to lose the urge to eat.


The taste perception process is a simple but a bit complicated cascade but let's simply  break it down. The tongue contains taste cells that cluster on each other like banana bunch to form the taste bud and these taste buds appears as group of specialized cells scattered on the tongue called papillae. They are shaped fungiform (mushroom shapes) in front of the tongue and they are are other shapes of the papillae on the side and back of the tongue. The tips of the taste cells reach toward a tiny opening on the tongue (the gustatory pore) through which food chemicals can fall. Various Nerve endings surrounds the base of the taste buds and they are sensitive to taste, touch, temperature and pain system.

The nerves carry messages(either taste or smell) to the brainstem which assist in arousal (e.g like from sleep)and then the signal is interpreted in part of the brain called INSULA which helps you know what ithe tase is; whether sweet or not.

The smell contributes to our sense of taste, Molecules for smell (the chemicals in the food) move through the back of the throat and reach olfactory nerve endings in the  roof of the nose and the molecules bind to these nerve endings, which signals the  olfactory lobe(bulb) to send smell messages to two critical parts of the brain. One of those brain part is the section of the temporal lobe (T) which is involved with  memory, particularly memories of place (this is why smells can bring back powerful images of your experiences).



These are some of the thing that happens that causes you to feel your food tastes bitter:

1. When you become sick (example when you have fever), your temperature rises above normal body temperature causing reduction in amount of body water leading to dehydration. Continuous or prolonged dryness of body water affect the Taste buds on the tongue making them to dry. Remember, taste buds are responsible for taste since they become dry you will experience a modified taste .

2. Another event that occurs in your body is that When you are sick a chemical in your body known as TNF-α (TUMOUR NECROSIS FACTOR) which controls inflammatory response tend to increase. it has been shown by studies that TNF-α (TUMOR NECROSIS FACTOR) activates the taste receptors on the tongue and then increase the sensitivity to BITTER taste. That's is why food tastes messed up when you are sick.

3. Another thing that affects the taste of food is the sense of smell. From the above we learnt that the smell pathway contributes to the amount of taste we feel because the nose and throat are connected. Food chemical move through the back of the throat and bind to the nerve endings in the olfactory lobes in the upper part of the nose then the brain is signalled and it iinterprets the smell.
So when an individual suffers from cold and the nose gets blocked, it is observed that the taste of food maybe become weird to you at some point (you may have even noticed this already).

So in general bitter tasting mouth can be controlled by licking lemon orange, applying little pinch of salt to the tongue or take ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) . These can help to reduce the weird taste in the mouth.


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