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Some drugs taken to treat diseases you may have can cause these symptoms. You may have been told that there was nothing wrong with you and that if you wait the symptoms will disappear.

Facts about flavor

You may have also been told that there was nothing medically that could be done for you. Since most physicians are unfamiliar with these problems these responses are not uncommon. There are three major parts of the taste and smell systems which can be affected by disease, the brain, the nerves and the receptors. By far the parts that are affected most commonly by disease are the taste and smell receptors, organs which receive information about taste and smell before it reaches the nerves or the brain.

Taste and Smell | Boundless Biology

These receptors are located in your taste buds in your mouth for taste and in your olfactory epithelium, high up in your nose, for smell. These receptors normally grow, develop and die over a period of days and are nourished by specialized substances proteins secreted in saliva from your parotid gland in your mouth for taste and in nasal mucus from serous glands in your nose for smell.

The illnesses or injuries which caused your symptoms commonly decrease the secretion of these nourishing substances thereby decreasing growth, development and producing dysfunction of these receptors, This would be similar to a pathological process decreasing secretion of some substance in your blood which produced a disease; e. These pathological changes in your receptors are the most common cause of your symptoms.

DIAGNOSIS: In order to understand the cause of your dysfunction it is important to obtain a careful history of your complaints and an examination of your head and neck. While some patients may exhibit anatomical abnormalities in their nose which may relate to nasal allergies, and these abnormalities are important to investigate, these abnormalities themselves do not usually cause severe smell or taste loss.


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Specific quantitative measurements of your taste and smell function need to be performed. Protein growth factors in your saliva must be measured in an specific manner to test their function as do tests of substances in your blood and urine which can also indicate causes of your dysfunction. Radiographic and magnetic resonance imaging studies may need to be performed as do other specialized tests.

Smelling with your tongue

TREATMENT: Although causes vary and treatment depends upon cause, in a large number of patients increasing the secretion of these nourishing substances can correct your symptoms by increasing the growth and development of these impaired receptors and improving their function. Food can be identified by sight alone—we don't have to eat a strawberry to know it is a strawberry. The same goes for smell, in many cases. To our brains, "taste" is actually a fusion of a food's taste, smell and touch into a single sensation. This combination of qualities takes place because during chewing or sipping, all sensory information originates from a common location: whatever it is we're snacking on.

Further, "flavor" is a more accurate term for what we commonly refer to as taste; therefore, smell not only influences but is an integral part of flavor.


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Pure taste sensations include sweet, sour, salty, bitter, savory and, debatably, fat. Cells that recognize these flavors reside in taste buds located on the tongue and the roof of the mouth.

Brain-gut link may be way faster than we thought

When food and drink are placed in the mouth, taste cells are activated and we perceive a flavor. Concurrently, whatever we are eating or sipping invariably contacts and activates sensory cells, located side-by-side with the taste cells, that allow us to perceive qualities such as temperature, spiciness or creaminess. We perceive the act of touch as tasting because the contact "captures" the flavor sensation.

These brain cells keep us eating when we’re full

Smells also seem to come from the mouth, even though there are no cells there responsible for detecting scents. Instead the sensation of strawberry, for example, depends upon activation of smell cells located at the end of the nasal passage. The information gathered by these cells is relayed to the mouth via a process called olfactory referral. To demonstrate this phenomenon for yourself, hold your nose and place a strawberry jelly bean in your mouth and chew. You should detect sweetness and a little sourness, along with the hard and then soft feeling of the candy.

The Smell-Tasting Experiment

With your nose held, however, you won't notice the strawberry odor. When you let go, though, you allow the odor molecules to travel through the nasal cavity to the smell cells, and suddenly the jelly bean has a strawberry flavor. Acquiring information related to scent through the back of the mouth is called retronasal olfaction—via the nostrils it is called orthonasal olfaction.