When I first experienced impaired taste, I was at a loss both to try and describe it or to explain it. It wasn’t that I had lost my sense of taste, it was just that it was wrong. Foods didn’t taste the way I k

There are many nerves involved in transmitting taste and smell information to the brain. Taste receptors are found within taste buds, not only on the tongue, but also on the soft palate, pharynx, larynx, epiglottis, uvula, and the top third of the oesophagus.

Complete loss of taste is very rare, even in multiple sclerosis, but impaired taste or distorted taste may occur with demyelisation of any of the nerves involved. In particular, the Trigeminal Nerve or 5th Cranial Nerve plays an important part in the taste and smell process.

Multiple Sclerosis can exhibit many symptoms which can be difficult to explain or even describe.

I have experienced the distorted taste sensation, where everything you eat or drink has an unexpected taste. In fact, most everything tasted pretty disgusting. This persisted for about a month and during this time eating was most definitely not a pleasure.

impaired taste
Anatomy of peripheral taste pathways

The senses of taste and smell are closely linked. The flavors of food are actually a combination of smell and taste. In some cases, your taste buds may be functioning just fine, but your sense of smell is the problem. Your doctor might send you to an ear, nose, and throat specialist called an otolaryngologist to determine if you have a smell disorder.

Other causes of impaired taste include:

  • smoking
  • gum inflammation (such as gingivitis or periodontal disease)
  • medication use (including lithium, thyroid medications, and cancer treatments)
  • Sjogren’s syndrome (an autoimmune disease that causes dry mouth and dry eyes)
  • head or ear injuries
  • nutritional deficiencies, especially vitamin B-12 and zinc

Disorders of the nervous system can also cause you to have an altered sense of taste. Nervous system disorders affect how your nerves send messages to the rest of your body. The Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford explains that the organs that control taste may also be affected by nervous system impairment (LPCH). People diagnosed with certain disorders, including multiple sclerosis and Bell’s palsy, may experience impaired taste at times.


I am not aware of any specific treatments to help overcome impaired taste or smell.


American Academy of Family Physicians

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