As a lifetime lover of food and wine, I would be devastated if I lost my sense of taste. Such a calamity is more common than people realize!
Your tongue is a powerful sensory organ so keep it healthy! It should be pinkish without spots that cause you pain. If you have swollen taste buds, you need to address the problem quickly to preserve the sense of taste (and pleasure to be found in quality food).
Your gustatory perception (sense of taste) is fascinating. Inside each taste bud (papillae) are gustatory cell clusters that come alive when you eat or drink. Your tongue determines the difference between bitter, sweet, salty, sour, and umami (also called savory, which identifies meats or similar foods). New research has pointed to identification of fats and dairy foods separately from the others.
Meanwhile, chemesthetic sensations (sense of touch) provide additional information such as texture and temperature. Microscopic hairs (mechanoreceptors) on your tongue send signals to the brain, describing what you’re eating, and clarifying the difference between hot soup or a cold dessert.
Then your olfactory receptors (sense of smell) kick in! The epithelium cells in the upper part of your nose contribute input that is also communicated to the brain.
Taste buds have a life cycle of two weeks before they are replaced with new ones. If your taste buds are swollen, it could be a sign of a bigger problem. Researchers are working to discover ways to repair lost sense of taste but the science is new. Causes have been identified and that may help you preserve as much as possible as you age.
Reasons for Loss of Taste
- Inflammation caused by extremely hot or spicy foods
- Inflammation caused by trauma or acid reflux
- Allergies, sinus polyps, or infection of the mouth, throat, nose or respiratory system
- Tobacco use or secondhand smoke
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Antiseptic mouthwash
- Severely scalding sections of the tongue
- Surgery of the tongue or removal of portions
- Chemotherapy or radiation therapy
- Reaction to insecticides or other chemicals in food
- Age results in a slower reproduction of taste buds
- High blood pressure
- Pharmaceutical drugs – especially antibiotics, diuretics, and ACE inhibitors
- Vitamin deficiency
- Poor oral hygiene
If your taste buds are swollen, painful to the touch, pale, reddened, or you’ve lost the sense of taste, it is important to consider this checklist to tongue care!
How to Get Rid of Swollen Taste Buds from the Inside Out
- Seriously consider your diet! Are you eating a lot of junk or pre-packaged food? Are you getting the valuable vitamins and nutrients that you need? Do you tend to eat foods that are very spicy and overly heated?
- Cut back on pro-inflammatory substances! Inflammation is bad for your entire body. It is the gateway to sickness, disability, and early death. Get rid of the tobacco and keep alcohol consumption to less than a glass of wine per day.
- Listen to your body! Talk to your doctor about natural options to treat the source of your health problems rather than opting to take a pill. Health is not about taking the easy way out. It’s about making positive long-term changes.
- Take oral hygiene seriously but be gentle! Don’t scour your tongue or blister it with mouthwash that burns! Instead, consider coconut oil pulling as a gentler (and far more effective) solution.
- Drink plenty of water every day. Water helps to flush bacteria, fungi, and viruses from every cell and keeps your cells moist and supple. This is particularly important to the soft tissues of your mouth, throat, and sinuses.
As you age, your body might not produce as many taste buds to replace the ones that die. In childhood, you have the highest number and that number is down to about half by the time you reach your twenties. By your sixties, your sense of taste may be further compromised by a general lack of interest in food and declining appetite.
Guard your senses now…all of them! Swollen taste buds could be a sign of poor general health, an undetected infection, body wide inflammation, or bad lifestyle choices.
You have the power to improve it!