Taste is something we often take for granted, but it is one of the five major senses and adds both variety and pleasure to our lives. Unfortunately, with age it is very common to lose the sense of taste for a variety of reasons. According to statistics published by the National Institutes of Health, 20 percent of people in the US over the age of 40 are dealing with some change or loss of taste. Learn more about the root causes and what can be done to overcome or adapt to changes in taste.
Understand the Causes
Loss of taste can have a major impact on overall quality of life. In an attempt to attain more flavor, people sometimes overeat or begin to favor overly processed foods. This can lead to unwelcome and potentially unhealthy weight gain. For those over the age of 60, loss of taste may simply be part of the aging process. In other cases, the following factors may contribute to a loss or altered sense of taste:
- Cigarettes, cigars or chewing tobacco.
- Certain medications.
- Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease.
- Gum disease or other dental problems.
- Sinus or allergy problems, such as sinus polyps or chronic sinus infections.
- Head injury, tumors or trauma to the head.
- Vitamin deficiencies, such as zinc.
Loss of taste is often related to a treatable condition, so it’s important to work closely with your doctor if you notice a change in the way foods taste. In addition to seeking medical attention, below are some additional tips to try.
Keep Nutritious Foods on Hand
Losing the sense of taste poses risks in terms of overeating. Some people overcompensate for loss of flavor by eating more than they should, or by selecting high-carbohydrate or high-fat foods to find satisfaction and comfort. Having nutritionally-dense food choices on hand that are high in protein and fiber is a strategy to help prevent overindulging on unhealthy food.
Savor The Social Aspect of Eating
It can be frustrating to not be able to taste the flavors in favorite foods. Instead, try focusing on the joy that can be derived from enjoying a meal with others. Plan to eat with a friend or a group of friends, and shift your focus to the fun of being around people and away from the food itself.
Try a New Spices or Flavors
If your favorite foods taste bland or altered somehow, try broadening your palate. Experimenting with different herbs, spices, vegetables or different cuisines may help reinvigorate your taste buds. Have you always avoided spicy foods? Perhaps it’s time to try some great Mexican dishes. Or consider giving Indian food a try and select a dish that includes turmeric, a spice that also boasts numerous health benefits. Trying a new type of food or seasoning may awaken your sense of taste.
Pay Attention to What You Can Taste
Much of getting used to a change in taste is paying close attention to what you observe while eating and drinking. Some people find that hotter or colder foods are more appealing while others may prefer sweet, savory or salty foods. Also pay attention to how your appetite changes throughout the day, and notice what tastes better to you at what times. This will help you formulate an eating strategy around particular times and flavors.
If you find that you are experiencing changes in your sense of taste, consult your medical professional right away. In general, focusing on nutritious foods can translate to overall gains in well-being and longevity. At Lighthouse Senior Living, our residents enjoy healthy and delicious meals created by our master chefs and wellness teams. Contact us to schedule a tour and see for yourself how mealtimes at our Lighthouse Senior Living communities are fun, social events.