Cacogeusia: characteristics and causes of this taste disturbance
This alteration of the sense of taste has several causes, and does not depend on what is being eaten.
Sometimes, for various reasons, our senses do not work as they should, and the sense of taste is no exception.
On this occasion we are going to discover what cacogeusia consists of.This is an alteration of this sense that presents a peculiar symptomatology. We will also see how it can arise and how it disappears.
What is cacogeusia?
Cacogeusia is a dysfunction in the sense of taste whereby all tastes are perceived as unpleasant for the duration of the for as long as the effect of this alteration lasts. People suffering from this disorder describe the perceived tastes as bitter or metallic. Logically, to be able to speak of cacogeusia, the patient must perceive this bad taste to all stimuli and not only to those that have an unpleasant taste in themselves.
When suffering from cacogeusia, the perception of an unpleasant taste is a subjective matter of the person, it has nothing to do with the food being eaten or with oral hygiene.. That is to say, the problem would be in the processing of the data that are being received, since internally they would be perceived as very repulsive tastes when in fact they would not be, or would not have to be.
As for the duration of this alteration, it depends on the causes and the individual, but according to the different cases that have been analyzed, it is considered that the effects of cacogeusia could be prolonged in time from as little as 1 hour, up to cases of even 14 days, disappearing spontaneously in most cases.
Cacogeusia is not the only alteration of the sense of taste that we may suffer. There are others, such as dysgeusia, which consists of perceiving a different taste to that which the stimulus should provide, without it necessarily being unpleasant.
We would also find hypogeusia, which refers to the decrease in the ability to perceive flavors, or ageusia, which would be the complete loss of this ability, so that in this case the person would have no sense of taste.
Both for cacogeusia and for the rest of these taste dysfunctions there can be a series of very varied causes. Let us discover some of the most frequent ones.
1. Food intake
One of the ways in which cacogeusia can be generated would be through the ingestion of certain foods certain foods that would particularly affect the patient due to the characteristics of his or her organism.. For example, people suffering from neoplasia could be more predisposed to suffer a change in the sense of taste through salty or bitter foods.
Other studies suggest that elderly people may also see their perception of flavors altered by consuming very hot foods containing fat, or even by the fact that they have been stored in airtight containers.
2. Consumption of toxic substances
Other substances that could modify our capacity to detect the flavors would be different toxic elements, such as alcohol, tobacco and chemical drugs.. All these substances could affect the way in which our brain analyzes the information coming from the taste buds, giving rise to biased interpretations of the flavors captured.
3. Neurological damage
Cacogeusia can also be acquired through a neurological lesion, which could have a very diverse origin, from a brain tumor, an infection affecting the tissues of the nervous system, or a stroke, such as a stroke, to a degenerative disease that is destroying neural networks involved in the detection or processing of taste sensations.
4. Hormonal changes
Hormones have very powerful effects on our organism.Some processes, such as pregnancy or certain diseases such as hypothyroidism or diabetes, can trigger endocrinological instability that affects multiple aspects of our metabolism, some of which could affect taste and thus cause a dysfunction such as cacogeusia.
Another way in which an individual's organism can suffer an alteration that disrupts the way it analyzes the taste of food could be through bacterial infection, for example, that caused by Helicobacter pylori. Helicobacter pylori.
Such an infection could affect some of the points involved in the sense of taste, from the reception of the data to its analysis, making the perception different from what it should be under normal conditions.
6. Psychological disorders
Cacogeusia does not necessarily have to be caused by a physical factor, but can also be caused by a psychological ailment.. This is the case of common disorders such as anxiety or depression, which could generate, in certain cases, alterations in taste perception.
7. Oral disorders
As it is logical, since the mouth is the entrance way of food and where the tongue with its taste buds, the taste receptors, is located, it is logical to consider that an affection in all this area could also generate problems to taste correctly the swallowed elements.
These causes can be very diverse, from a burn or trauma to the mouth and/or tongue, the fact of wearing dentures, inflammatory processes caused by an infection, such as glossitis, glossitis, or a severe infection of the tongue, to the fact of wearing dentures.such as glossitis, or some medical treatments involving radiotherapy or nuclear medicine.
Some autoimmune diseases, such as Sjögren's syndrome, in which saliva is no longer secreted (among other symptoms), can also be a cause of the appearance of cacogeusia or another taste disorder.
8. Nutritional deficits
It is also possible to get taste disorders due to deficiencies of certain nutrients or diseases that cause this effect. For example, diseases affecting the liver or kidneys could lead to difficulty in the detection of flavors..
Similarly, a lack of zinc or certain vitamins, essential for the proper functioning of the body, could also lead to one of these taste deficiencies, such as cacogeusia.
9. Use of drugs
And finally, in the list of possible causes for the generation of taste anomalies, we would find the use of certain pharmacological compounds, of a very diverse nature. In this sense, for example, drugs against depression, Muscle relaxants, those with a diuretic effect or calcium channel blockers, could affect the sense of taste..
Also included in this list are drugs whose effect is to inhibit the enzyme that converts angiotensin, drugs against alcoholism, such as disulfiram, antidiabetic drugs such as metformin, compounds to treat allergies, such as loratadine, or those designed to eliminate parasites, such as metronidazole.
Pine Mouth Syndrome
Within the casuistry of cacogeusia, the most popular case is that of the so-called pine mouth syndrome.. In this case, the alteration of the sense of taste would be caused by a very specific food: pine nuts. Hence the nomenclature of this pathology. Some subjects have developed it when eating dishes that include pine nuts among their ingredients, such as, for example, pesto sauce.
People affected by pine nut syndrome report that, after eating pine nuts, usually the next day or two days after ingestion, they begin to perceive a constant bitterness in the mouth and a metallic taste. When eating other foods, this sensation is accentuated, with the consequent displeasure of the person who suffers from it.
For this reason, it is not it is not rare that one of the associated effects is that the sensation of appetite decreases, since any food becomes repulsive.The feeling of a bad taste is automatically repulsive, no matter how good the food is, objectively speaking.
The syndrome of the mouth of pine is a cacogeusia of uncertain origin. That is to say, it is known to be caused by the consumption of pine nuts in certain people and circumstances, but it does not behave like other types of food allergies, since its effects are different and very specific, affecting only the perception of taste.
The good part is that the effects remit spontaneously, and may last from a few days to a maximum of two weeks depending on the documented cases.The good part is that the effects subside spontaneously and can last from a few days to a maximum of two weeks depending on the cases that have been documented. Pine mouth syndrome can develop as early as three years of age, and it can also disappear at any time of life and not recur.
After a general overview of the characteristics of cacogeusia and the wide variety of possible causes of this condition, we have learned about a specific case of this pathology, the so-called pine mouth syndrome, whose characteristics are even more peculiar, if possible. What is clear is that this is a disorder about which there is still much research to be done to know it in depth.
- Munk, M.D. (2010). "Pine Mouth" Syndrome: Cacogeusia Following Ingestion of Pine Nuts (Genus: Pinus). An Emerging Problem? Journal of Medical Toxicology. Springer.
- Hampton, R.L., Scully, C., Gandhi, S., Raber-Durlacher, J. (2013). Cacogeusia following pine nut ingestion: a six patient case series. British Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery. Elsevier.
- Hart, H.H. (1938). Bad taste (cacogeusia). Archives of Neurology & Psychiatry.
(Updated at Mar 28 / 2023)