We experience changes every now and then. When we have colds, things just don’t taste right. Medical conditions that affect the brain, face, nose, mouth, and nerves located in between the mouth to the brain can also alter one’s taste. The same is true when you have a deficiency in some vitamins and minerals or when you are taking certain medications. Smoking can also alter your taste.
Aging is also a factor that can change our taste. But unlike the factors above, the effects of aging on our taste are permanent that older adults may have to live with. But what really causes the change in taste when one ages?
Here’s how the sense of taste is changed by the following phenomena that happen with old age:
Diminishing Taste Buds
Our taste buds are located in our tongue which allows us to experience different tastes such as sweet, salty, bitter, sour, and umami. A person has an average of around 10,000 taste buds. Every two weeks, these taste buds may die off but would regrow replacements.
Older adults may have a lower number of taste buds, which may be even lesser than 5,000 taste buds. This affects a senior’s taste of food. The decreased number of taste buds as we age is brought about by the inability of some taste buds to regrow. This means that food that may have been too salty for an individual may now be tolerable to eat, now that he is an older adult.
It’s true. Food may really taste bland for a senior citizen, more especially if he has lost more of his taste buds.
Decrease in Olfaction
Taste and olfaction come hand in hand. It may truly be hard for you to taste the food you are eating when your sense of smell has gone bad. Take for example when you have a runny nose. Food that may be served to you may all taste bland. This is because you lost your sense of olfaction because of your runny nose.
In old age, olfaction naturally decreases. Among all other senses, the sense of smell can be the first to diminish. This means that all foods may come as bland to a senior. To remedy this, giving a senior more savory food or those that have stronger taste can be an option.
As people age, target tissues may become less responsive to their controlling hormones. Hormones themselves can also change. Some may increase or stay unchanged. In contrast, others decrease. In this case, hormonal changes can be the culprit of a senior’s loss of taste.
This can be best compared to pregnant women. During pregnancy, a woman may undergo lots of hormonal changes that may lead to some obvious changes. One of these changes is the decreased ability to taste salty foods.
Effect of Stress
There may be many reasons older adults are predisposed to stress. Health conditions that may manifest with pain and limitations to activities of daily living can lead to stress. They can also undergo problems with their finances and relationships. All these can stress out a senior.
Indeed, stress should be avoided or should be managed efficiently as it can affect our bodily function. Our sense of taste and olfaction are not spared from the effects of stress. If you notice, your taste preferences and cravings may not be the same when you are stressed. You may not even want to touch your food because all that you may take inside your mouth just taste bland. By all means, seniors should not be exposed to stressful instances as much as possible because this can be the reason their food intake is getting smaller by the day.
Prolonged Consumption of the Same Food
Who would not get tired of the same food served at the dining table almost all the time? Seniors also do. If you have no time to change your usual breakfast of bread, egg, and hotdog, there may come a time that eating it may just be like a compulsory thing to do without even enjoying the taste. An older adult may even find plain boiled vegetables tastier. This may be because the taste buds may have been so accustomed to the taste of the food that you usually eat.
While the loss of taste buds among older adults may be irreversible, you may have to look for food that is more savory and tastier. If your senior has lost his taste for salty foods, it may not mean to give a spoonful of salt during dinner. Discover other ways that will let your senior enjoy food once again.