Are you experiencing a sense of repulsion towards foods that you once enjoyed? Pregnancy is a time filled with unexpected symptoms and one possible symptom is extreme food aversions, also known as dysgeusia.Dysgeusia during pregnancy is typically caused by hormones and is not harmful. However, some pregnant individuals may experience such strong aversions to certain foods that they don’t consume enough or see a decline in their quality of life. In the following paragraphs, we will delve deeper into why some people experience a loss of taste during pregnancy, when it is necessary to contact a healthcare provider, and ways to manage the symptoms.
What Is Dysgeusia?
Dysgeusia refers to a distorted perception of taste. Typically, individuals suffering from dysgeusia will experience the same taste sensation irrespective of what they consume, such as a sour or bitter taste. Dysgeusia can manifest as a general aversion to food and beverages or might be linked to specific flavors, textures, or aromas.During the first trimester of pregnancy, many women may experience dysgeusia along with nausea and vomiting, commonly referred to as morning sickness. A 2002 study revealed that around 92% of pregnant women reported changes in their taste perception during pregnancy, with the majority noting a strong sour taste.
According to Dr. Alex Juusela, an OB-GYN in New Jersey, it is common for pregnant women to find certain liquids, foods, or odors that they previously enjoyed or tolerated to be noxious. This can range from a simple distaste to causing nausea and vomiting. Dr. Juusela has had patients who were concerned because they no longer enjoyed their favorite meal, and others who suddenly craved a food or drink they previously disliked or an odd combination of foods.
What Causes Dysgeusia?
If you are pregnant and experiencing dysgeusia, hormones are likely the cause. The rapid increase of estrogen and progesterone levels can affect your sense of taste and make your saliva more acidic, altering the flavor of food. However, dysgeusia during pregnancy can also stem from other underlying causes. According to Nisarg Patel, a certified OB-GYN, factors such as illness, medication side effects, damage to gustatory nerves, hormonal imbalances or certain drugs can also cause dysgeusia. Additionally, zinc deficiency, vitamin deficiencies, or exposure to environmental toxins can also be a cause.
How Is Dysgeusia Diagnosed?
When you report your symptoms, your healthcare provider might diagnose you with dysgeusia. If you experience dysgeusia during the initial trimester of pregnancy, it’s more likely attributable to the regular changes of pregnancy. Nevertheless, it’s crucial to eliminate non-pregnancy causes of dysgeusia. Dr. Juusela explains that she examines for conditions such as hyperemesis gravidarum, gastric reflux, xerostomia, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, metabolic disorders, inflammation, infection, nerve damage, and dental issues.
How to Cope With Dysgeusia
According to Dr. Patel, dysgeusia can affect an individual’s quality of life by impacting food enjoyment and their ability to properly nourish themselves. However, there are measures that can be taken to alleviate the discomfort associated with pregnancy-related dysgeusia. These strategies are detailed below.
Avoid Trigger Foods
If there are particular tastes or types of food that are extremely unpleasant for you, it may be a good idea to refrain from consuming them for a period of time. It is probable that these tastes will remain unappealing to you for the next few months. If you are unsure, it is best to avoid consuming strong flavors, as well as foods that are spicy or acidic.
Choose Mild Foods
For individuals who have difficulty tolerating strongly-flavored foods, choosing plainer options may be more advisable. Opting for simple food items such as plain bread, quesadillas, rice, potatoes, or unseasoned Greek yogurt may be helpful for those experiencing dysgeusia that causes a constant unpleasant taste in their mouth. These plain foods could potentially provide relief from the unpleasant taste sensation for a short period of time.
Eat Your Food Cold
If you’re bothered by a metallic taste, eating cold foods may reduce this sensation. It could be that the cold food numbs your taste buds a bit, or it might stimulate saliva production. Saliva has enzymes that break down tiny particles of food, which could help clear the bad taste from your mouth.
Drinking enough fluids can help reduce the symptoms of dysgeusia. Generally, staying hydrated keeps the inside of your mouth moist, which can decrease the intensity of your food aversions, and is a generally healthy move all around.
When to Contact a Health Care Provider
It is normal to experience alterations in your taste buds during the initial trimester of pregnancy, and there is usually no cause for concern. Nevertheless, there may be certain situations where it is necessary to consult an OB-GYN or a healthcare professional.If your symptoms are severe or persist beyond the first 12 to 14 weeks of pregnancy, it is recommended that you seek medical attention. Additionally, if your aversions to food are preventing you from consuming enough nutrients, if you are losing weight, or if you are undergoing continuous vomiting, you should contact your healthcare provider.
Usually, dysgeusia is not a serious concern during pregnancy and tends to resolve on its own as the pregnancy advances. However, if you have any persisting worries or inquiries, it is advisable to discuss them with your healthcare provider during your next pregnancy appointment.