It is truly remarkable how the human palate is constantly changing. It’s interesting how we can get accustomed to different tastes of food, no matter how vile it may seem at first. Our palate changes over time and so does our taste. As we grow older, our tastebuds break down and diminish in number. To add to that, the nerves that are responsible for carrying information about taste to the brain become less sensitive.
There are some tastes that we once enjoyed before and might now make us gag. Why does this happen, and is there anything we can do about it?
How Does Loss of Taste Happen?
There are a lot of reasons why we lose the ability to taste as we age. A common reason is tastebud damage. As we age, the process of rebuilding tastebuds slows down which can result in a dulling of the senses. This is why many seniors notice that the food that they used to enjoy, no longer tastes as good as it used to.
Tastebud damage can also be caused by illnesses and certain medications. Additionally, loss of smell can also cause loss of taste. This is because our sense of smell and our sense of taste is closely linked to each other. This is why when we lose our ability to smell, say for example, while we are experiencing a head cold or the common flu, food can seem tasteless. Lastly, there are certain neurological conditions that can affect our ability to taste.
Is It Normal for Taste Buds to Change as We Age?
As human beings, our bodies are constantly changing. It is normal for our tastebuds to become less sensitive as we get older, which can affect how we perceive certain flavors. This is why some kids who used to be picky eaters, grow up to acquire a better palate for certain foods that they did not find delicious as kids but are enjoying these foods now as adults.
In addition to this, the number of tastebuds that we are born with decreases as we age, and the tastebuds that remain become larger. As a result, older adults require intense flavors in order for them to taste the food. Medication can also be a factor in how they perceive food since some medications can make food taste metallic or bland.
How Does Aging Affect Our Senses?
Our bodies change in many ways as we age. One of the most noticeable changes is in our senses. What we used to see, hear, or taste regularly may be difficult to do as we grow older. This is mainly because the cells in our body break down and can no longer work as well as they used to.
Tastebuds are susceptible cells that are constantly being replenished. However, as we grow older, the tastebuds don’t get replaced as quickly. The same process also happens to our eyes and ears, which is why some older adults have trouble seeing and hearing.
Despite these changes being natural to the aging process, there are many ways to keep our senses sharp. One great way to do so is by eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise can help keep tastebuds functioning properly. Moreover, staying mentally active by reading, playing games, and socializing can help keep our eyes and ears sharp. There are also many assistive devices available that can help compensate for any loss in our sense. This is a great way of keeping track of the quality of our senses and by understanding how aging affects our senses, we can take the necessary steps to keep them in great shape.
When Do Our Taste Buds Begin Changing?
The number of taste buds we have starts to decrease by the age of 40 and 50. This results in a loss of mass which is vital for these tastebuds to work. After the age of 60, the ability to distinguish specific tastes such as sweet, salty, sour, and bitter foods becomes a challenge. It is not until the age of 70 that the sense of smell begins to fade which contributes to the overall gradual loss of taste.
As a result, we may find that foods that once tasted delicious now seem bland and unappetizing. This doesn’t mean that it’s a bad thing, in fact, a lot of people believe that their tastebuds mature as they age, and they’re able to appreciate a plethora of flavor profiles that didn’t suit their palate when they were young.
What are the Different Types of Taste Loss and Their Symptoms?
Although most individuals experience some degree of taste loss as they age, some may develop more severe problems that may severely impact their quality of life. It's critical to recognize the many sorts of taste loss and their symptoms so we can detect early indications that will assist our elderly clients in the long run. The following are examples of some of the most prevalent types:
Age-Related Taste Loss: Also known as presbycusis, age-related taste loss is the most common type of tastebud decline. It usually starts around middle age and progresses slowly over time. Symptoms include a decreased ability to taste sweet, sour, bitter, and salty flavors.
Disease-Related Taste Loss: Many diseases can cause tastebud decline, including cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, and Parkinson's disease. Symptoms will vary depending on the underlying condition but may include a diminished ability to taste sweetness or increased sensitivity to bitter flavors.
Medication-Related Taste Loss: Some medications can interfere with tastebud function, particularly those that are taken for a long period of time. Common offenders include high blood pressure medications, antibiotics, and chemotherapy drugs. Symptoms may include a reduced ability to taste saltiness or sweetness, or a metallic or bitter taste in the mouth.
Caregiver's Role in the Prevention of Taste Changes Related to Aging
So, what is the role of caregivers in preventing taste deterioration that might be harmful to elderly clients? Caregivers may keep track of their nutritional requirements while keeping track of their sugar and salt consumption, as well as preventing high blood pressure and heart problems. This also allows them to include habits that can help prevent any significant flavor shifts related to aging.
Good enough, there are several preventative measures available to keep patients or family members from suffering severe taste loss. Here are some practical suggestions for integrating them into your loved one's lifestyle:
Dental Hygiene - Dental care is frequently neglected, yet it's critical for keeping healthy taste buds. Brushing and flossing on a regular basis can help to prevent gum disease, which may have an impact on the quality of our taste buds.
Use Herbs and Spices - Herbs and spices, unlike salt, do not raise blood pressure. Look into meals that include a variety of spices as an alternative to salty foods. It's also a good idea to investigate low-sodium alternatives like citrus juice or vinegar that offer taste without raising blood pressure and heart problems.
Get Some Exercise - Going out and keeping active while maintaining a healthy diet can overall prevent the loss of taste. Maintaining a healthy physical regimen with a balanced meal improves taste perception in the elderly. It's critical to integrate physical activities into your caregiving routine in conjunction with a fantastic eating plan!
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