How Food’s Smell and Taste Change With Age

How Smell and Taste Changes Over with Age

A true fact – we are born with 9,000 taste buds, which brings satisfaction and enjoyment to all, from sweet to salty, and from spicy to mild. Even we rely on taste for nutrition, energy, hydration, and even celebration.

However, what could be more than if you no longer taste your favorite food? How would you feel if that double scoop of chocolate fudge ice cream is devoiding to give proper flavor? Sometimes, people are not able to taste food due to a heavy cold or the flu. You even cannot really smell anything, either.

With age, these senses start changing and you may notice that certain foods are not as delicious as they used to be. The number of taste buds starts decreasing between the ages of 40 and 50 whereas others begin to shrink. After age 60, you might lose the ability to identify the difference between the taste of salty, sweet, sour, and bitter foods. The sense of taste begins to fade away after the age of 70.

This write-up will help in knowing – how the aging process changes the anatomy and physiology of the senses.

Let’s have a look!

What Causes Loss of Smell?

Various reasons become the main causes of loss of smell that lasts for a short time. This temporary loss of smell will happen due to:

  • A cold that makes a stuffy nose. Once you get better, the ability to smell will come back.
  • Allergies could be other reasons for loss of smell and taste. You need to talk to your doctor about how to manage your allergies.
  • A harmless growth in the nose or sinuses, which gives you a runny nose.
  • Some medications like antibiotics or blood pressure medicine will give you a loss of taste.
  • Radiation, chemotherapy, and other cancer treatments. Your sense of smell may return when treatment stops.

Sometimes, seniors suffer from a long-lasting loss of smell. Our taste buds are responsible for bringing the enjoyment of different flavors. When our taste buds confront food and other substances, the taste cells inside send messages to the brain that help us to enjoy the food. However, the changes in the taste buds generally occur due to various factors, from infections to medications, and more.

Even losing your sense of smell and taste could be a sign of various critical disorders, including Parkinson’s disease signs & Symptoms in Seniors, mild cognitive impairment, or Alzheimer’s disease. While examining such issues, you need to consult your doctors.

What Causes Loss of Taste?

There are numerous things responsible for losing a sense of taste. If the salivary glands get damaged or are not able to produce enough saliva, this further affects the taste. However, there are different ways to help with the problem.

  • Medications, like antibiotics and pills to lower cholesterol and blood pressure can change the taste of food. Additionally, medicines for high blood pressure, depression, and bladder-control issues can make your mouth dry. This further causes loss of taste and even makes it difficult to swallow the food.
  • An infection in your mouth, gum disease, and problems with your dentures will also leave a bad taste in your mouth. Hence, it will change the way food tastes.

So, if your seniors or loved ones are experiencing such problems, take consultation from a doctor. Keep brushing your teeth, flossing, and using regular mouthwash will give full prevention from such problems.

Is the Loss of Taste and Smell Normal With Aging?

As discussed above, some people start losing their taste and smell with aging, especially after age 60. There are various factors that lead to loss of taste and smell. These are:

  • Nasal and sinus problems, such as allergies, sinusitis, or nasal polyps
  • Certain medications and antibiotics
  • Head or facial injury or mass
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Dental problems

Loss of taste and smell will make a significant impact on quality of life, which further leads to poor appetite and nutrition. This problem influences you to eat excess salt or sugar in your food to improve the taste. This will create a problem if you are diagnosed with high blood pressure or diabetes.

Another effective solution to deal with taste and smell is to take consultation from a professional doctor. Well, it is not quite possible to reverse age to bring back taste and smell. However, there are some effective options and treatments that can enhance taste and smell. How?

Your hired doctor may help in adjusting your medications if you are contributing to the problem. Some dentists can treat nasal and sinus conditions and other dental problems effectively.

How to Revive Your Taste Buds in Later Life?

In the following section, we explain some effective ways to improve your taste buds with aging. Let’s have a look!

Check the Food Temperature

Well-cooked and hot food tastes better rather than serving a cold one. Therefore, while serving food to your seniors, do not forget to check its temperature. Sometimes, raising the good temperature and lowering it can make it taste even better.

Use More Spices and Herbs

So, what to eat when you lose your sense of taste?

Adding more spices and herbs will improve the flavor of the food, without raising and lowering the senior’s blood pressure. In the market, there are hundreds of different spices and herbs that can be used to improve the taste of food. Add spices and seasonings to food to enhance flavor. So, let your seniors taste Greek and Italian dishes, cilantro for Asian, Latin American, or Mexican meals, and basil for Italian food.

Additionally, winter squash, turnips, potatoes, carrots, cabbage, and beets are excellent for your seniors’ health. Adding dill seeds to fish and rice is also a good choice. You can also consider vinegar, citrus zest, and citrus juice.

Try a New Dish

Trying something new is an excellent way to enjoy the taste of food. A mixture of different and appropriate ingredients makes the food more enticing and assists in improving the senior’s nutrition. Even elders who are selected for particular nutrition should also try something different and new.

Savor the Meal

Generally, seniors get hungry at certain times of the day. So, you need to accommodate them with something nutritious. This will help seniors in getting the proper nutrition that they need with time. However, do not forget to support them in eating slowly and let them enjoy every bit of texture and taste.

Focus on Nutritional Deficiencies

Specific malnutrition deficiencies can change the sense of taste and smell. For instance, zinc is a significant component in maintaining taste and smell. That’s why our caregivers take care of such small things and provide your seniors with foods containing enough zinc. Some zinc is available in chicken, red meat, and fortified breakfast cereals. If you find your elderly have a zinc deficiency, it is time to consult a doctor. Our caregivers will help with scheduling your appointment with doctors.

Proper Meal Planning and Nutritional Guidance

Meal Planning and Nutritional Guidance

Your seniors or the elderly suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are also another reason for losing smell and taste. In fact, other things can create various eating and nutritional difficulties, such as medications and trouble recognizing foods. Switching to different medications can be helpful. Additionally, a licensed dietitian can help with proper meal planning and nutritional guidance.

Take Consultation From Doctor

As we discussed above, seniors start losing their taste for food and smell with age. However, it is not unusual to gradually change some sense of smell and taste as you age. In this situation, you can talk to a doctor about the loss of taste and other symptoms you have. They will provide the right guidance over it.

Some medicines can cause dry mouth, which can change the food’s taste. Even if your seniors have nasal polyps problems, the doctor will prescribe appropriate medicines.

Justin Villa Care is Here to Assist You

The main reason for losing appetite is losing the senses of taste and smell. If your seniors or parents are no longer able to taste the food as it was before, they may not eat as much as they should. With time, they will lose interest in fruits, vegetables, and other foods, which maintain nourishment and good health. 

As we age, saliva production starts diminishing, which might experience us with a dry mouth and have difficulty swallowing. Taking the recommendation from doctors will help in providing the right guidance over-improving taste and smell.  

However, the maintenance of an appropriate diet is not possible without the assistance of in-home care services. These are professionals who help with meal preparation and improve taste and smell according to the doctors’ recommendations. 

If you are looking for in-home caregiving services, Justin Villa Care will assist your seniors whether it is about meal preparation services for seniors or improving their taste and smell of food. Our caregivers prepare foods for your seniors that allow them to age gracefully without losing their taste buds.

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Brenda Villanueva, R.N. is the owner and supervisor of Justin Villa Care, LLC; a licensed in-home care agency that serves seniors in Los Angeles and Orange county. Since 2006, she has helped seniors stay at home through caregiver services, such as, bathing, dressing, meal preparation, transferring, incontinence care, and Alzheimer’s care.

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