Taste and smell changes in perimenopause and menopause

Eileen Durward
Ask Eileen

09 October 2023

Taste changes

Saliva helps to stimulate all the different taste buds on your tongue and it also helps to break your food down into very small, individual compounds so that you can get the whole range of taste from that food.

If you think about it, if you eat something really quickly, I can bet you probably don't taste half of whatever it is that you're eating. The more you chew, the more taste and the more range of tastes you're going to get from whatever you're eating. In perimenopause and menopause, the problem is that your mouth can get drier, and you can end up producing less saliva, which can have a direct effect on how you taste your food.

Taste is also connected to your sense of smell. Think about when you have a really bad cold and your nose is bunged up: often you can't taste your food at all. So, if the mucous membranes in your nose are starting to dry too, then you get a double whammy of not being able to smell as well and also not being able to taste to the same extent.

What's really interesting is that there was a study done by the Pink Lady apple brand with over 2000 women over the age of 45. Of these women, 46% of them said that their smell had changed and 42% of them said their taste had changed. (1) So, you can see they're very, very much connected. And if you lose one or one decreases, then that's going to have a direct effect on the other one too.

And what happens, especially with taste, if you're not tasting things well, if your food's bland, you are going to make it much stronger. You're going to put more salt on it. You're going to put much more sugar on it. So, you're actually creating situations that may not be beneficial for your health as well.

What can happen sometimes too, is that you can get a metallic taste in the mouth. Very often, this is due to low zinc levels.

There’s also dehydration. If you're getting hot flushes and sweats, and you're dehydrated and not drinking enough water, then you're possibly going to be producing less saliva as well. There’s also just ageing in general, as ageing can have a detrimental effect on our taste and smell.

What can help?

It’s important to make sure that you don't have a blocked saliva duct. So, it’s a good idea to get a check with your dentist.

You can take Sea Buckthorn oil, which is great for a dry mouth, and make sure you drink plenty of water.

When food tastes bland or not so nice, very often that affects our appetite and may also affect our intake of nutrition – and we need lots of good nutritional input at this particular time. So, give your food more texture, give it more colour, just to make it more appealing to your eyes, and that can often help.

Also, chew your food really well. Remember, you need saliva to break your food down, so if you're gulping your food, if you're eating on the run, then you are not going to taste the food. And the more you break your food down in the mouth, the tastier it's going to get.

If you eat really well and chew really well, that can also help reduce any stomach issues like gastric reflux, so this is a really important thing to do.

Smell changes

With smell, you might find that you can't smell as much as you did before, or you might find that your sense of smell is more heightened.

This heightened sense of smell can be really uncomfortable, especially if you're in a place, maybe a shop where they're selling perfume, and all that kind of smell can just assault your nose. A lot of women also tell me that they think their body odour changes and that they're really smelly. Very often, it's just your sense of smell - you're not any smellier than you were before.

The other thing that can happen that you really need to watch out for is phantom smells. That would be where you're smelling things like smoke or tobacco and there's nobody smoking. That can indicate other health issues, so if you smell those types of smells, it's always a good idea to get that double-checked with your doctor.

Smells can also trigger memories. If you have a lovely perfume that you like to wear - maybe it was a gift from someone and when you wear it, it reminds you of them - or the smell of certain foods reminds you of glorious holidays in the sun, or maybe lovely times with family. So, when you lose your sense of smell, you're actually decreasing the revival of these lovely memories that made you really happy here, which can be upsetting.

It can also be dehydration. Again, if you think you're smelling a little bit more or maybe your sweating is getting a bit out of hand, then very often that can be due to your hot flushes and your night sweats. That's going to make you more dehydrated. So again, it’s really important to drink plenty of water. We don't often associate dehydration with smell, so it's one to remember.

It can also be allergies. If the mucous membranes in the nose start to dry out, then you are more likely to react to things like pollen, dust, fumes, and pollution as well. And again, age is going to have an effect on our sense of smell too.

What can help?

So, for the lack of smell, you could try a zinc supplement. Again, Sea Buckthorn oil could be helpful. For runny, itchy and blocked noses caused by allergies you can look at our Pollinosan Allergy Nasal Spray or for the relief of nasal congestion and catarrh you could try our Sinuforce Nasal Spray.

Also, limit dairy, because dairy can clog things up and create a lot of mucus. So, if you find that you're getting something like postnasal drip, then maybe just decrease your intake of dairy.

A little recap and extra things that can help

So, just to recap with this one: in general, loads of water, Sea Buckthorn oil, avoid really hot, spicy foods, salty foods, and also alcohol and caffeine, because these can interfere with your taste buds as well.

For the chewing, if you find your saliva is decreasing, one of the things that’s recommended is to chew gum. But please make sure that it's a natural one; that it's not full of artificial flavours, sweeteners, or colour.

I hope you found this one helpful. It seems to be getting more common. I'm getting lots more of you contacting me with symptoms such as these.

So, if you've had any instances with strange smells, or strange tastes, what you've done to help yourself? Please share, you know I love to read and listen to all your stories.

Until next time, take care.

You may also find these topics helpful:

How menopause affects your 5 senses

Mouth symptoms of perimenopause and menopause

Sense of smell & body odour changes during menopause

Can menopause cause a strange taste in the mouth?

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