Women going through menopause will experience various symptoms. One symptom that isn't widely known is a taste disorder called "dysgeusia" in which the taste is distorted, causing a metallic taste in the mouth. When menopause is the cause of the metallic taste in the mouth, it is likely the result of fluctuating estrogen levels.
The estrogen decline during menopause is most likely the culprit to a metallic taste in your mouth.
The salivary glands respond to hormones, like estrogen, and decrease saliva production when estrogen is low.
Menopausal women are predisposed to developing burning mouth syndrome, which may cause a metallic taste in the mouth.
There may be other causes for a metallic taste, including vitamin deficiencies, poor oral health, and other diseases.
This article discusses the reasons for this unpleasant symptom, such as menopause, poor oral hygiene, medications, and other conditions.
Causes of metallic taste during menopause
Approximately 43% of women going through menopause will experience some degree of oral discomfort. The most common complaint of these oral symptoms is dryness, a burning sensation, a metallic taste, and an altered tolerance to pain.
The flavor of foods and drinks comes from more than just eating and having something touch your taste buds. Taste, smell, and trigeminal sensations determine how we interpret flavor, so if these parts are not functioning correctly, the way we perceive taste will change.
Saliva is an essential part of experiencing flavor. Saliva helps to break down food and send the flavor of foods to the taste buds for processing, and it also protects the membrane that lines the structures of the mouth.
The salivary glands are hormone-dependent, meaning the fewer hormones available, the less saliva is secreted. Much like the tissue of the vagina, there are estrogen receptors in the tissues of the mouth that will respond to this fluctuation in estrogen, leading to dryness.
Burning mouth syndrome
Burning mouth syndrome may be another reason for the metallic taste in the mouth for menopausal women. Those who experience this phenomenon will often describe it as burning or scalding on the tongue, lips, gums, the inside lining of the cheeks, or even the whole mouth, along with the metallic taste.
The exact cause of this syndrome is not fully known; however, perimenopausal and postmenopausal women seem more predisposed to developing it. Certain stressors like family problems, depression, and anxiety worsen this syndrome, while drinking or eating might help alleviate it.
Other potential causes of metallic taste
There could be several reasons for the metallic taste in your mouth, especially since many factors influence how we taste foods and drinks. The flavor of an item involves taste, temperature, smell, and texture. People may experience an altered taste if the olfactory system or trigeminal nerve is damaged. Normal aging could also be the culprit for taste alterations as taste buds begin to change or decrease saliva production.
Taste disorders may involve the following:
- Problem with transportation. The stimulus can't reach the receptor, such as with a problem with the salivary glands.
- Sensory issue. There has been some damage to the sensory organs of the mouth that you might see with burns or trauma.
- Neuronal issue. When there has been damage to the peripheral nerves or the central nervous system, such as from a brain tumor or tongue surgery.
Oral health issues
Postmenopausal women are more prone to oral health issues. About 10% to 40% of menopausal women will experience gum issues. Dental cavities are also more likely to occur in menopausal women. Both problems in the gums and cavities can cause a metallic taste in the mouth.
People with poor oral habits like smoking, chewing tobacco, and drinking alcohol may also be more prone to a metallic taste.
Zinc plays a crucial role in maintaining and repairing taste buds. Zinc helps the body to create a protein called gustin which assists in building taste buds.
A deficiency in these vitamins may also cause a metallic taste:
- Folic acid
- Vitamin B3
- Vitamin B12
Medications leading to a metallic taste
Sometimes it can be the medications taken to control a disease that leads to an unpleasant taste.
These medications may include:
- Anti-infectives. Such as amoxicillin, azithromycin, and ciprofloxacin.
- Anti-inflammatory or analgesics. Aspirin, ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and tramadol might cause a metallic taste.
- Antihistamines and antiallergenic. These could include loratadine, fluticasone, and prednisone.
- Antihypertensives and cardiovascular medications. Such as amlodipine, diltiazem, furosemide, lisinopril, and propranolol.
- Diabetes medications. Including glipizide and metformin.
- Antilipidemics. These medications could be atorvastatin, simvastatin, and pravastatin.
- Medications that impact mental health. The most commonly heard of are sertraline, trazodone, alprazolam, diazepam, and zolpidem.
Stopping the medication can quickly resolve this problem, but you should consult your healthcare provider first.
Systemic conditions or infections
A respiratory tract infection could decrease the ability to smell, which may also alter taste. Some fungal infections, like candidiasis and denture stomatitis, can also cause a metallic taste.
Peripheral or central nervous system disorders
When something has made transmitting the senses challenging to reach the brain, interpreting that stimulus might be difficult. Head trauma, cerebral infarction or hemorrhage, and tumors are some examples. Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's, and Huntington's disease are some neurological conditions that may lead to a misinterpretation of stimulus.
Tips for managing a metallic taste
Understanding the underlying cause for having a metallic taste in your mouth is essential, and your healthcare provider can help to determine the most appropriate diagnosis.
Try these measures in the meantime to rid your mouth of an unpleasant metallic taste:
- Foods to avoid. Decrease the amount of red meats, coffee, and tea you consume because these often have a metallic or bitter taste.
- Increase protein. Try increasing protein and mildly flavored foods, like chicken, fish, dairy, and eggs.
- Gums and candies. Chew on sugar-free gums and sour candies because they can help increase saliva production.
- Use probiotics. Probiotics for menopause will help to restore the beneficial levels of good bacteria in your gut and mouth.
- Saliva substitutes. Try over-the-counter saliva substitutes that contain mucin and carboxy-methylcellulose.
- Tobacco and alcohol. Discontinue the use of tobacco and alcohol.
- Dental hygiene. Practice proper dental hygiene independently, as well as maintain regular follow-ups with your dentist.
- Hydration. Help maintain healthy mouth tissue by staying hydrated to keep the membranes lubricated.
- Avoid mouthwash. Stop the use of mouthwash that contains alcohol and toothpaste that whitens or has sodium lauryl sulfate as these tend to increase mouth dryness.
Is there a reason for concern?
Taste can have a protective component to it. Typically when you taste something spoiled, you will know it right away and be able to get rid of that item. This protective mechanism can prevent you from getting food poisoning or becoming life-threateningly ill.
An unpleasant taste in your mouth, as with a metallic taste, can cause you to misjudge the actual taste of food, causing you to add too much sugar or salt to food, potentially harming your health. Nutrition is also important for overall health; taste distortion may cause you to eat less or more of the wrong things.
A metallic taste in your mouth during menopause can be unpleasant and potentially impact your health. This metallic taste in your mouth during menopause can be multifactoral; however, it is most likely related to the decrease in estrogen.
Consider other underlying conditions causing this abnormal taste and discuss concerns with your healthcare provider. Try to decrease the unpleasantness by chewing gum or sucking on candies. Maintain proper dental hygiene by keeping your mouth lubricated and increasing hydration or using saliva substitutes.
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- World Journal of Otorhinolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery. Influence of medications on taste and smell.