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Why Everything Can Taste Salty

by Donna Schwontkowski
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Food photo created by 8photo – freepik.com

Have you found a recurring salty taste in your mouth? Wondering why everything can taste salty?

No, that metallic or salty taste in your mouth isn’t because you’re eating salty foods or chewing on your husband’s work tools. There are other reasons that you should know.

All foods can taste salty when you have blood in your mouth, acid reflux, dehydration, various medical conditions, vitamin deficiencies, certain medication, or head trauma.

Any taste that you sense in your mouth is always related to your taste buds. When you eat something sweet, the sweet taste buds are stimulated and let you bask in the sweetness that seems to melt in your innermost being. When you eat something sour, the taste buds that sense sour are activated and cause you to pucker your mouth.

When you eat something salty, your salt taste buds are on high alert. Foods that are salty also are linked to causing cravings for more salty foods to the point of addiction, Australian scientists reported in 2016.

But if you aren’t eating a lot of salty foods and haven’t changed a whole lot in your life, why should something that isn’t salty still leave a salty taste in your mouth?

Actually, the same could be said for a metal taste in the mouth. Why should you suddenly experience a metallic taste in your mouth? Let’s address both of these in this article.

Beyond Taste Buds

The taste in your mouth should always be neutral unless you are eating. But let’s think this one through together and figure why everything might have a hint of salt to it.

There are four areas to consider:

  1. What’s happening inside the mouth?
  2. What’s happening inside the body?
  3. What’s going on throughout the whole body?
  4. Are there outside forces that could be the culprits?

What’s Happening Inside the Mouth

salty popcorn
Popcorn is known to be salty, but if you don’t add salt to it – and it still tastes salty – there might be a problem.

The cells and tissues inside your mouth could contribute to a salty taste from a few different causes. One of them is that your gums have been bleeding. Blood tastes salty. So if you have periodontal disease, scheduling gum treatments to do some deep cleansing is necessary, and then creating a good gum maintenance program afterwards is critical so the condition doesn’t return.

A mouth infection can also be the cause of a salty or a metallic taste in the mouth. You might have an infection in the roof of your mouth, in your throat and on your tongue, or on the sides of your mouth. Another cause could be post-nasal drip, which drips into your mouth, leaving you with that salty taste.

Infections indicate that you will need to step up your attempts to boost your immune system. And of course, a trip to the doctor could provide you with an antibiotic that clears up the infection in a matter of days.

What’s Happening Inside the Body

If you aren’t digesting your food properly and have been suffering from acid reflux, this is a reason for a salty taste in your mouth.

Another reason is that you may have some sort of heavy metal accumulation in your body which lends itself to causing taste disturbances such as lack of taste, salty taste and metallic tastes. Having mercury fillings leak into your mouth tissues will cause taste disturbances but more importantly, it also causes other serious problems in the rest of your body.

You can find out about this by having an alternative health practitioner specializing in nutrition run a hair analysis test on you. Once he or she finds a problem with a heavy metal, you will be put on a protocol that will pull these metals out of your body. Your dentist should also be able to test for leaking mercury fillings as well with a mercury vapor test. This is simply a probe placed in the mouth that registers mercury vapors.  If a filling is leaking, the filling will have to be removed.

What’s Going On Throughout the Whole Body

Salt contains sodium, one of the major electrolytes in the body. Other electrolytes are potassium, calcium, phosphate, bicarbonate, and chloride. But did you know that there are actually other electrolytes in living systems such as copper, zinc, molybdenum, manganese, iron, magnesium, and chromium?  

The major electrolytes have to maintain a certain balance in the body for you to continue living a normal life and not have to make a trip to the emergency room. Thus, a salty taste in the mouth could be from electrolyte imbalances such as low potassium, which puts sodium at a higher concentration.

Dehydration concentrates the salt in your saliva and gives you the impression that you are tasting salt even though it’s not physically present in your mouth. There are ways to alleviate dehydration in older adults. Explore them.

Sjorgren’s syndrome is an autoimmune disorder that mainly affects women. It causes a salty taste in the mouth. If you have this disorder, you need proper medical care over a long period of time.

Nutritional deficiencies are another cause of taste disturbances. Zinc has a direct role in how you taste food and stimulates food intake via neuropeptides in the hypothalamus. Zinc deficiency leads to taste disorders, usually decreased ability to taste but it also may cause other abnormal tastes in the mouth.

Vitamin A deficiency also is connected with a zinc deficiency. Zinc is required for over 300 enzymes in the body. One of those enzymes converts vitamin A forms into more active forms. Zinc activates vitamin A to get out of storage. So if there are low levels of zinc, there are also low levels of vitamin A, and taste aberrations occur.

Outside Forces

One outside force that can change the way you taste things is head trauma.

The next category to consider is what could you be taking that have the potential to alter your taste buds. The answer is medications.

More than 250 medications affect taste, smell, or salivation – and this ends up causing a patient to alter how and what they eat or drink. This can end up causing incontinence or worsening high blood pressure. This further causes other diseases that then ruin someone’s quality of life. Weight loss, mood changes, and functional decline are almost a given from these medications.

The Senior Who Taught Her Doctors

One example of this is an 85-year-old woman who had glaucoma and had fallen down steps in her home. She broke her neck, wrists, and had brain hemorrhages. The doctors found she was on Cosopt eye drops nightly. These gave her distorted taste perception in her mouth and to deal with the taste, she began drinking 2 glasses of water nightly. On the night of her fall, she had gotten up to urinate and by mistake, walked into the stairwell.

Medications That Cause Taste Aberrations

Here’s a list of the different types of medications that affect taste or smell: (Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2980431/)

Antibiotics – Ampicillin, macrolides, quinolones, sulfamethoxazole, trimethoprim, tetracycline, and metronidazole

Neurologic medications – Antiparkinsonians, CNS stimulants, migraine medications, muscle relaxants

Heart medications – Many antihypertensives, diuretics, statins, anti-arrhythmics. ACE inhibitors such as lisinopril and Captopril.

Endocrine medications – Most thyroid medications

Pyschotropics – Most tricyclic antidepressants, some antipsychotics, anxiolytics, mood stabilizers, hypnotics

Other – antihistamines, antineoplastics, bronchodilators, anti-inflammatories, smoking cessation aids, antifungals, antivirals

There’s more to this picture. Here’s a table on how often these taste and smell abnormalities happen with some of the commonly prescribed medications:

MedicationIncidence
Acetzaolamide12-100
Maribavir83
Cisplatin77
Eszopiclone16-32
Topiramate8
Captopril2-7
Lithium5
Procainamide3-4
Terbenafine3
Medications that can cause abnormal tastes.

From this table you can see that these problems occur commonly. The woman that fell down the stairs was taking the glaucoma drug, which was similar to acetazolamide.

Some medications induce a zinc deficiency so this is a real possibility to check out.  Some of them include the following:

penicillamine

cephalexin (Keplex)

• antiretroviral drugs such as atazanavir (Reyataz) and ritonavir (Norvir)

• tetracycline

quinolone antibiotics

• anticonvulsant drugs (especially sodium valproate)

• prolonged use of diuretics

Why Everything Can Taste Salty Summary

Once you and your health care team determine what is really causing your salty taste in your mouth, you can move on to the next phase: determining what to do. Whether your solution is getting treated for a head trauma or for heavy metal poisoning or nutritional deficiencies or changing medications, you have a bright future. You don’t have to put up with a salty taste in your mouth.

References

Douglass, Rebecca, M.D., CCFP. Drug-related taste disturbance. A contributing factor in geriatric syndromes. Can Fam Physician 2010 Nov;56(11): 1142-1147. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2980431/

Smith, C., et al. Endogenous central amygdala mu-opioid receptor signaling promotes sodium appetite in mice. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the U.S.A. Nov. 29, 2016, Vol. 113(48): pg 13893-13898. https://www.pnas.org/content/113/48/13893.abstract

Why do I have a salty taste in my mouth? June 1, 2019. Harvard Health Publishing. Harvard Medical School. https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/why-do-i-have-a-salty-taste-in-my-mouth

Garrett-Laster, M., et al. Impairment of taste and olfaction in patients with cirrhosis: the role of vitamin A. Hum Nutr Clin Nutr 1984 May;38(3):203-14. https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/why-do-i-have-a-salty-taste-in-my-mouth

Pisano, M. and Hilas, O. Zinc and taste disturbances in older adults: review of the literature. Consult Pharm 2016 May;31(5):267-70. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27178656/

Yagi, T., et al. The role of zinc in the treatment of taste disorders. Recent Pat Food Nutr Agric 2013 Apr;5(1):44-51. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23305423/

Vitamin A. Linus Pauling Institute. Micronutrient Information Center. Oregon State University. https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/vitamins/vitamin-A

2 comments

Judith R Mann October 31, 2021 - 4:25 pm

Hi, I have been with a salty taste in my mouth for over a year. Everything sweet tastes like salt, and it’s heard at times to even enjoy eating. I love to cook…and I can’t taste my food like I used to. I would like some positive feedback. Thank you

Reply
Derrick November 1, 2021 - 7:03 am

Sorry to hear that. If our article didn’t help you it might be worth checking with your doctor.

Reply

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