Dysgeusia During Pregnancy: When Everything Tastes Bad

Some people find that everything they eat tastes bad when they're pregnant. This is called dysgeusia. Learn more about why dysgeusia occurs and how to cope.

Young pregnant woman covering her mouth while food in the kitchen is making her sick.

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Do you find yourself feeling disgusted by foods you used to love? Pregnancy is full of unexpected symptoms, and extreme food aversions, also known as dysgeusia, might be one of them.

Dysgeusia during pregnancy is caused by soaring hormones and is generally not harmful. However, food aversions might be so extreme that pregnant people don't eat enough, or they find their quality of life becomes impacted. Ahead, we'll take a deeper look at why everything tastes bad for some people during pregnancy, when to contact a health care professional, and how to cope.

What Is Dysgeusia?

Dysgeusia is essentially a distorted sense of taste. Generally, those who experience dysgeusia experience a similar flavor when eating all types of food; for example, everything might seem bitter or sour. Dysgeusia can present as a broad aversion to all food and liquid, or it can be associated with certain scents, tastes, textures, or flavors.

Many people will experience dysgeusia during the first trimester of pregnancy, along with nausea and vomiting, also known as morning sickness. In a 2002 study, 92% of pregnant people reported some type of change in taste during pregnancy, with the majority reporting a noticeable sour taste.

What Is Dysguesia?

Dysguesia is a distorted sense of taste that many people experience during early pregnancy. It can create aversions to foods and drinks, and it might cause things to taste sour or bitter. Dysguesia is a common pregnancy side effect and generally not cause for alarm.

"It's common that during pregnancy, certain liquids, food, or odors that previously were enjoyable or tolerable now seem noxious and can range from a distaste to causing nausea and vomiting," says Alex Juusela, M.D., a board-certified OB-GYN practicing in New Jersey. "I have had patients who were very concerned as they no longer enjoyed their favorite meal, and even the opposite: patients who suddenly craved a previously disliked food or drink, or an odd combination of food."

What Causes Dysgeusia?

Dysgeusia has a variety of causes, but if you are experiencing it while pregnant, hormones are most likely to blame. Rapidly rising levels of estrogen and progesterone can affect your sense of taste. These hormones can also make your saliva more acidic, which alters the flavor of food.

However, you can also experience dysgeusia during pregnancy that occurs due to a different underlying cause. "Dysgeusia can be caused by factors such as illness, medication side effects, damage to the gustatory nerves, hormonal imbalances, or the use of certain drugs," says Nisarg Patel, M.B.B.S., M.S., a board-certified OB-GYN. "It can also be caused by zinc deficiency, vitamin deficiencies, or environmental toxins."

How Is Dysgeusia Diagnosed?

Your health care provider may diagnose you with dysgeusia after hearing you describe your symptoms. A new onset of dygeusia in the first trimester is most likely due to normal pregnancy changes. However, there are non-pregnancy causes of dysgeusia that are still important to rule out. "I check for conditions like hyperemesis gravidarum, gastric reflux, xerostomia, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, metabolic disorders, inflammation, infection, nerve damage, and dental issues," says Dr. Juusela.

How to Cope With Dysgeusia

You can push through dysgeusia, but you don't have to. "Dysgeusia can have an impact on one's quality of life due to its effects on food enjoyment and the ability to adequately nourish oneself," says Dr. Patel.

There are a few things you can do to lessen your discomfort if you are struggling with pregnancy-related dygeusia. Read about them below.

Avoid Trigger Foods

If there are certain flavors or foods that taste really awful, consider avoiding them for a while. It's likely that they will continue to gross you out for a couple more months. When in doubt, steer clear of strong flavors and spicy or acidic foods.

Choose Mild Foods

For some people, plainer-tasting foods are easier to tolerate. Go for plain bread, quesadillas, rice, potatoes, or unflavored Greek yogurt. If your dysgeusia is the variety that leaves a bad taste in your mouth all the time, these foods might actually take it away for a bit.

Eat Your Food Cold

If you're bothered by a metallic taste, eating cold foods may reduce this sensation. It could be that the cold food numbs your taste buds a bit, or it might stimulate saliva production. Saliva has enzymes that break down tiny particles of food, which could help clear the bad taste from your mouth.

Stay Hydrated

Drinking enough fluids can help reduce the symptoms of dysgeusia. Generally, staying hydrated keeps the inside of your mouth moist, which can decrease the intensity of your food aversions, and is a generally healthy move all around.

When to Contact a Health Care Provider

Changes in your sense of taste are common and generally nothing to worry about during the first trimester of pregnancy. However, there are some instances where you should reach out to an OB-GYN or health care provider.

Contact a provider if your symptoms are extreme or if they last past the first 12 to 14 weeks of pregnancy. You should also reach out if your food aversions are preventing you from getting adequate nutrition, if you are losing weight, or if you are experiencing persistent vomiting.

In most cases, dysguesia is nothing to worry about and will clear up on its own as your pregnancy progresses. If you find yourself with lingering concerns or questions, be sure to bring it up at your next pregnancy checkup.

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  1. Kuga M, Ikeda M, Suzuki K, Takeuchi S. Changes in gustatory sense during pregnancyActa Oto-Laryngologica. 2002;122(4):146-153. DOI: 10.1080/00016480260046544

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