Research has shown that Sjögren’s patients have an increased incidence of taste disorders – both diminished taste (hypogeusia), loss of taste (ageusia), and altered or abnormal taste (dysgeusia). A great deal of the problem comes from a deficiency of saliva. Flavors in food need to be in solution to be fully tasted; that is one of the important functions of saliva. Saliva also helps protect the mucosa and oral structures, including the taste buds. Finally, saliva helps carry food and flavors across the tongue and the taste buds where it can be tasted. Without adequate saliva, there are many ways that taste can suffer.
A full evaluation is recommended since it has been reported that taste also may be affected by medications and by a number of medical conditions. Clinical examination and diagnostic procedures may identify other potential causes for taste complaints such as nasal polyps, viral infection, oral candidiasis, neoplasia, malnutrition, metabolic disturbances, or chemical and physical trauma. Also, complaints of taste loss need to be differentiated from alterations in flavor perception, which is primarily related to your sense of smell.
There is no specific treatment for the taste disorders found in Sjögren’s. However, using liquids to wet the food in your mouth may help increase the taste. You can also try increasing the seasoning on foods and see if it improves the taste. However, be careful not to use excessive amounts of sugar or salt, which can have negative health consequences. Since a reduction in salivary flow may concentrate electrolytes in the saliva, resulting in a salty or metallic taste, drinking plenty of fluids while eating may help reduce dysgeusia.
Although it is controversial, some authors recommend zinc supplements in cases of taste problems. Using an over-the-counter preparation like Z-BEC, one tablet per day, will assure that you are receiving adequate amounts of zinc.