If You Notice This While Eating, It Could Be an Early Sign of Menopause

Menopause changes women’s bodies in many ways, and for every well-known symptom—hot flashes, for example—there’s…

Menopause changes women’s bodies in many ways, and for every well-known symptom—hot flashes, for example—there’s usually another one that’s left out of the conversation completely. Now scientists are shedding light on something you may notice next time you’re enjoying your favorite food. If this happens to you, it could be a clue that your body is beginning to experience some of the hormonal changes associated with menopause, and it’s worth checking in with your doctor about what else you can expect. Read on to find out which menopause symptom may show up at mealtime, and how it could impact your eating habits.

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white woman frowning at a chocolate bar
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Experts say some women’s sense of taste and smell may become altered as they enter menopause in their mid-40s or early 50s. This is because lowered estrogen levels can affect saliva, which can in turn lessen or change our sense of taste, according to the U.K.-based informational site My Menopause Centre.

As estrogen levels decrease, so does the flow from your salivary glands. And since saliva helps break food down into its different chemical components, having less of it in your mouth can render your taste buds unable to detect specific flavors, the site explains.

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woman eating vegetables and frowning at a piece of broccoli
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According to Everyday Health, some women notice a lingering metallic taste in their mouths while eating, as a result of menopause. As the mouth dries out from reduced saliva, bacterial growth can increase in the mouth, sometimes leading to tooth decay or gum disease. As part of this symptom, “some women going through menopause may feel pain or a burning sensation on their tongue, lips, gums, or other spots in the mouth,” reports the site.

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A 2003 study in the British Dental Journal found that many postmenopausal women experience “a decline in palatal perception” which also renders them less able to taste sugar. This may further contribute to the sense that food tastes bitter or metallic.

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That same study, which ran whole-mouth taste tests and spatial taste tests on 20 postmenopausal women, found that seven (or 35 percent) of their subjects experienced altered taste perception after they stopped getting a period. Nine (or 45 percent) of the subjects reported that their dietary habits had changed since menopause.

“This study demonstrates that taste perception of the tongue does not change, but that there is a disorder in palatal perception in postmenopausal women,” the study authors concluded. “Furthermore, there is tendency to preference of sweeter foods during menopause,” they added, noting that this can affect the overall health and dental health of postmenopausal women.

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You can do several things to maintain your regular senses of taste and smell during menopause, say the experts from My Menopause Centre. They recommend seeing your dentist regularly and practicing good dental hygiene, staying hydrated, chewing sugar-free gum to stimulate saliva production, avoiding foods that leave you feeling dehydrated or irritate your mouth, and avoiding alcohol and tobacco use, which can exacerbate this menopause symptom.

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