Once in a while, we all experience that feeling of a bitter and sour taste in the mouth. This can happen because of the food or beverages that we have consumed in the last couple of hours. However, if a sour taste or bitter taste in your mouth is occurring frequently, it should not be ignored, as that’s indicative of a larger health issue.
The human digestive system is a complex one and is easily affected by changes occurring in one or more system, or organ, of the body. This means, there are various reasons for that sour or bitter taste in your mouth. Each one of those reasons has its own method for diagnosing and treating it. These can be divided into four major reasons.
#1 – GERD – Gastro esophageal reflux disease
Food passes from the mouth to a narrow tube called the esophagus and from there to the stomach where the process of digestion begins. There is a small valve at the beginning of the stomach which ensures food does not go back into the esophagus from the stomach. The valve is called lower esophageal sphincter or LES. In people who are suffering from Gastro esophageal reflux disease or GERD, the LES opens abnormally allowing food to enter the esophagus from the stomach.
GERD causes various symptoms such as heartburn, chest pain, sour or bitter taste, bad breath, burning sensation in the throat, difficulty in swallowing, a lump in the throat-like feeling, coughing and hoarse voice. There are various causes for GERD such as heavy eating, acidic food, fatty food, regular consumption of caffeine, alcohol abuse, regular smoking, pregnancy, obesity, etc.
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#2 – Medications
Medications being taken for other ailments can leave residual medicine in the mouth, or affect the taste receptors in the brain or tongue. These can cause the sour taste in the mouth. The Canadian Family Physician, a popular medical journal, had published an article which states that there are over 250 different drugs which can cause sour taste in the mouth. These can be classified as:
- Antibiotics: the most common culprit. Examples include sulfamethoxazole, tetracycline, trimethoprim, ampicillin, metronidazole, etc.
- Drugs that are given as part of Chemotherapy such as etoposide, cyclophosphamide and cisplatin
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- Drugs given for neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, migraine etc, and some muscle relaxants
- Drugs given for cardiovascular conditions such as high BP, irregular heartbeat, diuretics, statins, etc
- Prescription and over-the-counter drugs such as antihistamines, bronchodilators and those for inflammation, smoking de-addiction, fungal and viral infections
- Drugs given for psychological conditions such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, as well as mood stabilizers and hypnotics
#3 – Zinc Deficiency
Zinc is one of those minerals that the body needs in small quantities for good health. These come from the food we consume, such as red meat, shellfish, dairy, nuts, beans, oysters, legumes, and some vegetables.
Zinc deficiency can occur if the person is not getting enough zinc from the diet, the zinc is not being absorbed properly by the intestines, or the person is on medications that interfere with zinc absorption. These include thiazide diuretics, captopril (an ACE inhibitor), and penicillamine. These drugs are used to treat a wide range of ailments such as cancer, diabetes, liver disease, celiac disease, chronic kidney disease, pancreatitis, sickle-cell disease, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
One of the symptoms of zinc deficiency is sour taste in the mouth.
#4 – Other causes
There are innumerable other conditions or causes for sour and bitter taste in the mouth, some of them being:
- Smoking or chewing tobacco can affect the taste buds over time and make the food less tasty
- Some people suffer from decreased saliva production which creates wrong perceptions of taste. Also called Xerostomia or dry mouth syndrome
- Xerostomia can be caused by dehydration, which makes dehydration also a cause for sour taste in the mouth.
- Anxiety and stress as these can trigger the dry mouth syndrome
- Various infections or illnesses cause inflammation which can heighten the sense of sour or bitter taste, or create wrong perceptions of taste
- Fungal infections in the mouth such as Oral candidiasis
- Similarly, not brushing regularly or maintaining poor dental hygiene can create a sour or bitter taste in the mouth
- In women, pregnancy and menopause are known to trigger sour taste in the mouth., due to hormonal changes
- Menopause, which, like pregnancy, may cause sour taste in the mouth. due to changes in hormone levels
- Injuries or surgery of the brain can affect the region that controls the perception of taste and create wrong perceptions of taste
- Neurologic disorders such as dementia, Bell’s palsy, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis as well as tumours in the brain
Also Read: The importance of the Hospital Caregiver in Dementia patients
- Radiation therapy given for treating cancers of the head and neck can damage salivary tissues and cause sour taste in the mouth.
- Lead poisoning which comes from water or air excessively contaminated with lead
- Syndromes that are not fully understood such as pine nut syndrome or burning mouth syndrome
Seek expert help
As you can infer from the above, recurring incidents of sour taste in the mouth is not a simple condition that can be relieved by home remedies or antacids. Consult a gastroenterologist in a reputed hospital for the same. He/she will diagnose the underlying condition carefully and then prescribe the right course of treatment for best results.
Kauvery Hospital is globally known for its multidisciplinary services at all its Centers of Excellence, and for its comprehensive, Avant-Grade technology, especially in diagnostics and remedial care in heart diseases, transplantation, vascular and neurosciences medicine. Located in the heart of Trichy (Tennur, Royal Road and Alexandria Road (Cantonment), Chennai, Karaikudi, Hosur and Salem, the hospital also renders adult and pediatric trauma care.
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