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 Ask Dr Moore - Pregnancy and Altered Taste

ASK DR.MOORE June 18, 2004

Dr. Mark Moore, author of the gender selection book Baby Girl or Baby Boy--Choose the Sex of Your Child, answers readers' questions on pregnancy and pediatrics.

Pregnancy and Altered Taste

Q: I'm 2 months pregnant. Why do many of my favorite foods taste funny?

Dr.Moore:  Pregnancy causes changes in almost every system in the body. Increased water retention dilutes the blood volume and causes edema of the cells. This, plus increased levels of estrogens and progesterones are thought to play a role in these changes, even in structures like the tastebuds–the small but complex sensory organs of taste. The medical term: "dysguesia" meaning an altered sense of taste, accounts for this difference in perception.

Everyone will have their own preferences, but a heightened sense of bitter-taste early in pregnancy is often seen. Diet-soda, artificial sweeteners, even water can leave an aftertaste. Much of our food is processed with ingredients that beforehand would have gone unnoticed.

Dysguesia is not to be confused with cravings that occur in pregnancy, commonly to foods like ice-cream, pickles or chocolate, or aversions which are new repulsions to previously liked foods. Sometimes a pregnant woman may sense a funny taste in their mouth even when not eating. Again different presentations with a related root cause–elevated hormone levels and/or increased body edema and water retention. Some researchers feel a concomitant increase in the sense of smell may play a role. Others state that there is an evolutionary protection built into these changes: that is, they help a pregnant mother balance and replace needed nutrients in the body, such as sodium and calcium.

Suggestions for dealing with these changes include: alter your diet to accommodate these new likes and dislikes, start you meal with dry crackers to attenuate strong tastes, and chew a flavored gum, sugarless mint or ice chips. Spicy foods can sometimes help because of the numbing effect they can have.

Notwithstanding the above, the mother-to-be must navigate the dietary waters with care.
A balanced diet and maintenance of suggested weight guidelines are critical to a successful pregnancy and safe delivery.

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Readers may send questions to our email address. This column is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional or medical advice.

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