Why Is Everything Suddenly Spicy to You?

Everyone tolerates different spice levels, as some like it mild, others not at all, while some want it flaming hot. I, however, don’t just tolerate spice – I love it. But even then, it can be pretty weird, if not disturbing, if everything I eat is just spicy. 

Everything you eat can suddenly taste spicy because of taste disorders or problems with the nerves or receptors that detect spices. The nerve and receptors for spice are the trigeminal nerves and the TRPV1 receptor. Health conditions, like dysgeusia, can also alter our sense of taste.

I have conducted research to help understand why things would suddenly taste spicy even when they are not. All the information is compiled in this article, and I encourage you to keep reading to know more.  

The Factors That Cause Things To Suddenly Taste Spicy

No direct answer or study explains why everything suddenly tastes spicy. But there are possible factors behind it.

A possible reason for why everything suddenly tastes spicy is a taste disorder, which can be caused by illnesses like Covid-19, infections, medication, or other factors. Another reason would be nerve damage and neurological disorders. 

Nerves are crucial in interpreting signals from the mouth. Let’s discuss this and other reasons in more detail.

A Taste Disorder Can Make Food Taste Different

A person’s sense of taste can be changed. It is not as rare as you might assume, as 17% of people in the USA experience having an alteration in their tasting abilities. However, it can be described as everything tasting sweet, bitter, sour, or even metallic rather than spicy. 

Dysgeusia is the general term for the condition where a person’s ability to taste is changed. 

There are different forms of dysgeusia: 

  • Hypogeusia
  • Ageusia
  • Aliageusia
  • Phantogeusia 

These can be caused by diseases like Covid-19, tongue swelling, vitamin deficiency, or even medications.

Types of Taste Disorders

There are many ways tasting abilities can be altered, which means that there are different taste disorders: 

  • Hypogeusia: This refers to a reduced or partial sense of taste. For example, very salty foods would taste less salty than they should be.   
  • Ageusia: This refers to the loss of taste, but it rarely happens because many nerves and receptors would have to be affected before a complete lack of taste. 
  • Aliageusia: Foods that used to be delicious would taste rotten, unappetizing, or unpleasant. 
  • Phantogeusia: This condition happens when people imagine a specific taste. You might think and even believe that a particular ingredient is incorporated into the food even when it is not. 

Causes of Taste Disorders 

When your sense of taste is disrupted, it can often be traced to a condition or event that affects your mouth’s nerves and taste receptors. 

Here are some conditions that can cause taste disorders: 

  • Covid-19: One of the most common symptoms of Covid-19 is the lack of taste and smell. It is found that 1 in 10 people still experience taste problems even after recovery. However, Covid-19 is an unlikely cause for everything tasting spicy because it can even reduce sensitivity to chili.
  • Swelling: When your tongue or other mouthparts swell, this can cause the taste pores to close or cut off the blood flow to the taste buds. Thus, the taste buds or pores would have difficulty functioning. Infection and vitamin deficiencies can cause swelling. 
  • Medication: A change in or loss of taste can be a side effect of some medicines. Antibiotics, antidepressants, antihistamines, and beta-blockers are just some of these drugs that can cause dysgeusia. 
  • Nerve damage: Damage to one of the nerves controlling our sense of taste can render it non-functional. Examples of these are the facial nerve, glossopharyngeal nerve, and vagus nerve. But it doesn’t have to be damage to only those nerves, as nerve damage in the nose, ear, or brain can also be a factor. 
  • Health conditions: Dry mouth, Alzheimer’s, acid reflux, diabetes, polyps, and abscess are just a few conditions that may affect the taste.  
  • Aging: Over time, a person’s taste buds may shrink or reduce in number. 
  • Tobacco: Chemicals produced by smoking can interfere with taste when they contact your taste receptors. 
  • Pregnancy: A pregnant woman’s hormones can make things taste off, especially during the first trimester. 
  • Smell disorders: Sense of smell can affect the way food tastes. An example of a smell disorder is parosmia, which is a distortion of odor.

Although most search queries would suggest taste disorder is a possible reason why everything would suddenly taste spicy, it is not as simple as that. 

Technically, spicy is not even a taste detected by our taste buds. Thus, although that scenario is an example of an alteration of your tasting abilities, you should not self-diagnose with a taste disorder.

I am not saying that since spicy is not a taste, it would not be a taste disorder. But I am telling you that if you suspect that a taste disorder could be causing you to feel like everything is spicy, consult with a doctor and confirm it. 

An otolaryngologist is a specialist for these kinds of conditions. 

If ever you are diagnosed with a taste disorder, doctors may be able to treat it by treating the cause, such as prescribing drugs for an infection. 

Neurological Disorders and Nerve Damage May Affect Taste Perception

Spicy is not a taste, but sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and umami are considered tastes. 

Spicy is more of a perception or feeling because instead of triggering taste buds, it is detected by the trigeminal nerve and pain or heat receptors like TRPV1 and polymodal nociceptors

The activation of these receptors and nerves causes a cascade of reactions that result in numbing, burning, and other sensations familiar with spiciness. When something happens to these nerves and receptors, it may affect your perception of a food’s taste. 

For instance, Burning Mouth Syndrome (BMS) can affect the trigeminal nerve. Patients feel a burning feeling in the mouth, a change in taste, and numbing. The symptoms presented by this condition are similar to what we feel after eating spicy foods. 

Furthermore, they experience trigeminal hyperalgesia or increased pain sensitivity and have taste phantoms or imagine tastes that aren’t there.  

Although I have yet to find specific nerve damage, neurological, or even BMS cases where the patient feels like everything is spicy, there is still a possibility of these conditions being a factor behind it. 

After all, they affect the way signals are transmitted from our mouth to our brain, affecting our interpretation and perception of food. 

What Should You Do if Everything Is Suddenly Spicy?

If everything is suddenly spicy, or your sense of taste has significantly changed, you’ll want to consult a doctor. They may help you discover the reason behind it and if health conditions are causing it. They can also recommend treatment, if possible. 

Seeking help from an expert is essential in ensuring your condition. Avoid self-diagnosing, which may be harmful. 

Final Thoughts

Everything feeling spicy or tasting different from what it should be is disturbing, which can be dangerous, especially when it disturbs your appetite and eating habits. Thus, you should consult a doctor and seek help discovering the reason behind it and what you can do to resolve it. 

It might be a taste disorder, nerve damage, or other condition that has led to it. The only way to know is to consult an expert. 

Sources

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Bill Kalkumnerd

I am Bill, I am the Owner of HappySpicyHour, a website devoted to spicy food lovers like me. Ramen and Som-tum (Papaya Salad) are two of my favorite spicy dishes. Spicy food is more than a passion for me - it's my life! For more information about this site Click

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