From time to time we all experience odd tastes in the mouth, whether due to something we’ve eaten or a dental issue. However, bad or unusual tastes in the mouth can also be a symptom of anxiety. Common examples of strange tastes caused by anxiety include metallic, blood-like, tinny, bitter or ammonia like tastes, among others.
Why Can Anxiety Make My Mouth Taste Bad?
When our brain perceives a threat, it releases the stress chemicals cortisol and adrenaline and activates the stress response called the fight, flight or freeze response. This can alter tastes in the mouth as side effects of the stress response include slower saliva production, which can cause changes in taste, and a heightening of your senses, making tastes in your mouth more noticeable.
Moreover, when you experience stress frequently, you can develop chronic stress, also known as hyperstimulation, which is when your stress response is on high alert for a prolonged period of time, long after the perceived threat has passed or even when there is no perceived threat at all. This can also impact your taste as hyperstimulation can cause persistent saliva suppression, which can allow harmful bacteria to build up in the mouth, leading to a bad or unusual taste. Chronic stress can also suppress the immune system, making sinus infections more likely, which can cause bad tastes in the mouth. Hyperstimulation can also lead to an increase in Candida growth in the mouth, a pathogenic yeast naturally found in the gut, mouth, and vagina, which can cause a bad taste.
Chronic activation of the stress response can also lead to stomach and digestive issues, such as gas, bloating, stomach upsets and fermenting food, which can alter tastes in the mouth. Another factor is that a hyperstimulated nervous system can cause nervous system anomalies, such as altering your taste buds, as well as cause nerves to misreport sensory information, such as taste.
How Can I Stop This Symptom?
As this symptom stems from our fight, flight or freeze response, the main thing that we can do to combat it is to focus on our breathing, adopting anxiety-reducing breathing techniques, such as controlled diaphragmatic breathing or box breathing. This should calm our central nervous system, distract our mind from the perceived threat, and deactivate our fight, flight or freeze response allowing our rational brain to kick back in and regain a semblance of control and feel the black cloud lift.
Though this will help short-term, in order to combat anxiety and chronic stress long-term, you need to build strategies to tackle them. There are several options available including CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), mindfulness, medication and group therapy. If you’re unsure, please contact your GP for more information.
Bad tastes in the mouth can also be caused by other things such as dental issues, so talk to your Dr to find the root cause and therefore the best course of action.