Sweet taste in mouth is certainly not a rare phenomenon; we often feel it because most foods we eat are packed full of sugar. And we are not just talking about eating ice cream or drinking Coca-Cola, most everyday groceries you get from the supermarket contain a certain amount of sugar.
In addition to sweet, our tongue can distinguish four more tastes: sour, bitter, salty, and umami (a recently recognized taste, best described as meaty/brothy).
But we are not here today to talk about sugar induced sweet taste in our mouth; we are here to figure out why we feel it even though we haven’t consumed any sugar.
Some medical conditions are causing this sweet taste in mouth; most are metabolic, most common one being diabetes.
Sweet Taste In Mouth – Causes
It’s important to note that sweet taste in mouth is not a condition in itself, rather, think of it as a symptom of some other problem being present in your body. So, it is our job to pinpoint this underlying medical condition.
Our job here today is to give you a list of the most common medical problems presented with this symptom (mouth sweetness), so you can see which category you fall under. Note that it is always best to consult with your doctor, articles you read online should only be used for informational purposes.
We will discuss the following metabolic disorders: diabetes, thyroid disease, and ketosis (though ketosis is a normal metabolic process).
Diabetes is, by far, the most common cause of that sweet taste in your mouth; it is also the most dangerous of the metabolic disorders we’ll discuss in this article.
What Is Diabetes?
Simply put, diabetes is a disease where your blood glucose (blood sugar) is too high.
This glucose comes from the food we eat. Now, glucose itself is not bad or dangerous, quite the opposite, it gives us energy, but only if it is metabolized properly.
This is where a hormone called insulin comes into play. It helps move glucose from our blood (where it is stored after food is digested) to the cells which will then use it as energy. And if our body doesn’t produce enough insulin (or do not use it correctly), glucose from the food might get “stuck” in our blood. And having too much glucose in your blood is a disease called diabetes.
There are three types of diabetes:
- Type 1 – type 1 diabetes is the most severe of the three because the body does not produce insulin at all. It is usually diagnosed at an early age, and these individuals need to take insulin daily to stay alive
- Type 2 – people with type 2 diabetes either do not produce enough insulin or their body does not use the insulin properly. This is a more common type and occurs more in older individuals
- Gestational diabetes – this diabetes is related to pregnancy. Some women may develop diabetes during the pregnancy which lasts until the baby is born; after that, everything goes back to normal. However, these individuals are more prone to developing type 2 diabetes later in life
So, how do you know you have diabetes? Well, here is a list of the most common symptoms associated with it:
- Heart problems
- Weight problems
- Blurred vision
- Dry mouth
- Feeling tired
- Sweet taste in mouth
Unfortunately, we still can’t cure diabetes, but you can learn to manage it. Of course, managing your diabetes properly is not something you should try to do on your own, you MUST seek professional medical help.
Ketosis is a normal metabolic process in our body, and it works like this: when we do not get enough carbohydrates through the food we eat, our body starts to burn fat cells for energy. During this process, our body produces ketones.
Ketones are useful organic compounds, responsible for transporting energy from the liver to the rest of our body. Though this is a normal and a natural process, it may lead to problems if the number of ketones becomes too high.
Some of the symptoms of ketone buildup are:
- Dry mouth
- Sweet taste in mouth
- Excessive urination
- Stomach pain
Of course, you will not be able to diagnose this condition solely based on the symptoms we’ve listed above, but there are blood and urine tests you can do at home. If the tests show high ketone numbers, you should seek immediate medical help.
Thyroid gland is a small, butterfly-shaped group of specialized cells located at the base of the neck (below Adam’s apple in men). This gland produces hormones responsible for some important processes going on inside our body. From our metabolism to the way our heart beats.
We can roughly divide thyroid disorders into the following categories:
- Hypothyroidism – caused by not producing enough hormones
- Hyperthyroidism – caused by producing too many hormones
- Structural changes – changes in size or shape of the gland itself
- Abnormal growths – thyroid gland tumors, benign or malignant
Any medical condition where viruses penetrate into our bloodstream is called viremia. The problem with viruses is that, when they penetrate into our blood, they can reach every tissue within our body.
Of course, our immune system is there to defend us, and it usually stops the virus advancement after a couple of days.
Even though virus itself is destroyed, some viral particles entered the cells of the parotid glands in the mouth and the serous glands in the nose. These viral particles not only entered the cells of our body, but they also altered the DNA processes that typically occur.
DNA changes in the cells of our parotid and serous glands can inhibit and disrupt the growth and maturation of the olfactory epithelial cells (used for detecting odors) and taste buds.
As you might have guessed yourself, these cells are incredibly sensitive and, if they get altered due to a viral infection, you might experience loss in taste or smell, or end up feeling something you shouldn’t feel (like a sweet taste in your mouth without any reason).
Neurological problems affecting taste and smell usually follow a stroke, even a minor one.
A case report from the National Institute of Health details two patients who suffered a minor stroke and experienced smell and taste dysfunction.
Further examination of the two patients revealed a general inability to detect subtle odors, and the ability only to identify “sweet” flavors. In addition to this, both patients reported heavily salting and sweetening their foods to mask the other tastes they found to be unpleasant.
As you can see, this practice of salting and sweetening the food following the stroke can lead to other problems such as hypertension and diabetes.
Temporal lobe seizures can also affect our ability to smell and taste. The temporal lobe is located at the bottom middle part of the brain cortex, just behind the temples.
Some unusual sensations can precede a temporal lobe seizure, which you can use as a warning. Those are:
- A sudden sense of fear
- Déjà vu experience
- A rising sensation in the abdomen and
- Changes in smell or taste
An infection is the invasion and multiplication of microorganisms not normally present in our body. These organisms include bacteria, viruses, and parasites. It’s important to note that microbes that are already living in our body are, of course, not considered as infections.
One of the more common diseases affecting our smell and taste is a sinus infection or sinusitis. It affects nasal cavity and is usually caused by a virus. Other symptoms it may present itself are nose discharge and blockage, pain, headache, and sore throat. This infection is usually treated using a nasal spray or over-the-counter medication.
If you are pregnant and experience changes in the way your food tastes or smells, don’t worry, this is not unheard of since hormones are running wild. This usually happens in early pregnancy.
Not only that, the food you regularly eat can make you sick and nauseated. This is just something you will have to learn to deal with, but it is best not to worry and pay a visit to your doctor, just to be on the safe side.
In addition to the causes we’ve listed above, we’d like to mention a few more commonly linked to that strange sweet taste in your mouth:
- GERD – this is a chronic digestive disease where your stomach acid (sometimes the content of your stomach) starts to flow back into your food pipe. We already talked about this disease in one of our previous articles – you can read more about it here: Orange Diarrhea
- Polyps – polyp is an abnormal tissue growth, usually benign. Just recently, we wrote an article covering nasal polyps; you can check it out here – Coughing Up Brown Mucus
- Injury – head or direct nose trauma may be linked to the changes in the way your brain perceives smell and taste
- Age – your sense of smell may become weaker with age
- Toxic chemical exposure
What Should You Do – When To See A Doctor?
Answering this question will largely depend on how often you experience this sweet taste. If it only lasts for a day or two, it is usually not a cause for major concern. Any number of things might have caused, but if it goes away on its own, there is no need to get medical help.
But if you notice this symptom is not going away after a few days, or you see it coming back periodically, it may indicate an underlying health problem.
Next question you might be faced with is which doctor to visit. Our advice is to see a general practitioner. This is by far the best option since he will point you in the direction you need to go. He might direct you to one of the following specialists:
- A neurologist
- Endocrinologist or
- An otolaryngologist (ear nose throat specialist)
The doctor will first ask you more about your medical history and the medical history of your entire family, to rule out any hereditary neurological disorders. Next, comes a physical exam, if you’ve suffered from a mechanical injury.
Some other tests you might be subjected to are blood tests (if they suspect diabetes for example), CT scan or MRI, though they are not necessary in most cases.