Wednesday, May 10, 2017

hijacked tastebuds

My tastebuds. They were just here – at least they were last night. WTF?

Two weeks ago, while nibbling on my goes-with-tea cookie – namely, a PC Stem Ginger, I grimaced, and complained to Tom that President’s Choice must have changed their supplier and/or recipe and that the cookie tasted terrible. I gave him the remaining bit (which he enjoyed) and took out a PC Shortbread. Same thing. What is going on? That afternoon, I made one my usual fruit smoothies – fresh apple cider, frozen blueberries, raspberries, mango, kale, Brazil nuts, coconut, banana and an assortment of nutritional? additives. I couldn’t finish it. It all tasted fine going over the first two-thirds of my tongue, but at soon as it hit the back of my throat, it tasted like I was downing a teaspoon of dandelion sap. Bitter as hell. That night, I tried a swig of Tom’s red wine and ran to the sink to spit it out.

Everything tastes awful. Water is okay, but not with lemon, which is usually the only way I like it. I’m not a fan of bread, but Tom’s bread, toasted is the only thing that is somewhat benign. Organic unsweetened peanut butter seems to go down alright with it. I was really getting hungry, and while strolling though Bulk Barn was drawn to some cheese doodles (probably the lure of some semblance of protein). Amazing. It had no shift of taste. That night, Tom made popcorn and it was neutral. Great – my diet has turned into peanut butter and toast, cheese doodles, popcorn and water. Coffee and tea doesn’t work and my locally made and dearly beloved hard apple cider is out. The sweeter something is, the bitter it gets.

Dr. Google never seems to disappoint. After reading through brain tumours, various dark illnesses and pregnancy causes of taste alteration, I came across “Pine Mouth Syndrome”. Whaaa? There were blogs, chat rooms and research devoted to people who had developed what appeared to be what I have from the result of eating pine nuts! You can’t believe how many people have bad tastes in their mouths!

This adverse reaction can develop suddenly and inexplicably within 12 to 48 hours after consuming the nuts, which are the edible seeds of the pine tree. It can happen out of the blue, even to people who have eaten pine nuts previously with no adverse reaction. It does not seem to matter whether the pine nuts are raw or roasted. It does not seem to matter whether three nuts are consumed, or a handful. There may be some indication that if the pine nuts come from China, there could be issues if a particular species is used. The syndrome does not involve mold or bacteria. It is not an allergy. It can last from days to over 6 weeks. (NOOOO!!) The medical term is cacogeusia.

Some comments read:

“Ate pasta with lots of pine nuts, now suffering from metallic bitter mouth everytime i eat anything,How long will this last ?red wine is rancid as a result.”

“Ate chinese pine nuts on Monday night (lots) got the bad taste on Wednesday. OK so I will use these two weeks to go on a diet. Everything tastes terrible so it will be easy. They should sell these nuts as diet pills!”

“an absoutely foul bitter taste across the back of my tongue that makes everything taste awful. It usually lasts a few days.”

Loved this one:

“I’ve had these exact symptoms and – to be honest – thought an unstable relative was trying to poison me. I don’t have pine nuts very often but was very hungry a few days ago and found a packet open in the cupboard. This must be the cause!”

OK, so pine nuts – specifically ones from China should be avoided. (Wired senior writer, Greg Miller, investigated after experiencing pine nut syndrome a couple years ago. He found nothing conclusive, but he noted that scientists have pointed a finger at China, and the Chinese species of white pine called Pinus armandii.) Lab testing at Nestlé uses specific apparatus and methods to assess the quality of pine nuts. According to Frédéric Destaillats of the Nestlé Research Center, in Lausanne, Switzerland, “This allows us to make sure that consumers will not experience pine nut syndrome with our products.”

This is really interesting. However, what’s bothering me is the fact that I HAVEN’T EATEN ANY PINE NUTS! As I read further comments, two people say that they have the same symptoms but weren’t eating pine nuts either – they were eating sunflower seeds. Hmmm. So was I. I love roasted sunflower seeds and usually use them to substitute for pine nuts because they have become so prohibitive in price. Normally, I buy sunflower seeds at Bulk Barn, but Tom had purchased some from a wonderful local health food store. A big fat bag. I toasted a batch after dinner and throughout the evening would dig a handful out of the bowl and enjoy. I can’t remember if it was one or two days after that I noticed “the change”.

A week ago, Tom bought me some maple sugar candy from a vendor at our market. I took a small bite out of it and just about died with the bitterness. Apparently, sugar exacerbates the bitterness. A few days ago I started to think that maybe the bitterness was abating. Either that, or I was just getting used to things tasting terrible. (No, I’m not!) Yesterday, I took a nibble out of the maple chunk, and it was actually palatable. There was still a weird taste, but it was bearable. I ate two.

Today has been about 12 days since it first started. Four days ago, I made a batch of creamed honey that I’ve been experimenting with using organic blueberry powder. I haven’t been able to taste test it. It sits on the counter. Tom says it tastes fine. This morning, I haltingly dipped a small spoon into the mixture. I swallowed. I didn’t have to spit it out. I think this thing might be going away. Thank god.

If you’re interested: