Causes of a sour or bitter taste in the mouth.


A bitter, sour, or unpleasant taste in your mouth can be a simple reaction to what you eat. Often, he suddenly "burps" something that doesn't feel right. However, the condition can be worrisome if it persists or recurs frequently.

The three most common causes of a bad taste in your mouth are:

Any distortion of normal taste perception is called dysgeusia . It is one of several conditions that affect taste, others of which are hypogeusia (loss of taste) and ageusia (total lack of taste).

The diagnosis of dysgeusia can sometimes be challenging and requires the systematic exclusion of all other causes.

Get Medical Information / Laura Porter

Finding the right treatment can be a process of trial and error. In some cases, dysgeusia may go away on its own or require medical attention to control or eliminate the underlying cause.


According to a study published in the Canadian Family Physician journal, there are at least 250 different medications that can cause dysgeusia. This could be due to the effect of the drug on the taste buds in the brain, or simply caused by ingestion of residual drug in saliva.

It can also include intravascular taste, a phenomenon in which a drug molecule circulating in a blood vessel in the tongue interacts with receptors on the taste buds. Some of the more common addicts include:

  • Antibiotics : including ampicillin, macrolides, quinolones, sulfamethoxazole, trimethoprim, tetracycline, and metronidazole.
  • Heart Medications: This includes many medications for high blood pressure, diuretics, statins, and antiarrhythmics.
  • Chemotherapy drugs : including cisplatin, cyclophosphamide, and etoposide.
  • Neurological drugs : including antiparkinson drugs, migraine drugs, and muscle relaxants.
  • Psychotropic Drugs : This includes most tricyclic antidepressants, some antipsychotics, sedatives, mood stabilizers, and hypnotics.
  • Other prescription and over-the-counter medications: including thyroid medications, antihistamines, bronchodilators, anti-inflammatories, smoking cessation medications, antifungals, and antivirals.

Diagnosis and treatment

Medicinal dysgeusia is usually diagnosed by exclusion. Healthcare providers often start by checking for infection, cancer, malnutrition, or reflux.

Based on when your symptoms appear, your doctor can identify the problem drug among those you are taking. If necessary, the offending drug can be canceled or replaced.

In some cases, the dose can be taken at night rather than during the day to minimize symptoms. If dysgeusia is associated with short-term therapy, such as a course of antibiotics, you may have to accept the unpleasant taste until treatment is complete.

Never stop taking your medicine until you talk to your doctor.

Zinc deficiency

Zinc deficiency is one of the most common causes of taste disturbances. Taste disturbances associated with zinc deficiency are often difficult to describe, with some using terms such as "strange," "unpleasant," or simply "bad."

While the exact cause is unknown, we do know that zinc increases the concentration of a protein known as gustin, which the body uses to make taste buds.

Zinc deficiency can be associated with a lack of zinc in the diet, poor absorption of zinc from the intestines, or the use of certain chronic medications. Malnutrition is also a common cause.

Some of the diseases associated with zinc deficiency are cancer, celiac disease , chronic kidney disease, Crohn 's disease, diabetes, liver disease, pancreatitis, sickle cell disease, and ulcerative colitis.

Alcohol, chemotherapy, thiazide diuretics, captopril (an ACE inhibitor), and penicillamine (used to treat kidney stones) are substances that can cause zinc deficiency.

Diagnosis and treatment

Zinc deficiency can be diagnosed by measuring the concentration of zinc in a blood sample. Determining the root cause is usually a process of trial and error, based on your age, weight, medical history, health status, current medication use, and accompanying symptoms.

While taking zinc daily can help normalize blood levels, it can only provide relief if the underlying cause is treated or if the drug dose is canceled, replaced, or adjusted. Foods high in zinc include seafood, red meat, beans, legumes, eggs, and dairy products.


Gastrointestinal reflux disease (GERD) is a common condition in which the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) does not open properly, allowing acid to drain from the stomach into the esophagus.

LES is generally a one-way valve. For reasons that are not fully understood, the sphincter muscle suddenly relaxes and causes acid reflux symptoms, including:

  • Acidity
  • Chest pain
  • Sour or bitter taste
  • Bad breath
  • Burning in the throat
  • Difficulty to swallow
  • Sensation of a lump in the throat.
  • Cough
  • Hoarseness

GERD can usually be identified as the cause of a sour or bitter taste because it is usually associated with heartburn and develops shortly after eating.

Smoking, alcohol, caffeine, fatty foods, acidic foods, and heavy meals are common triggers for acid reflux.

Pregnancy and obesity can put undue stress on the stomach and esophagus. ( A hiatal hernia can have a similar effect by manipulating the position of the LPS so that it cannot stay closed.)

Diagnosis and treatment

A diagnosis of GERD may include an endoscopy to directly examine the LPS; manometry to measure the contractions of the muscles of the esophagus; and an ambulatory pH probe in which the swallowed probe measures how and when reflux occurs .

Treatment usually includes a combination of over-the-counter and prescription medications, including antacids, H2 blockers like Prilosec (omeprazole), proton pump inhibitors like Nexium (esomeprazole), and a drug called baclofen, which helps strengthen the muscles of the LES. . Diet changes, weight loss, and quitting smoking can also help.

Once the GERD symptoms are gone, the sour or bitter taste should go away as well.

Other reasons

Other conditions can directly alter a person's taste experience or further exacerbate an existing dysgeusal disorder. This includes:

  • Smoking cigarettes dulls the taste and makes food less tasty.
  • Xerostomia (dry mouth syndrome) is a condition in which decreased saliva production alters taste.
  • Dehydration can directly cause dry mouth.
  • Anxiety and stress can alter taste sensations and contribute to dry mouth.
  • Infections or diseases that cause inflammation can sometimes increase a person's perception of a bitter taste.
  • Oral yeast infection (thrush) is a common fungal infection.
  • Poor oral hygiene can alter the taste.
  • Pregnancy, especially in the first trimester, can change taste .
  • Menopause, like pregnancy, can cause dysgeusia due to changes in hormone levels .
  • Brain damage or surgery, especially to the midbrain or thalamus, can cause "phantom" taste sensations.
  • Neurological disorders such as epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, Bell's palsy, brain tumors, and dementia.
  • Radiation therapy to the head and neck can damage saliva tissue.
  • Lead poisoning , which is often identified by the characteristic blue streak along the gums, can change the taste.
  • Pine nut syndrome is a little-known condition in which bitterness can appear one to three days after eating pine nuts .
  • Burning mouth syndrome is another little-known condition characterized by a burning or burning sensation in the mouth.

Front facing

Whatever the main cause of dysgeusia, there are a few things you can do to minimize its symptoms. Here are some of the more practical home remedy tips:

  • Drink plenty of water , which can relieve dry mouth and promote urination (the latter of which can improve drug clearance if you are dehydrated). Adding a little lemon juice can also help reduce bad taste.
  • Chew sugar-free gum to promote salivation.
  • Practice good oral hygiene , including regular dental checkups, and consider using an antibacterial mouthwash .
  • Some people recommend rinsing your mouth with half a teaspoon of salt plus a teaspoon of baking soda in a glass of water.
  • Avoid spicy or fatty foods that promote acid reflux. Even if GERD is not the cause, gastric reflux will only make your symptoms worse.
  • Stop smoking . Whatever the cause of dysgeusia, smoking will only exacerbate its effects. No matter how long you smoke, your taste perception will invariably improve after you quit.
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