We can distinguish between only five basic taste sensations, sweet, salty, sour, bitter and umami. What we normally call taste is actually flavour, which is a combination of smell, taste, texture and other physical features like temperature and how our brain processes all this information.
It is rare for the sense of taste to be assessed by a doctor or health professional apart from in exceptional cases. Many of our clients, however, have unusual eating preferences and have over or under-sensitivities to their sense of taste. This can have a profound influence on behaviour and nutritional health.
In the first instance you often can get a reasonable evaluation of how the sense of taste is performing by simple observations you can make yourself. These can play a key role in uncovering what may lie behind learning, sensory, developmental or emotional difficulties.
Here we outline some typical behaviours that often are the result of the sense of taste not working properly:
- Cannot distinguish between edible and inedible objects
- Prefers to eat very spicy food
- Is a very picky eater
- Reacts strongly to certain tastes
- Only likes to eat very bland food
- Finds it difficult to eat different foods at the same time
Each typical behaviour on its own may not be meaningful. However, where there is a cluster of indicators, possibly across a number of senses, and the person has learning, sensory, developmental or emotional difficulties, these can indicate that one or more of the senses are out of balance.