Menopause is a significant time in a woman’s life, and it’s often accompanied by symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, and insomnia. Yet beyond these commonly recognized issues, there are several lesser-known symptoms that you might not be aware of, and one particularly curious one is a metallic taste in the mouth.
This strange taste can be a sign of menopause, but in some cases, it can also be a sign of an underlying condition. So, knowing how and why it happens, and learning how to recognize it is important.
When I first started researching menopause, I was completely unaware that this unusual symptom could be connected to hormonal changes in the body. However, after working with countless menopausal women over the last few years, I realized that a significant number of women report a metallic taste in their mouths as they journey through their menopausal years. Curious, I decided to uncover the truth about this phenomenon and why it happens
So, is there really a connection between menopause and this metallic taste, or is it simply a coincidence?
In this blog post, I’ll share what I’ve discovered during my research. we’ll unravel the truth. Plus, I’ll examine some other reasons why this strange phenomenon might occur and discuss when it might be time to see a doctor.
The term ‘menopause’ refers to the end of a woman’s menstrual cycle. It marks the end of her fertile years and is usually said to have occurred when she hasn’t had a period for twelve consecutive months.
But most menopause symptoms first appear during the build-up to menopause, in a phase known as perimenopause. This is when your hormones begin to shift, and women are likely to experience hot flashes, mood swings, and a whole host of other potential side effects. And one of those possible side effects is a metallic taste in the mouth.
Metallic Taste in the Mouth
During perimenopause and menopause, some women experience a phenomenon called dysgeusia- a distortion of the sense of taste. Dysguesia can make certain foods, or even your own saliva, taste unusually bitter, sweet, sour, or, in this case, metallic. According to the women I’ve talked to about this phenomenon, this type of dysgeusia is often described as a taste of iron or tin.
Causes of Metallic Taste in the Mouth Due to Menopause
After realizing that dysgeusia seemed to share a strong correlation with menopause, I decided to dig deeper into what could be causing the issue.
And it turns out that, hormonal changes that occur during menopause can potentially alter our sense of both taste and smell.
Many of us think of estrogen as a strictly reproductive hormone. However, estrogen plays a vital role in many other functions, and it can affect various tissues throughout the body, including taste buds.
Recent research has suggested that estrogen receptors are present in the taste buds. And so, it’s reasonable to assume that estrogen levels can affect the way we perceive taste.
During menopause, estrogen drops to much lower levels than our bodies are accustomed to. In some cases, this decrease can manifest as a seemingly unexplainable metallic taste in the mouth.
Another menopause-related reason for an unusual metallic taste is dry mouth. Dry mouth is a surprisingly common side effect of menopause, and some women report that a lack of saliva can also change the way they perceive taste.
Burning Mouth Syndrome
Menopausal dry mouth can also lead to burning mouth syndrome, an aptly named condition that causes an uncomfortable burning sensation on the muscles and tissues inside the mouth. It can feel painful, especially when trying to eat or drink, and it is often accompanied by a metallic or bitter taste.
It’s a relatively rare condition that is thought to affect less than 5% of the global population. Interestingly, it affects many more women than men, and research suggests that up to 90% of female patients with burning mouth syndrome are in the perimenopausal phase.
Other Causes of Metallic Taste in the Mouth
While some women do experience the metallic taste as a result of shifting hormones during menopause, it’s a relatively rare symptom. So, I advise women who are experiencing this strange taste to rule out other causes too.
A metallic taste in the mouth is not necessarily related to menopause.
Instead, it could be due to:
Changes to Oral Health
Gum diseases such as gingivitis or periodontal disease can cause bleeding gums.
Blood has a strong metallic taste due to its high content of iron. So, if you’re suffering from gum disease, this could explain the metallic taste in your mouth.
Mouth injuries, such as oral ulcers or biting your tongue, can cause blood to flow and mix into the saliva. If this happens, the iron content in blood can leave a strangely metallic taste in your mouth.
Likewise, oral surgeries such as tooth and tonsil removal can also cause blood to reach your taste buds and create a metallic taste.
Many over-the-counter and prescription medications can alter taste perception and create an unusual metallic taste in the mouth.
Some of the most common culprits include:
- Osteoporosis medication
- Chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatments
- Antibiotics such as metronidazole and zopiclone
- Nicotine patches or gum
- Blood pressure medications
- Antipsychotic medication
- Diabetes medication such as metformin
Vitamins and Supplements
Certain dietary supplements, particularly those containing metals such as copper, zinc, iron, or chromium, can cause metallic taste in the mouth. Some prenatal vitamins can also have the same effect.
Metallic taste can also be a symptom of a vitamin deficiency, particularly a zinc deficiency. Zinc helps to regulate your sense of smell and taste, and when you don’t have enough of it, you may notice a metallic taste in your mouth.
We know that hormonal changes in menopause can affect your taste buds. So, it stands to reason that hormonal fluctuations during pregnancy can also have the same effect.
Various types of dysgeusia can occur during pregnancy, and some expectant mothers do report a persistent and unexplained metallic taste in their mouths. This is particularly common in the earlier stages of pregnancy, during the first trimester.
Underlying Medical Conditions
Certain medical conditions, such as liver disease and hypothyroidism, can also cause metallic taste in the mouth.
Tips for Managing Metallic Taste
Although a metallic taste in the mouth isn’t painful, it can still be unpleasant, and a lot of women I’ve spoken to who experience this symptom are keen to get rid of it. So, here are some ways you can combat the metallic taste in your mouth and get to the root cause of the issue.
Dry mouth is common during menopause, and for some women, it can lead to a metallic taste in the mouth. So, stay hydrated by making sure you are getting the recommended 2.7 liters (about 9 cups) of water per day.
Check for Injury
Sometimes, you might not notice that your mouth is bleeding as saliva will often dilute the blood and make it harder to detect. But if you notice a metallic taste, it’s a good idea to check for injuries that could explain the sensation.
See Your Dentist
If you suspect gum disease could be behind your change in taste, visit your dentist as soon as possible.
Check Your Medicine Cabinet
If you suspect one of your medications is causing metallic taste in your mouth, check the list of side effects on the paper insert or speak to your doctor. They may be able to change your prescription.
Assess Your Vitamin Intake
Zinc deficiency is one possible cause of metallic taste in the mouth. So, you may want to try supplementing with zinc to see if this helps.
That being said, zinc and other vitamin supplements can sometimes cause a metallic taste. Normally, the taste is fleeting and will disappear after drinking a glass of water. However, if the taste persists, check your dosage.
You may not even realize you are taking these supplements as they can be included in a multivitamin or even found in cold remedies, such as zinc lozenges or cough syrup containing zinc. So be sure to read all packaging carefully.
Talk to Your Doctor
If you’re noticing a persistent metallic taste and you can’t determine the cause, book an appointment with your doctor. They can rule out any underlying conditions and help you get to the bottom of why it might be happening.
An unusual metallic taste is just one of the ways that dysgeusia can manifest, but many people with this condition experience different symptoms. These include:
Food that once tasted pleasant now tastes unpleasant
Food loses its natural sweet or salty flavor
A metallic, bitter, sweet, sour, or salty taste despite no food or drink being consumed
If you are experiencing metallic or bad taste regularly after eating, it’s a good idea to track your symptoms by keeping a food diary. Make a note of when the taste occurs and what you’ve eaten. Then, you can better identify any trigger foods and take steps to avoid them.
That all depends on the cause. If the metallic taste is due to hormonal fluctuations, you may notice that after you reach menopause, the symptom gradually disappears.
However, if the metallic taste is due to something else, for example, a zinc deficiency or a medication you are taking, it won’t go away until you address the root cause.
Out of all the women I’ve worked with in my research, only a small number of them have complained of a metallic taste in the mouth.
So, while hormonal fluctuations during menopause can contribute to the problem, it’s not the only potential cause. There are plenty of other factors that can affect your taste perception and lead to an unusual metallic taste. And while most of them aren’t serious, it’s still important to find out what is causing the issue.
So, if you’re experiencing a persistent metallic taste and you’re not sure why, speak to your doctor. They can rule out any underlying conditions, identify the true cause, and help you to find relief.