If Your Food Tastes Like This, Get Your Kidneys Checked


If you reach for a familiar food and the taste is unrecognizable, you'll likely be alarmed by the sudden change. Experts say that when this occurs, it's known as dysgeusia—defined as a distorted sense of taste—and it can happen for a wide range of reasons. However, they say that if your food happens to taste like one thing in particular, it's important to rule out potentially serious underlying conditions, including two which can relate to your kidneys.

"If you have a persistent funny taste in your mouth, don't just try to mask the symptoms," writes Donald Ford, MD, MBA, Chairman of the Department of Family Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic. "Talk with your doctor, who can determine if you have a serious illness or condition and help you take steps to address the underlying cause," he urges via the clinic's site. Read on to find out which strange taste in your mouth may indicate a serious problem with your kidneys, and which other causes could be to blame.

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If your food tastes metallic, get your kidneys checked, experts say.
Shutterstock/Josep Suria

Though relatively uncommon, some people experience dysgeusia as a result of serious decline in kidney function, explains the Cleveland Clinic. This can occur when urea and other nitrogenous waste compounds build up in your blood as part of a serious condition known as uremia.

"Uremia can lead to a metal-like taste in your mouth and bad breath. It may also lead to a loss of appetite as foods can change in taste," says the health organization Kidney Health Australia, noting that you may also experience dry mouth alongside this particular symptom.

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Chronic kidney disease or kidney injury may be to blame.

Though uremia typically occurs in the final stages of chronic kidney disease—and may therefore be anticipated by the patient or their medical team—it can also occur as the result of an acute kidney injury, otherwise known as acute renal failure.

According to the University of Michigan Health System (UMHS), there are three key causes for acute kidney injury: a sudden drop in blood flow to the kidneys; damage from medicines, poisons, or infections; and a sudden blockage that stops the flow of urine, typically resulting from kidney stones, injury, or enlarged prostate.

UMHS experts say you're most likely to experience uremia if you're an older adult; you have a long term health condition such as kidney damage, liver damage, heart failure, diabetes, or obesity; or you have recently undergone surgery.

Look out for these symptoms of acute kidney injury.

If you're suffering from chronic kidney disease, you're most likely already keenly aware of its symptoms. However, those with acute kidney injury may be learning the condition's signs for the first time.

The UMHS team says there are several symptoms closely associated with kidney injury. These include having little to no urine when you try to urinate, swelling in the legs and feet, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, a feeling of confusion or anxiousness, fatigue, and pain below the rib cage. If you experience any of these symptoms along with a metallic taste in your mouth, be sure to bring it to your doctor's attention.

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There are several other possible causes for your food tasting metallic.

If none of this sounds familiar, chances are that the metallic taste in your mouth has an underlying cause that's completely unrelated to your kidneys. Luckily, most other possibilities are far less serious than chronic kidney disease or acute kidney injury.

For instance, indigestion, heartburn, and acid reflux can cause a bitter or metallic taste in your mouth, thus altering the flavors of your food. Similarly, colds, sinus infections, and upper respiratory infections can leave a lingering metallic taste. If you take any medications or vitamins, be sure to ask your doctor whether that could be the cause. Finally, always brush, floss, and visit your dentist regularly, as poor oral hygiene can lead to the development of this particular symptom.

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