If you’re suffering from swollen taste buds, it’s hard to think about anything else besides instant relief. You might also be very curious about what caused the problem in the first place. To learn more, continue reading as we cover the causes of swollen taste buds, what’s actually happening in your body and what you can do to receive instant relief.
What are Taste Buds?
Let’s start from the basics. Everyone knows what taste buds do, but few actually know what taste buds really are. Your taste buds are what is known as papillae and extremely small ones at that. Although you can actually see them on your tongue’s surface with the naked eye, they are very tiny.
How Taste Buds Work
As you probably already known—and as the name illustrates—taste buds report the taste and flavor of food. Your taste buds detect if food is sour, sweet, bitter or pungent and then sends a message about this to your brain. This message gets sent through nerve endings in your face. Obviously all this happens within milliseconds.
Your taste buds aren’t spread out evenly over your tongue though. They’re located in groups depending on the kind of taste they report back on. So, for example, those that detect if a food is sweet are located at the tip of your tongue. On the other hand, the ones that are in charge of reporting on bitter tastes are located at the back. Taste buds across the sides of your tongue handle salty tastes. And, lastly, sour tastes are found by taste buds located on the lateral side of your tongue.
What Causes Swollen Taste Buds?
A number of things can cause your taste buds to swell. Their swelling is actually a defense mechanism, so it’s easiest to understand the reaction as a way of protecting themselves against future agitation after suffering an initial problem.
So, for example, we’ve all burned our tongues before by eating food that was too hot. Besides the initial pain, this often results in swollen taste buds as well. The symptoms are swelling and inflammation. While this is probably the most common cause of swollen taste buds, it’s far from alone. Another common form is a result of extreme heat as well. It comes from people drinking tea or coffee that is far too hot. Again, besides the initial burn, people also suffer taste buds that become swollen as well as enlarged.
For many, spicy food can set off their taste buds, resulting in the swollen effect. It’s not always the same for everyone. Others will get swollen taste buds from taking in certain irritants like alcohol or tobacco. Chewing tobacco, especially, can rough up taste buds, causing them to swell up. Cigarette smoke will do the same thing for some.
Sometimes it’s not even food we’re eating that causes swollen buds on our tongue. Many people suffer from acid reflux—an ailment that often flares up long after we’ve eaten food. The symptoms of acid reflux include stomach acid traveling through the esophagus to the tongue and throat. When it finally lands, this acid can agitate taste buds quite easily.
Treating Your Swollen Taste Buds
Fortunately, as painful and irritating as swollen taste buds can be, they’ll almost always heal themselves within a few days. Remember that they’re merely a result of your body’s own defense mechanisms. As such, the body will naturally “cure” them as well.
If you’ve suffered swollen taste buds because of an abrasion on your tongue, perhaps from biting it or the sharp edge of something you were chewing on, your might have received swollen taste buds as a result. You can help speed up the heeling process by applying glycerin to the part of your tongue where you’re having the problem. Don’t swallow it, though. Merely leave it there for a while and then spit it out.
Another option for speeding up your swollen taste buds’ recovery requires nothing more than baking soda. Combine it with water to make a paste and apply it over your inflamed taste buds. Keep it there for as long as possible and then wash it over with room-temperature tap water.
Fortunately, ice cream can help not only numb the pain from damage done by spicy or hot foods, it can help bring down the swelling too. So feel free to indulge your taste buds until the pain goes away. Yogurt is good for this too as it contains microorganisms that help balance the area’s natural chemistry.
While swollen taste buds are certainly a painful thing to experience, they’re never the end of the world. Use the above methods and you’ll sooth the pain and bring down swelling in no time. If a few days go by, however, and the pain does not subside, contact a doctor to make sure there isn’t anything worse at play.