What if you couldn’t taste your food?
In Ayurveda we talk about the 5 sense organs and senses. Our eyes see, our ears hear, our noses smell, skin feels and our tongue feels and tastes. These amazing gifts allow us to connect to our world and experience it through our unique make up. What is effected when you can’t taste?
Taste, the ability to distinguish the six flavours, sweet, salty, sour, pungent bitter and astringent is a fantastic way to engage with our food. Taste helps up build agni and appetite. If you can’t taste you loose access to flavour (rasa). I question how this effects the (virya) energetic effect as well.
Sweet Taste has the elements of earth and water. Sweet is cooling and grounds the body. Pungent taste contains air and fire. It activates the body and is warming. It is easy to imagine feeling a loss without taste.
Taste communicates what our body is seeking and needs. For instance, sometimes Bitter makes you want to spit it out. Why is that? The body doesn’t need bitter or senses that the plant may not be good for you. Other times bitter tastes fabulous. The body really needs and wants bitter. Bitter supports liver health. How we taste can change for sweet and the other tastes as well. Why?
Taste is an experience. Ayurveda teaches us to refine our experience of taste. Seasonal Detox and less snacking support enhanced taste. A clean mouth and tongue also help clear taste. Oil pulling and tongue scraping can help. Refined taste help us choose foods that nourish and balance our bodies and elevate our vibration. This has new value and meaning against the backdrop of total loss of taste.
I recently got together with a friend who can’t eat or taste anymore. He lost the ability to taste due to throat cancer. The first thing you notice about him is that he is rail thin and very dry. He stood next to me while I was cooking the other day taking in the site and smell of freshly prepared food. Watching and enjoying with the senses he can use.
Taste provides a lot of the sensory pleasure associated with eating. Sight, smell and touch also contribute to our experience of eating. Without taste you might just have to force yourself to eat. Eating without enjoyment is a survival skill takes a surprising amount of discipline.
My friend with throat cancer grinds his food into a slurry and feeds himself through a port at his stomach. The food is delivered to the stomach in an easily digestible form. The grinding takes the place of chewing. When you can’t eat by mouth or swallow you lose the ability to taste as well as the tactile sensation of eating chewing and swallowing food.
All weekend during our visit he keyed into the smells and sights of food. His eyes brightened with interest as I explained healthy eating guidelines a la Ayurveda. Eat lots of vegetables and include the 6 tastes in the main meal of the day are two easy healthy principles I bring to my table.
The experience of taste adds to enjoyment, sure but more critically contributes to state of wellness. Play with the six tastes in your meals. See the colors and appreciate the aroma of fresh healthy food. Take the time to value input from of all your senses when eating for pleasure and health.
Textbook of Ayurveda by Vasant Lad, The Ayurvedic Press 2002, p. 249.
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