post tonsillectomy taste

Sense of Taste After Tonsillectomy


After Tonsillectomy: Sense of Taste

Taste after tonsillectomy or sense of taste are subjects of much discussion on the tonsillectomy forum. The experience of tonsillectomy has rippling effects upon individuals, beginning with the anticipation of surgery and, hopefully, extending long after surgery in improved quality of life. During the first two weeks of recovery, tonsillectomy patients’ daily lives are turned upside down. The daily diet is often limited to liquids and very smooth, soft foods like gelatin. Narcotic pain medications are usually taken several times per day. Sleep is erratic and often fitful. Activity levels are greatly reduced. When the fog of pain, fatigue, and disruption lifts, one of the first irregularities patients complain of is an altered sense of taste. Let’s take a moment to look at tonsillectomy and its effect on sense of taste.

The American Academy of Otalayngology- Head and Neck Surgery describes how taste sensation works as,

Gustatory (taste nerve) cells are clustered in the taste buds of the mouth and throat. They react to food or drink mixed with saliva. Many of the small bumps that can be seen on the tongue contain taste buds. These surface cells send taste information to nearby nerve fibers, which send messages to the brain.

I suggest that several factors contribute to disturbances in a person’s sense of taste after tonsillectomy. Firstly, tonsillectomy surgery itself can cause bruising to the tongue, where taste buds reside. Most patients complain of tongue pain after surgery.

It’s also likely that the post tonsillectomy diet has an impact on the patient’s sense of taste for some time after recovery. Many experts point out that taste buds are in a constant state of growth. As people eat various rough textured foods, small amounts of tissue scrape off and are replaced by new growth. Many believe that the almost liquid diet of most tonsillectomy patients disrupts this process and thus, affects their sense of taste.

Tasting After Tonsillectomy


Still another camp holds that deficiency in zinc after tonsillectomy contributes to these taste disruptions. JOSEPH M. BICKNELL, MD and ROBERT V. WIGGINS, MD published in the Western Journal of Medicine in October of 1988. [Bicknell JM, Wiggins RV: Taste disorder from zinc deficiency after tonsillectomy.West J Med 1988 Oct; 149:457460] They followed two tonsillectomy patients who complained of unpleasant taste sensation after tonsillectomy. The patients complained of changes in their sense of taste after tonsillectomy. They used descriptions like, coppery, or metallic when interviewed. Both had these complaints two months after tonsillectomy surgery. The doctors tested liver and thyroid function, as well as hepatitis. All were normal, but serum zinc levels were low in both patients. They were given 220mg zinc supplements twice per day. Within three weeks, the zinc levels were normal. They reported tastes improving after ten days, and after 22 days, the metallic sensation had ended. I’ve read anecdotal accounts on the tonsillectomy forum from people having success with zinc supplements after tonsillectomy. Ask your doctor before trying the zinc supplement for tonsillectomy and sense of taste.

Considering all the variables, one must also consider the effects of both antibiotics and narcotic pain killers over a two week period on the sense of taste. The FDA does not list taste disturbance as a side effect of either penicillin or hydrocodone. (the two most commonly prescribed medications after tonsillectomy in the U.S.) There has been a connection between the use of oral antibiotics and oral thrush, (Fungal infection – mouth; Candida)

It is very common to experience an altered sense of taste after tonsillectomy. Most people feel that their taste returns to normal within three to six weeks. However some may experience unpleasant taste sensation for several months.

It was truly depressing for me that my favorite cocktail, (the bloody Mary), tasted like something from the planet salt for months after surgery.  Thankfully, within 5 months, my sense of taste was completely back to normal.

124 thoughts on “Sense of Taste After Tonsillectomy

  1. My teen lost her taste for 3 months. Lost a lot of weight and was very depressed. As her Mum I did a lot of research and started supplementing with high doses of zinc 80mg aswell as some other supplements to help nerve growth repair. Her taste has now returned to about 95% and she is happy! Such as distressing time. Don’t give up and research zinc etc

  2. I had mine out 11th Nov and the tast of suger with all food has only came in last two weeks it’s driving me mad.

    1. Hello, I’m from Greece and I’m male, 49. I had a tonsillectomy at 28 September 2016. The operation went well but I had a lot of pain for 20 days and swollen tissues especially the uvula and a tissue on the right of it, where I had the bgger tonsil. My right tonsil was deep inside my neck and deep in my throat. After one month the pain stopped and the damaged tissues recovered, but since then my taste was not the same, especially to the sweets. I couldn’t taste them at all. I had a salty taste all day and I preferred meat, stakes, bbq etc. I lost some kilos-the good side effect. The taste of sweet came back recently, I can taste them on my tongue, but it stops taste at the back of my throat..We call it in Greek language “epigeusis” (in free transation after-taste, “second-phase taste” ) . So, no chocolate taste at the back of my throat, like before. I still cannot determine how sweet is e.g. a piece of chocolate, how bitter is , or the percentage of cocoa it has.. .The doctors and the surgeon told me that the feeling of taste will be back after six months an I noticed all this time from the operation that the taste became better. I’ m not frustrated, but I believe that it won’t be the same as before operation. From days to days I noticed that the air which reaches in the throat-its absolutely bigger quantity than before and the operation in that section gave me a better life and sleep- dehydrates my throat an gives me the feeling that I don’t have enough saliva in my mouth. I think that the reduce of saliva is a reason that I cant taste the sweets, especially the baked sweets or the creams (cream patisserie). I taste much better the syrups like honey or maple syrup. I will start with my doctor some tests to see if I have a kind of diabetes type 2. I also have been tested if I have Sjogren’s Syndrome and Lupus ..but all ok .. thanks God. I also plan to visit the section of Oto-rino-larygology (Ear-nose-throat) of Medical University of Thessaloniki. This section has a special part which is specialized in counting the taste using electro-stimulation. But it only measures the grade of the taste doesn’t offer a healing . ..maybe they have a solution..We shall see..

  3. I had my tonsillectomy in August 2016. It’s Jan 2017 and I have a bitter taste in my mouth regularly. I prefer salty, buttery, bland food over anything else. Chocolate makes the bitter taste worse. Eating in general is okay bc it’s the only time the taste is gone. It’s pretty brutal and can make me grumpy on some days. I brush my teeth and rinse 3-4x’s/day now. I wish there were an answer for this.

  4. So, I had my surgery December 18th and exactly three weeks later today, I feel pretty normal (90%). The taste thing actually didn’t start until this weekend when I tried eating something sweet. The day before I had grilled salmon, sweet potatoes and asparagus and everything tasted JUST FINE. The next day is when I started noticing a difference with my taste buds. I thought it had been the “sweets” only but I just tried having some fries and a smoothie just now and all I could taste was the initial citrus zing from the smoothie and some salt on the fries. I threw everything away! I see my surgeon for a follow-up tomorrow morning so it’s def. something on my list of concerns. I don’t know what the heck my doctor was thinking but right after surgery, he prescribed Percocet. The problem with that was that I couldn’t take the pills as I’d choke, cough them back up or just couldn’t pass them. Crushing them and trying to take them with something else was a hassle because I could barely drink any water. You’re supposed to take them every six hours I think and in the three days after my surgery, I had ONLY taken them TWICE! Needless to say, I ended up in the ER from a fever, mild infection and dehydration (the pain was so bad I had only had 1/2 of water and 1/2 a popsicle in the three days). It wasn’t until I was in the ER that my surgeon prescribed oxicodone, which was AMAZING! The only problem two weeks after that was when I was able to eat soft solid foods, I need up suffering from opioid-induced constipation, which NO ONE had told me about. So for about two days I was in so much pain because I had produced stool, I just couldn’t pass it. In those two days I had taken stool softeners, I had tried an enema, a suppository and citrus magnesium. This is WAY TMI but I ended up having to stick my finger in my butt to break down the stool (with gloves and Vaseline of course). I was literally in my shower crying for two hours while I was doing it, it was a nightmare! Once I got most of it out, the next morning (around 6 hours later), I had what felt like uncontrollable diarrhea and I made a whole mess because the initial stomach discomfort had woken me up but I didn’t think anything of it since I had experienced stomach pain before and hadn’t found myself with a loose butt hole before haha (good thing I kind of prepared by sleeping on an OLD clean comforter that I was going to throw away anyways) but when I finally made it to the bathroom, the rest of the stool came out and I finally felt some sort of relief. From all that drama, I lost 6 pounds! My stomach was just super sensitive for the four days or so and I wasn’t producing solid stool yet, I was too scared to eat anything. Today I think my digestive system is back to normal (maybe a little too normal) and I’m drinking plenty of water. Besides the taste buds, I still can’t really gulp down liquids, I can’t yawn because it hurts, it’s hard to swallow foods that aren’t moist so I always have water on standby to rinse food down, there is white stuff all in the back on my throat (idk what it is but it’s thick and I can feel it so I go the whole day with what feels like leftover food stuck to the back of my throat), I’m hating the weight I’m gaining from eating normal foods (I lost 20 pounds during my two weeks) but I think the worse is behind me!

  5. Had my tonsils removed December 15,2016. Brutal healing process where you will require at least 2 weeks before the pain simmers down. I am realizing at this two week point that nothing I formally had in my diet tastes like it used to(coffee- actually I had to spit it out it tasted so bad and I was a coffee junkie, Greek yogurts no longer have any flavor, toast with peanut butter tasted like shoe leather when I was chewing(or what one would imagine shoes leather taste like). Tad bit scared to start taking zinc on my own so I’m waiting to hear what the ENT has to say at my monthly follow up appointment.

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