If you’ve managed to read those two words without suffering a violent body shudder, you’ve obviously never experienced vaper’s tongue first-hand. That’s great – I truly wish you never do! However, stuff happens, and you might not be lucky enough to live in blessed ignorance for the rest of your vaping career, especially if you’re an enthusiastic vaper.
Imagine loving music and then becoming hearing-impaired (or completely deaf) for a full week. Or, being a painter and going blind, but just over the weekend. These examples are a little extreme, but losing one of your senses usually is just that – extreme.
Whether you’ve experienced it before or you’re just encountering it for the first time, vaper’s tongue is always an unpleasant experience. The important thing to remember, however, is that it usually passes fairly quickly and has no permanent consequences. That’s doubly true of the cases brought on by simple olfactory exhaustion or dehydration, the two most common causes for loss of taste in vapers.
Keep calm, breathe deeply, and read on. Together, we’ll explore what taste is, how it works, and how it can be altered. As a vaper, you rely on your taste buds to do what they do best, but you also have to keep in mind that they can be damaged. Here, you will find out what can potentially cause harm to them, how to avoid that, and how to, with a bit of luck, reverse the effects more quickly.
What Is Vaper’s Tongue?
As I’ve said, vaper’s tongue is a term coined by the vaping community to describe a medical condition that manifests primarily as loss or alteration of taste. In fact, it covers several different conditions, such as:
- Ageusia – a complete loss of taste functions of the tongue.
- Dysgeusia – a distortion (alteration) of the sense of taste.
- Hypogeusia – the reduced ability to taste things.
Clear-cut cases of ageusia (complete loss of taste) are pretty rare, and most often not brought on by anything related to vaping. Vapers tend to suffer primarily from taste distortion and the reduced ability taste certain flavor notes.
How long an individual case of vaper’s tongue lasts is highly individual – I personally still haven’t met two people who’ve had the same symptoms, severity, or duration. Also, I’ve lost my sense of taste several times since I’ve picked up vaping – each time was different; one time, my sense of sweet went on the fritz, and the other time it was the salty/savory perceptors not working right.
In most cases, vaper’s tongue clears up in a few days, or a week, tops. The first two to three days that loss is sensed acutely, but it slowly starts coming back – how quickly will depend on the underlying cause. That said, vape tongue cases lasting for well over a month are not unheard of. Reddit is full of stories of distressed vapers who woke up one morning not able to taste anything – their food, drinks, vapes, nothing. It would last for weeks and then, magically, disappear overnight.
How Does Taste Work?
That’s a pretty good question. If you think you know how taste works, I’ll bet you $10 bucks that it’s a bit more complicated than that!
Here’s the basic stuff.
Our tongues are covered with anywhere from 2,000 to 10,000 taste buds. These little clumps of cells are grouped everywhere – from your tongue, the inner lining of your cheeks, all the way up to your palate. If you have 20,000 of them, then congrats – you must be a professional taster because, like everything else, taste buds thrive when they get the exercise they need. Taste buds have a pretty short lifespan – around 10 to 14 days – which is yet another reason why it’s unusual for vaper’s tongue to last for more than two weeks in most cases.
In any case, they allow us to differentiate between five main tastes:
So, those are the basics you’re probably familiar with.
But, did you know that your sense of smell has plenty to do with what and how you taste? The brain is getting signals from both organs, which are then combined. What we actually taste depends a lot on how it smells and how good our sense of smell is.
You can test this right now.
Pick up a bottle of your favorite vape juice and give it a good puff in your favorite tank, really register and note down all those complex flavors coming from it. Got it? Now, take a deep inhale again but, this time, pinch your nose, so you can’t actually smell the juice.
Notice anything different?
The taste was completely different. For most people, it will be quite subdued, like an echo of the taste you’re getting when your nose is doing half of the work. This is why some people have linked vaper’s tongue to olfactory exhaustion, and this can certainly be true. However, there are numerous (suspect) causes for this condition and that is just one of them.
6 Common Causes of Vaper’s Tongue
Next time you’re vaping and it just tastes bad, don’t blame you vape juice – here’s a list of things that could be causing it.
- Damaged taste buds – there are just too many ways you can physically damage your taste buds. Drinks that are too hot or too cold, smoking, alcohol, infections, dry mouth, spicy food – you name it, it might just be enough to trigger a temporary loss of taste.
Some neurological damage can also cause it, as well as endocrine system problems (niacin and zinc deficiency). Taste buds do recover with time, but it’s important to note that, as we get older, we lose the ability to differentiate taste as well as we did while we were younger.
- Using the same vape juice for a long time – a lot of vapers say that sticking to one vape juice flavour will make it dull and bland. There’s truth in that – your brain gets used to the same stimuli and registers it less and less. It’s called olfactory exhaustion (or fatigue). In extreme cases, this dullness will become so noticeable that we can definitely chalk it down as vaper’s tongue. It’s nothing alarming – it’s the bodies way of telling you that you’re having too much of a good thing and your brain is getting overly stimulated by it. Switching things up always help.
- Dehydration – Dehydration causes your mouth to dry out and this can do some serious damage to your taste buds. Did you notice how, when vaping, your mouth seems to dry out a lot faster? That’s because both VG and PG trap moisture – that’s the most common side-effect of vaping. When that happens, a short film will form over your tongue, blocking taste buds and accounting for bad or almost non-existent taste.
- Blocked nose, infections, and injuries – since smell has a whole lot to do with taste, it’s natural that anything that interferes with it might reduce your ability to taste things. Even food tastes different (and awful) when you’re sick, so why should vape juice be any different? Injuries to your nose will have pretty much the same effect. Best bet here is to rest and heal up – there’s no point in vaping, since you won’t be able to taste anything anyway.
- Certain medications – you’d be surprised how many medications can have a significant effect on the sense of smell. Next time your doctor prescribes you something, just give the side-effects list a quick glance – more often than not, you will find that that drug has been linked to loss of taste or smell. Certain cancer drugs can really mess up your taste buds, but the list of medications that will have an effect on them is pretty long – you can find it right here.
- Stress-related loss of taste – yep, even stress can deprive you of enjoyment in your favorite pastime – vaping. Since we’re all constantly under stress (work, family, FDA vaping regulations, you name it), this is happening pretty often now. Even if you don’t feel like you’re under any stress, your taste buds might be feeling the heat. Usually, these stress-related changes are small, but can sometimes grow to become significant.
- Change in habits – in most cases, beginner vapers will experience loss of taste because they are just that – beginner vapers. Their taste buds are still getting used to vapor and reeling from the complete shock of being smoke-free. If this is the case with you, then you will see a sharp improvement in your sense of smell in just a few short days.
Vaper’s Tongue Fixes You Can Try At Home
In most cases, vaper’s tongue is a fleeting thing – it comes and it goes, and there’s not much you can do about it. Unfortunately, it’s just a matter of waiting it out. Still, if you’re a bit impatient, there are things you can try. Just remember that vaper’s tongue fixes are dozen a dime – every vaper seems to have something that works for them. The most reasonable explanation, of course, is that it just passes and then that gets attributed to the last wild remedy used.
In a nutshell, success with these fixes will vary. You’re welcome to try them, but judge for yourself how effective (or if at all) they really are.
- Hydration – this tip makes sense (and it’s probably the only one that would hold up to rigorous scientific probing!). If you’re dehydrated, you are damaging your taste buds, but you’re also accumulating PG and VG on them. Drinking water regularly will clean your palate and is generally beneficial to your health.
- Shock your taste buds (and your nose) – some people say that all your taste buds need to snap out of it! They suggest sucking on a lemon (really!) or smelling strong smells such as coffee to get the juices flowing again.
- Proper oral hygiene is the key – always! But I’m not sure that it helps with vapers tongue, though. Still, some vapers suggest brushing your teeth and using mouthwash in order to speed up the departure of vapers tongue.
- Changing your vape juice flavor – throwing your brain a curve ball every once in awhile will be a welcomed change of pace. If you’re so used to what you’re vaping that may very well be the cause of your problems. Switch things up a bit and see where that gets you.
- Cleansing your palate with honey – raw honey works wonders for some people. Simply take a spoon-full and suck on it. Apparently, after you’re done, you will be able to taste everything better, from your vapes to your food. I will say that I’ve tried this with ordinary processed honey and didn’t get any results – it might be different if your neighbor is a beekeeper, so give it a shot.
Vaper’s Tongue – Is It Really That Scary?
You can bet your ass it’s scary, especially if it just happened to you and you’ve never heard about it before. But, take comfort in the knowledge that a vast majority of vapers is occasionally faced with this problem. It comes and it goes, and I have yet to hear about a case where it stuck long enough to become a serious issue. Patience is key with vaper’s tongue. You can try a lot of home fixes, but in most cases, it’s the time that heals it.
So chin up – your sense of taste will be back in no time and you will soon be enjoying your e-cigs like nothing ever happened.
If you have any remedies that worked for you, make sure to drop down to the comments section and tell the world about them. Seriously, however weird you think your solution is, it can’t be worse than the guy’s who encouraged a whole Reddit thread to chew unused tampons!