Leaving a bad taste in your mouth


Earlier in the year I was in a creative cooking mode…. Preparing to launch my free ebook for the website, part of a much bigger project I’ve been working on for the last 5 years when something weird happened that prompted me to do some searching and that was when I learned something new.

Something which left a bad taste in my mouth.

And might in yours too.



You see, there are a series of odd things that can occur to present a challenge when you’re putting recipes together like, colds (can’t smell a thing…. Makes recipe testing a little challenging), gastro…(don’t want to eat a thing) but pine mouth… well that was one I’d not heard of before, but I could imagine it messing up a contestants chances on a show like MasterChef!

Well, today I present the Freaky Food Files, or, as I’ll refer to them, the F files (yes, I was a fan of the x-files back in the day, so it seems only fitting). I think the motto here will be “the food is out there”;-) So here goes…

What is pine mouth?

It’s not an allergy or a food intolerance – but it is an odd reaction to consuming a food.

Odd like some people cant taste quinine or some people have an unusual scent in their urine after they eat asparagus. And Odd because there’s no real way of telling who is going to react to it.

pesto1This is my pesto recipe from the free ebook…I make it without pine nuts now!

It’s also known as pine nut syndrome.

Basically after consuming 3 pine nuts or more, some people develop an odd, persistent bitter/metallic taste in their mouth which is worsened by food and drink.

Unfortunately, you can’t tell when you’re eating the nuts that this reaction will occur, there is no obvious sign… they just look and taste like any other innocent nut…. Or any other delicious recipe containing them…but 1-3 days later the persistent bitterness develops.

And it makes everything taste horrible.

As far as authorities can tell it isn’t due to pesticide residues or fungal residues and there appears to be no long term health consequences from it, but it can last anywhere from a few days, to two weeks with some cases reporting up to 9 weeks. There has been some research done which has looked into what could be causing the symptoms. So far they’ve looked into:

  • If it is species or product specific (they have identified at least one species of pine nut which can cause it, but it is hard to identify specific products as pine nuts in certain products may come from a range of places)
  • Fatty acid metabolites to see if the taste is due to the rancidity of the oils within the nut (but the take home here is that it doesn’t explain why the taste would persist for so long.
  • Reflux of fatty acids through liver re-absorption from digestion, their conclusion of these studies are that this could explain the delay in onset, but not the length of symptoms.

As an ex-scientist and naturopath, this would usually fascinate me, but after developing a persistent and horrible odd bitter taste after making my first attempt at what I thought was a really yummy dairy and gluten free pesto I wasn’t so much fascinated as just desperate for whatever this was to pass. Everything I ate or drank from water to chai, cereal to legumes, salad to my pear and cherry crumble, all had this underlying bitter -resiny note. I’d describe it like the taste of a bitter zucchini, or a bitter herb (only I wasn’t taking herbs) and so I thought I’d research potential causes and reasons (and book in to see the doctor if necessary).

palakpaneer chad1(This was my all-time favourite pinenut recipe by Chef Chad Sarno featured in Kris Carr’s Crazy Sexy Diet. It’s a palak paneer and it is absolutely delicious).

It was somewhat difficult to put the finishing touches on recipes when everything tasted bad, and practically impossible to create new ones. I was grateful that neither of my kids seemed afflicted though.

The actual incidence of pine mouth syndrome in Australia is reasonably uncommon, mostly because the Chinese are making some effort to make sure the pine nut species it has been linked to, aren’t shipped internationally. Also there are a range of other health conditions which can cause persistent odd tastes, bitter or metallic, ranging from GORD (gastro oesophageal reflux disease), neurological issues, dental issues to pregnancy just to name a few so if you’re having taste changes, don’t automatically assume it’s pine mouth, go and get things checked out with your doctor first)(as it happens, I’ve had tests for all of these recently with various medical specialists).

So whether or not I actually had pine mouth, we will never know, I can only imagine how tricky this would be if you were a parent of an already fussy child (or even one who wasn’t because what I experienced was enough to put me off of my favourite bliss balls and broccoli). It could be worse still for people who are recovering from various medical conditions and who really need to be bringing up their strength and nutrition.

Pinemouth 3

Anyway, that’s all for this freaky food file.

I hope you found it interestingJ

Please share if you know anyone who would be interested in this.