Hypersensitivity to food tastes, smells and textures

What is hypersensitivity to food tastes, smells and textures?
SIMPLIFIED EXPLANATION

Hypersensitivity to food tastes, smells and textures is an oral disorder. Certain food tastes, textures and odors are unbearable, and the person is unable to eat the foods that cause these sensations. This is very different from a whim or personal preference, as the person experiences real suffering if they try to eat these foods. Autistic people have hyper- or hypo-sensitivities more often, but people without any particular developmental diagnosis can also have these conditions.

What is hypersensitivity to food tastes, smells and textures?

The real term for this hypersensitivity is sensory dysorality. The person is hypersensitive to such a degree that it is impossible for them to consume foods with the tastes, textures or smells that cause them problems. This is a frequent problem for autistic people.

Symptoms of food dysorality

The symptoms of hypersensitivity to tastes, textures and smells vary from person to person. You don’t need to have the whole list of symptoms to be hypersensitive, and there are many symptoms that are not on this list.

Consequences of food dysorality

Oral disorders are not to be taken lightly, as they can lead to consequences such as nutritional deficiencies or even malnutrition.

Important

Food hypersensitivity is not a whim, but a real disorder. It cannot be resolved simply by willpower.

Autism and dietary rigidities

Rigidity in the face of change

Other characteristics of autism can affect eating. Autistic people don’t like change, and introducing a new food is a big change. It’s therefore essential to take things more slowly. Instead of presenting the new food directly to the child, you can introduce it gradually, placing it at a certain distance and bringing it closer from meal to meal, so that the child slowly becomes accustomed to its presence and gets used to the idea of tasting it. Forcing them to do so will only worsen the problem.

If the person is very rigid, care must be taken not to contribute to additional rigidities, for example, by serving certain foods always on the same day, or at the same meal, or in the same way. If the child likes potatoes, vary the cooking, type, presentation, quantity and seasoning to maintain a certain variety.

What to do if hypersensitivity to food tastes, smells and textures is a problem?

You have to be creative and proactive, identifying the problem and finding ways to eliminate or mitigate its effects.

Separating food on the plate

Separating foods can mean that they provoke a lesser variety of stimuli with each mouthful, as well as visually.

Limiting diversity at mealtime

Offering a smaller variety of foods or flavors (sweet, salty, bitter and sour) at each individual meal can help the person eat a greater variety of foods over the long term.

Odor control

For some hypersensitive people, it’s the odors that are the problem. Eating foods cold can help these people consume foods that they would otherwise never be able to swallow. Also, the person may need to eat somewhere that is away from the cooking pots and pans or away from the table.

Food lists

You need to draw up a list of problematic items as well as accepted foods. For accepted foods, it’s best to avoid giving them for a long time, so they don’t become intolerable foods. As for intolerable foods, making a list can help to find links between them, to identify what the problem is with these foods. Once the source of the aversion has been identified, for example, a specific texture, it might be possible to modify the food to make it easier to eat.

Alternatives

Suggest alternatives to problem foods so that the person does not develop deficiencies. This could involve cooking the food differently, or coating it with ketchup, or blending the food into a puree. If the problem food is still not accepted, suggest another food that provides the same nutrients (vitamins, proteins, minerals, etc.).

When I was young, meat had to be eaten with Diana Sauce. It was my favorite sauce. If I didn't have this sauce, the meat would feel cold and my teeth would grind.

Professionals

If the disorder is severe, seeking consultation is required. Occupational therapy or nutrition services can help establish food integration protocols, and can also help ensure that the person is not lacking anything in their diet.

Food supplements

Sometimes it’s not possible to guide an autistic person towards a balanced diet. Various specialists, such as nutritionists, can advise you.

Important

Many misinformed people will tell parents that no child will let themselves starve to death. But this is not true. In the case of autistic children with an oral disorder, this can happen.