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How & why to tickle your taste buds

Which is your favorite of the five senses? Sight, sound, smell, taste, or touch? It’s hard to pick which we couldn’t live without as it is through the combined senses that the world itself is alive to us, through music, through beauty, through the essences, flavors and the mystery of the least understood organ of our bodies, the skin that we are wrapped in. We would be hard-pressed to live without any of these delights of being alive, but many might remember living without taste. One of the strangest aspects of the superbug that just swept the planet - Covid - was that it killed some peoples’ sense of taste-making the world very dull.

As Olive Oil experts, taste and smell are our most prized attributes. I want to share how as a professional I care for and enhance my taste sensibility, as it brings so much enrichment to everybody’s life, worldwide, in all walks and cultures.

Every tongue is different and humans have an average range anywhere between 2,000 and 10,000 taste buds which are found not just on the tongue but also on the roof and walls of your mouth, throat and esophagus. While the nerve receptors for different elements in the foods we consume are in the mouth, throat and esophagus, we perceive taste in the brain’s ‘gustatory cortex’ which differentiates between 5 predominant categories; sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and savory. The flavors correlate with the chemical compounds of the foods. Bitterness indicates the presence of alkaloid compounds, for example in substances like coffee which is rich in 'Chlorogenic acid lactones'. While we don’t need to understand exactly which chemicals stimulate which sensations, it’s good to know why.

Taste evolved in animals some 500 million years ago as an evolutionary development. To our hunter-gatherer ancestors, the senses were less a luxury by which to sample amongst the vast array of culinary cultures and options off finest extra virgin olive oils, and more a tool by which to stay alive. Taste receptors evolved as a means of keeping the species alive by dissuading our ancestors from swallowing poisonous and deadly foods. The brain developed a system of categorizing tastes according to their chemical components. Bitterness came to describe poison while sweetness came to describe rich in energy foods. As such, because it was once good for us, we developed a sweet tooth.

This was eventually exploited by the emergence of a food industry that became a sugar-pumping factory, completely reversing the natural order of the original and basic meanings of tastes. Today we have to become responsible for our own nutritional education because the priority for food manufacturers is profit, not providing consumer goods with high nutrition, so we have to relearn about our health and wellbeing, re-harmonizing our bodies with the environment. We can look to ancient practices for guidance on how to do this. In particular, I look to Ayurvedic practices, which acknowledge the body and the earth as correlated entities and offer pragmatic ways to sanitize and purify our body, therefore mind and soul. One such practice advocated by Ayurveda is tongue scraping, to bring the taste buds alive.

I scrape my tongue every morning and sometimes night. Tongue scraping is one of the oldest self-care practices in Ayurvedic tradition. When we sleep, our digestive system remains awake, removing toxins from our body by depositing them onto the surface of our tongue. If we don’t scrape away these toxins, they get reabsorbed by the body and can lead to respiratory difficulties, digestive problems, and a compromised immune system. These accumulating toxins are called ‘ama’ in Sanskrit and are the white layer coating on your tongue. If your tongue is coated in white ‘ama’, that's a sign there are excess toxins in your gastrointestinal tract and also your tasting buds are coated and can’t transmit the tasting signals to your brain properly.

Why tongue scrape?

Dental researchers have concluded that a tongue scraper is more effective at removing toxins and bacteria from the tongue than a toothbrush. Although brushing and flossing will loosen and move debris around, they do not actually remove the bacteria. Almost half of our oral bacteria live on and in the deep crevices of our tongue; the scraping action of a tongue scraper collects these toxic tongue coatings and removes them from the body. Digestion begins in the mouth. The moment you eat something, your mouth sends signals to your stomach that it's time to digest. If your taste buds are coated, your tongue receptors won't know what you are eating, so there is less signal to your body to secrete the correct digestive enzymes necessary to break down your meal. Tongue scraping removes the toxins blocking your tongue receptors, improving digestion. You eat less food and be more satisfied with your meal.

How to use a tongue scraper

A tongue scraper is a long, thin, flat piece of metal that is bent in a "U" shape or a plastic triangle-shaped like the one shown in the picture above. It is sold in pharmacies but you can always use a tablespoon. They are very simple to use and the benefits make an enormous difference!

1. Scrape your tongue from the back to the front in long strokes about 10 times.

2. Go hard enough that the white layer is being removed from your tongue but not too hard that you are hurting yourself, just hard enough that you are removing the toxicity.

3. Rinse mouth and tongue scraper thoroughly afterward with warm water.

4. Then you can brush your teeth as you do every day.

Benefits of Using a Tongue Scraper

∙ Clears toxins & bacteria from the mouth

∙ Enhances the sense of taste

∙ Helps remove the coating on the tongue that leads to bad breath

∙ Helps eliminate undigested food particles from the tongue

∙ Promotes overall oral & digestive health

∙ Gently stimulates the internal organs

Our senses are the only and most important tool of professional tasters to help them deliver accurate results and do their job with excellence. In this crazy world, we are living, our body craves care and treatment rituals and this is something we need to "hear" and take care of.

By properly caring for our bodies in the many diverse and subtle ways, we drastically increase our overall health levels, making us more happy and effective across all areas of our lives.


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