What Causes Taste Buds to Swell?

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Taste buds are small structures on the upper surface of the tongue. They are made up of a group of receptor cells, which are connected to nerve bundles that send signals to the brain. The human tongue has around 10,000 taste buds. Swollen taste buds are usually small, white in color and painful. There are many reasons for the occurrence of swollen taste buds.

A woman gives a man a bite of food.
A woman gives a man a bite of food. (Image: Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Getty Images)

Over Stimulation

One of the most basic causes for swollen taste buds is over stimulation. Over stimulation most commonly occurs after eating spicy or salty food. Ingredients found in rich foods may serve as an irritant and cause the taste buds to become inflamed. To reduce swelling or smarting of the tongue after eating spicy food, it is recommended that you eat ice cream or yogurt to soothe inflammation.

A close-up of a woman eating a potato chip.
A close-up of a woman eating a potato chip. (Image: Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Exposure to Toxins

Constantly exposing the tongue to toxins contained in substances such as alcohol, tobacco smoke and insecticides can cause taste buds to react and swell up. This is because toxins cause fluid and fat retention in the cells. It also is common for toxins to deposit a white residue on the surface of the tongue, particularly in the morning. This puss-like substance is your body's way of rejecting the toxins. A simple detox diet for a week can help to prevent build up of toxins in the body.

A man sprays insect repellant on his face.
A man sprays insect repellant on his face. (Image: Thomas Northcut/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Trauma

Forms of trauma to the tongue such as accidentally biting it can cause taste buds to become inflamed. The tissue that makes up taste buds is similar to muscle tissue in that it can be bruise and damaged in the same way. Take care when chewing food to avoid accidentally nicking the tongue. If the cause of inflammation is due to an infected cut or biting, apply glycerin to the area and consult your doctor if the area becomes more inflamed.

A doctor inspects a patient's tongue with a mirror.
A doctor inspects a patient's tongue with a mirror. (Image: Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Stress

Stress is known to negatively affect the body, including cell irritation. Emotional stress or fatigue can cause a hormonal disruption that affects areas of your body in different ways. The mouth is one area of the body that is particularly affected by stress levels, for example ulcers, swollen taste buds and swollen lymph glands. The most common cause of this is stress lowering the immune system and therefore allowing the body to absorb bacteria more easily.

A woman rests her chin in her hands while looking at a laptop.
A woman rests her chin in her hands while looking at a laptop. (Image: Dylan Ellis/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

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