Bloated and weird taste in my mouth - what could be wrong?
July 30, 2010 8:05 PM   Subscribe

Bloating, sweet taste in mouth, and various odd sensations - what could it be?

I'd like to preface this by saying that I know most of you here aren't doctors, so I will be seeing one as soon as I can. I don't have insurance, so I'm trying to find a way to see one in NYC as soon as possible. I am 29 years old.

Two weeks ago, I visited the ER after a second day of high fevers and I was diagnosed with pneumonia. It wasn't so bad that I was kept at the hospital; they sent me home with antibiotics. To be more specific, it was Cefdinir. It has been about a week and a half since I've taken the last pill, so I don't know if I can chalk this up to allergies.

I also had a blood test done and my liver enzymes, ALT and AST were extremely elevated. I'm not an alcoholic and I don't abuse Tylenol. It has read that way for the past year and a half.

Over the past three or four days, at least from what I can remember, I've had an odd, almost sweet taste in my mouth for a lack of a better description. But not sweet like sugar or an artificial sweetener, but almost like that sweetness of water you taste after not drinking water for quite some time. For the record, I've been drinking plenty of water.

My natural inclination, and probably biggest mistake, is to consult Google. Perhaps I'm doing myself no favors by asking here, either, but you're all a smart community and I thought maybe even the tiniest bit of light might be shed here.

Google and some forums say I have diabetes, but I'm not entirely sure about that.

I've also been bloated, and not only do I get the sensation of the sweetness and wateriness in my mouth, but occasionally I feel like liquid is coming out of my nose from the back of my throat. But there is nothing there - it's dry.

I haven't really lost my appetite, though I think I ate a bit less today because even the smallest meal seems to cause bloating. Even drinking water makes me feel like crap.

To make things worse, I suffer from an anxiety disorder and while I occasionally get a panic attack here and there, I have been getting them daily. I don't exercise (my job is sedentary) and I eat like shit. The foods I consume are either high in sugars or high in fat and sodium.

Googling my symptoms didn't seem to help one bit.

I will see a doctor as soon as I can, but I was hoping someone here would have a little insight until then.

posted by consilience to Health & Fitness (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I don't think it's relevant to the flavor/sensations in your mouth, but the bloating feeling might be due to the antibiotic killing off the normal flora in your intestine. Try eating plenty of yogurt with active cultures, or take a probiotic supplement from a health food store. But yeah, see a doctor too. You have enough other things going on (pneumonia, liver enzymes elevated, etc.) that it's worth seeing a professional.
posted by vytae at 8:25 PM on July 30, 2010

A sweet taste in your mouth is certainly not a typical symptom of diabetes. It's not really a typical symptom of anything, this is why googling your symptoms won't help. So it will be difficult for me to attempt to offer a diagnosis, except that weird tastes usually mean that I check people's electrolytes to see if anything is off (that means sodium, potassium etc.).

I would not be terribly worried about the symptoms you are having, except - why do you have hepatitis? That is what you really need to find out, because you may need to have treatment for that or have it followed. Hepatitis can be a sign of something serious and can lead to serious complications. Not sure why that has been on the back burner for a year and a half, but it seems to me that should be your main reason to hie thee haste to a doctor (not an ER, a primary care doctor). p.s. IANYD
posted by treehorn+bunny at 9:18 PM on July 30, 2010

I tried to help you with your googling by using the medical term 'dysgeusia' plus 'sweet taste'.

Although it's a poor user interface on the website, I thought this site on taste disorders was pretty decent.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 9:20 PM on July 30, 2010

You can get a diabetes screening at a MinuteClinic (inside CVS) or the like, for about $44. I would urge you to do so; it's an easy thing to rule out and an easy thing to get help for if you do come up with it.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 9:20 PM on July 30, 2010

You probably already know this, but: anxiety can make you obsess about minor bodily symptoms which you ordinarily wouldn't even notice.

A strange taste in your mouth and drips from the back of your nose are probably not symptoms of serious illness. They might mean you're coming down with the common cold. Likewise, a few days of bloating does not mean you're dying; it could simply be a symptom of your anxiety.

But the problems with your liver function and your untreated/poorly treated anxiety disorder? That's what you need to be consulting a doctor about.

Stop googling, book an appointment and insist that your doctor work with you to resolve these problems. By all means mention the taste and the drips, but not at the expense of dealing with the two chronic conditions you already know you have.
posted by embrangled at 9:37 PM on July 30, 2010

Response by poster: embrangled, I agree that the liver function problems and anxiety come first. I have taken three blood tests over the course of 18 months and each time, my AST and ALT were in the 300-400 levels. That is incredibly high, but the doctors never pushed me to pursue it. "Could be a fluke. You're young and seem healthy. You don't drink. You don't take Tylenol." Every single time they sent me home.

The anxiety disorder is another thing. It comes and goes. I went three to four years without a single episode and I refuse to take medication for it. Call me crazy, call me stupid. I believe some lifestyle changes can make a difference. After all, I've been living a sedentary lifestyle with incredibly unhealthy foods and I've been dealing with a lot of personal stress. I will discuss it with my doctor, though.

treehorn+bunny, you said, "I would not be terribly worried about the symptoms you are having, except - why do you have hepatitis?"

You're convinced it's hepatitis? The odd thing is that I had all three blood tests taken shortly after being incredibly ill. Could it be possible that those illnesses caused these liver enzyme levels?

Either way, I'm going to follow up and hopefully see a hepatologist or gastroenterologist.

Thanks for the replies, everyone.
posted by consilience at 10:58 PM on July 30, 2010

hmm...the sweet taste might just be an optical (oral?) illusion...the last time i was on antibiotics was for almost a month and they were AWFUL...and left me with a horrid, metallic taste in my mouth that nothing could get rid of...after it was over, things started to taste much much better by comparison...could that be it?
posted by sexyrobot at 11:18 PM on July 30, 2010

Please go to a doctor. I am not a doctor. I am not your nurse. I'd be worried about your liver. I don't want to alarm you, but two symptoms of liver failure are a strong, sweet breath (often referred to as a sweet fecal odor) and ascites- increased fluid in the abdomen. You need to see someone who can do a full assessment and run tests. Take care.
posted by brevator at 3:25 AM on July 31, 2010

Get copies of the previous tests so when you go, the doctor can see it's not a one-time fluke.
posted by galadriel at 6:44 AM on July 31, 2010

I'm sorry to ask this, but is your poop black?

I really think you need to see a doctor. Even without insurance, you can call up and ask how much a visit will cost. You may be able to afford the visit out-of-pocket, and any additional tests/visits can possibly be set up with a payment plan.
posted by Ouisch at 8:07 AM on July 31, 2010

Sorry, but I should clarify -- the reason I ask is because the only hard signs you listed (elevated liver enzymes) + some of the symptoms you describe (thirst/sweet taste, bloating/edema, and possible funny feeling in your esophagus/upper GI tract) could indicate non-alcoholic steatohepatitis with possible esophageal varices.

I don't mean to freak you out, and I obviously cannot diagnose you. I am not a doctor, this is not medical advice. But this is what sprang to mind, and if it were the case, it is very dangerous. You would be in position to not only see a doctor, but to call 911 and go to the ER immediately.

If your stools are dark, tarry, foul-smelling, it could indicate GI bleeding and a serious life-threatening emergency.

In any case, I think this definitely warrants a visit to the doctor or ER. You've been sick, you've had elevated liver enzymes on multiple occasions, and you're experiencing odd symptoms. Even if it's not liver disease or anything similar, these things need to be checked out by a professional.
posted by Ouisch at 8:18 AM on July 31, 2010

Consilience, elevated AST and ALT are the definition of hepatitis (inflammation of the liver). You are probably thinking I just mean infectious hepatitis, like hepatitis B or C. Yes, that's a possibility, but there are plenty of other things that can cause hepatitis: drugs, autoimmune diseases, etc.

You can get hepatitis from being extremely ill if you are so ill you get a "shock liver". But that is unusual, you have to be so ill you either had a cardiac arrest or basically were on death's door.

If you are just getting checked out at some sort of urgent care or ER, they will not be able to give you a proper workup for hepatitis. It doesn't matter if you don't drink or abuse Tylenol, it's not normal and you need to have further testing. The usual thing is to get an ultrasound of your right upper quadrant of your abdomen, and order a 'hepatitis panel' (a panel of blood tests for all the types of infectious hepatitis). After that, you would move into more obscure types of testing for other causes.

The first thing is to see whether they are still elevated (may have been an acute hepatitis caused by meds you had when you were critically ill, or something like that, I don't know). A primary care doctor can do this, you don't need to go straight to a GI/hepatologist. They can refer you to that kind of specialist if needed. p.s. IANYD.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 9:36 AM on July 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

My shot-in-the-dark guess would be a yeast problem, possibly a systemic one. I've experienced weird tastes when I've had oral thrush--also, sores in the corners of my mouth, dry mouth, and a white-ish tongue. If yeast is in your belly, it could also cause bloating (which has happened to me too). This all happened to me after a course of antibiotics. A single diflucan cleared me right up. You could probably go to a walk-in clinic to get one.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:09 PM on July 31, 2010

(Oh, and my thrush never looked anywhere near as bad as cases on the internet. In fact, my doctor was skeptical that I even had it, but I was insistent that I wanted to give diflucan a try, and it got rid of all my symptoms.)
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:10 PM on July 31, 2010

Response by poster: I went to the doctor and it turns out I have fatty liver. I'm 6'1.5" and 199lbs, so I'm not overweight. Most people say I look really fit and athletic. This is just my body type. I do look very fit, but I don't exercise (well, I started two weeks ago) and I eat like shit (I've started to improve that).

Last week, I had an ultrasound done of my abdominal region. Yesterday, blood was drawn for a full panel of tests. Next Friday I talk to my doctor to discuss the results.

Fatty liver might only be a partial cause, or perhaps something greater is causing the fatty liver. It doesn't always have to be diet, but I'm not an alcoholic and I don't take any drugs.

I'm extremely stressed and anxious about seeing the doctor on Friday to hear what's going on--or worse, have no definitive answer and continue with testing. This is getting expensive.

If anyone is interested, I'll come back here with my results, diagnosis or prognosis.

Thanks, all.
posted by consilience at 9:37 PM on August 27, 2010

Wow, sorry to hear that. I hope you're doing okay.
posted by Ouisch at 9:41 PM on September 11, 2010

Response by poster: I'm late getting back with my results, but here they are:

-I have fatty liver
-I have biliary sludge
-My cholesterol is 250-253, I can't remember exactly what it was (not good for anyone, let alone a 29-year-old)
-I was diagnosed clinically depressed with anxiety

That's about it. I've been trying to slowly exercise more and I've been eating healthier.
posted by consilience at 3:06 PM on October 15, 2010

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