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Woman says COVID left her with rare condition that makes food taste like ‘garbage and sewage’

A 20-year-old who had COVID-19 said it’s left her with a rare condition that makes food taste like ‘garbage and sewage’ – almost a year after she first tested positive for the virus.

Natalia Cano, from Mendham, New Jersey, caught coronavirus in January 2021 while she was working in a food store, and she said it completely changed her sense of taste and smell.

A few weeks after she recovered, she noticed that things that used to taste good started to taste like ‘garbage,’ ‘gasoline,’ or ‘mold’ – a condition called parosmia. 

Food became so disgusting to Natalia, that she said she developed an eating disorder and would throw up any time she tried to eat. 

Now, more than 10 months after recovering from the illness, she said she is still suffering from the condition, and she doesn’t know if it’s ever going to get better.  

She broke down in tears as she opened up about it on TikTok, and the video quickly went viral – gaining millions of views in a matter of days. 

A 20-year-old who had COVID-19 said it’s left her with a rare condition that makes food taste like ‘garbage and sewage’ – almost a year after she first tested positive for the virus.

Natalia Cano, from New Jersey, caught coronavirus in January 2021 while working in a food store

And she said it completely changed her sense of taste and smell

Natalia Cano, from New Jersey, caught coronavirus in January 2021 while working in a food store, and it completely changed her sense of taste and smell

A few weeks after she recovered, she noticed that things that used to taste good started to taste like 'garbage,' 'gasoline,' or 'mold' - a condition called parosmia

A few weeks after she recovered, she noticed that things that used to taste good started to taste like ‘garbage,’ ‘gasoline,’ or ‘mold’ – a condition called parosmia

‘I don’t think anyone understands how much this affects your daily life. It’s not just that foods taste wrong, I mean, it is that, but it’s garbage dude, it’s sewage,’ she said in the video. 

‘It’s gasoline. It’s ammonia. It’s bitter. It’s mold. Imagine if all of your favorite foods tasted like your least favorite foods. It is a step further. It is garbage and sewage.

‘Imagine the worst smell that you have ever smelled in your life, and it’s that but everything. It’s everything.’

In the clip, Natalia read from a Healthline article about the condition, which said 50 per cent of the people who were suffering from parosmia said it improved within three months.

‘[It can last] anywhere between nine days and six months. I am on month 10,’ she said.

According to the website, ‘Parosmia causes things you encounter every day to seem like they have a strong, disagreeable odor. 

‘People who have it can detect an odor that’s present – but the scent smells “wrong” to them. For example, the pleasant odor of freshly baked bread might smell overpowering and rotten instead of subtle and sweet.’

Natalia said in the video that she went to many doctors and had lots of tests done, but hasn’t found a solution. 

Food became so disgusting to Natalia, that she said she developed an eating disorder and would throw up any time she tried to eat

Food became so disgusting to Natalia, that she said she developed an eating disorder and would throw up any time she tried to eat

She said she tries to eat two protein bars a day because 'sometimes it's the only things she can get down'

She explained that a few random foods still taste normal, like Arizona ice tea, Chai tea lattes, pulled pork sandwiches, strawberry yogurt, most dairy, Dr. Pepper, and candy

She said protein bars are ‘sometimes the only things she can get down.’ She also explained that a few foods still taste normal, like Arizona ice tea, Chai tea lattes, Dr. Pepper, and candy

‘It was affecting me so much that I developed gastritis, where every single meal I was throwing up, I couldn’t get anything down for a very long time,’ she continued.

‘Now I can, sure, but I have a severe ED because it’s not that everything tastes bad, it tastes like sewage.

‘It’s been 10 months and [one] doctor told me that if it didn’t improve within a year, there’s a chance that I won’t ever get it back. I have two months left, and it’s not going away.

‘Out of survey responders, 10 per cent of people who had COVID reported having this. There is no research, there is no cure. There’s just hoping. I’m gagging at every meal.’

More than 10-months after she had COVID-19, she said she is still suffering from the condition, and she doesn't know if it's ever going to get better

More than 10-months after she had COVID-19, she said she is still suffering from the condition, and she doesn’t know if it’s ever going to get better

She told Buzzfeed that she will be undergoing repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS), which is a noninvasive therapy that has been shown to help people with parosmia

She told Buzzfeed that she will be undergoing repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS), which is a noninvasive therapy that has been shown to help people with parosmia

People who undergo the therapy report recovering 80 per cent of their taste, according to Buzzfeed

People who undergo the therapy report recovering 80 per cent of their taste, according to Buzzfeed

The rare condition that warps your sense of taste and smell: What is parosmia and how is it treated? 

  • Parosmia causes things you encounter every day to seem like they have a strong, disagreeable odor.
  • People who have it can detect an odor that’s present – but the scent smells ‘wrong’ to them. For example, the pleasant odor of freshly baked bread might smell overpowering and rotten instead of subtle and sweet.
  • In the most severe cases, parosmia can cause you to feel physically ill when your brain detects strong, unpleasant scents
  • Parosmia usually occurs after your scent-detecting neurons – also called your olfactory senses – have been damaged due to a virus or other health condition. These neurons line your nose and tell your brain how to interpret the chemical information that makes up a smell. Damage to these neurons changes the way smells reach your brain 
  • Zinc, vitamin A, and antibiotics can help treat parosmia. Your neurons may be able to repair themselves over time. In as many as 60 per cent of cases of parosmia caused by an infection, olfactory function was restored in the years afterward 
  • Source: Healthline 

 

In another video, Natalia gave viewers an insight on different foods and what they tasted like to her. She said she tries to eat two protein bars a day because ‘sometimes it’s the only things she can get down.’

‘It’s not a lot of bites but it’s a lot of protein so I force myself to eat it,’ she said.

She explained that a few random foods still taste normal, like Arizona ice tea, Chai tea lattes, pulled pork sandwiches, strawberry yogurt, most dairy, Dr. Pepper, and candy.

‘In general things that are sweet taste less horrible to me, still not fantastic but I’m not actively gagging,’ she explained.

‘Nothing makes sense, it’s completely arbitrary. There’s literally no rules.’

She described toothpaste as bitter and sour, and said even water tasted bad. 

In an interview with Buzzfeed, Natalia explained that she actually developed parosmia a few weeks after she had already recovered from COVID. And she wasn’t the only one. 

Lots of people flooded the comment section of her video to share their own experiences, and she discovered that so many others were dealing with the same thing. 

‘It was a really common theme that we had developed really intense symptoms of parosmia a month or two months after we had initially gotten COVID,’ she told the outlet.

‘I had no idea that [parosmia] was an after-COVID symptom until I got it.’

She told the magazine that she will be speaking with her doctor about undergoing repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) in the next few weeks, which is normally a noninvasive therapy used to treat depression but has been shown to really help people with parosmia.

People who undergo the therapy report recovering 80 per cent of their taste, according to Buzzfeed.

She concluded in one final video: ‘[My original video] ended up doing tremendously well. I not only created but found a community of people that had my exact same experiences.’


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