Taste buds are our receptors for taste. The human tongue has on average 2,000 to 10,000 buds and these are replaced every 2 weeks. The number can vary greatly from individual to individual. As we age the number decreases to about half which is why older adults seem to lose their taste for certain foods. They enable us to differentiate between our 5 tastes: salty, sour, bitter, sweet and umami (savory). Young children have an abundance of taste buds and therefore can find the taste of food more intense. This is the reason why certain foods such as broccoli can be unpleasant to them. Taste buds are located on the upper surface of the tongue, soft palate, upper esophagus, cheek and epiglottis (flap that prevents gag reflex). Our saliva dissolves food and enables it to come in contact with these taste receptors. This information is forwarded to the gustatory areas of the brain allowing us to experience taste. It has not been determined whether each taste is assigned to a particular area or all areas can detect all tastes. We do know that humans have evolved to find salty, sweet and umami foods pleasant while many have a dislike for bitter or sour since these are often associated with rotten or spoiled. However, our sense of taste is helped greatly by our sense of smell. The olfactory cells in the nose enable us to smell what we are eating. This partnership sends a true message to the brain about taste. It is the reason why when we experience congestion as a symptom of a cold or allergy, we have difficulty tasting our food. That is, the chemicals released while chewing are unable to reach the receptors in the nose. Smoking, toxins and very hot liquids can severely damage our taste buds. Since saliva is such an important element in allowing us to taste, it is wise to abstain from drinking liquids while eating. This will enable the true flavor of each food to be properly received.
We tend to think of coloring books as a child’s activity. Choosing colors and the repetitive motion of your hands as you bring color to a piece of paper has a Zen quality and can be looked upon as “active meditation”. Think back to when you were a child and how you would focus and get lost in the act of coloring and were unaware of the world around you. The repetitive motion can have a similar effect to running, walking or even dancing. We often think of meditation as the act of sitting still but adults have forgotten how absorbing and satisfying coloring can be. There is a large selection of adult coloring books available on the market with complicated imagery.
Anyone who has been the victim of an injured limb and has had to endure weeks in a cast knows how weak that part of your body can become from under use. A study published in the Journal of neurophysiology has shown that recovery time can be cut in half. One group of volunteers were asked to imagine flexing and resting that part of their body, in a cast, at five minute intervals. The other group was asked to do absolutely nothing. The group practicing the imaginary exercises had fifty percent more strength when the casts were removed..