Burning Mouth Syndrome


I have BMS, and I’ve had it for years. BMS is something no foodie, let alone food writer, wants to acknowledge. But after years of suffering in silence, I’ve decided to go public.

BMS is the acronym for Burning Mouth Syndrome. According to the pamphlet the doctor gave me, BMS is a condition characterized by a burning sensation that feels as though the inside of the sufferer’s mouth has been scalded. Chilies and peppers are the most common triggers, but acidic foods- and even condiments like mustard and barbecue sauce- can fuel an episode.

BMS is real. It’s uncomfortable and annoying, rather than serious. It’s also a common problem, one found all over the world. And while it’s not contagious, neither is it curable. Various treatments have been tested, but none have made much of a long term difference.

Like many people with BMS, I’m not sure when the problem began. I do, however, remember the “before.” Thai, Mexican,Indian and Korean food were favorites, and as long as the chili count was moderate, I had no problems. I routinely added dried chiles to my favorite Chinese stir-fry, and while I’d take a pass on vindaloo, l craved the kabobs, tandoori chicken and vegetarian dishes served in Indian restaurants.

“Hot” is in. Even dishes that used to be “mild” are hot and getting hotter, making it an especially difficult time for anyone with BMS. Servers understand gluten-free, nut-free, dairy-free, egg-free and sugar-free. I hate to add yet another concern to the list, but when a diner asks about the heat level of a particular dish, listen to them. They may not need immediate medication to deal with a life threatening reaction if you’re less than honest, but diners with BMS aren’t going to enjoy a dish that triggers an episode. Trust me.

Filed under: A Digression

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