How to Improve Your Sense of Smell

Our sense of smell might not be as sharp as a dog but still it can help us out in many ways. Do not underestimate the powers of your nose as it is a hard working organ. On average human beings can detect 10,000 distinct kinds of scents.

The sense of smell is closely related to taste. By just smelling a food you can perceive its flavor. No aroma…no taste! Richard Doty, Director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Smell and Taste Centre, says, “When we chew and swallow, volatile molecules from the food go through the rear of the nasal cavity to the olfactory receptors in the roof of the nose. If you hold your nose and put chocolate in your mouth, you won’t taste the chocolate.”

loss of smell

There are many factors that can make us lose our sense of smell such as pollution, age, head trauma, infections and diseases such as diabetes. Sometimes the loss is temporary cause by environmental factors such as chemical fumes or cigarette smoke.

As we age, our olfactory powers get degraded. In some cases, people lose the power of smell by the age of 30. Experts say, just as hearing and eyesight degrades with age, so does the sense of smell. Dr. Alan Hirsch, director at Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation, in Chicago, states, “By age 60, about half of people will experience a reduction in their ability to smell, and by age 80, about three-fourths will”.

There are 3million to 4 million Americans diagnosed with the conditions like hyposmia (reduced sense of smell) and anosmia (complete inability to smell). People deprived of this blessing often can’t notice the smell of gas leakage or odor of rotten food.

So what does a keen sense of smell has to offer? Well! It offers you more flavors and more safety.

How good is your sense of smell working? Here is a test you can conduct to find out your powers of smelling. Dr. Hirch suggests a smelling test: “Close your eyes and taste a little vanilla and chocolate ice cream. If you can’t taste the difference, you may have a problem,” he adds, “or hold a pad soaked in rubbing alcohol just beyond your chin. If you can smell it, your sense of smell is probably fine.”

However, if you fail to recognize the smells, do not worry because we have some good news for you.

There are some exercises that you can perform at your home to sharpen your olfactory powers. These exercises are recommended by professional “smellers” and perfumers. Dr. Hirsch says,

“Someone who is colorblind can look at red and green all day but never see it, but with smell, you can actually cause nerve connections to act, and smell what perhaps you couldn’t before.”

Aroma Recalling Technique
The director of International Flavors & Fragrances Inc., Ron Winnegrad explains that the first rule of thumb is to be conscious of various smells in our daily life. “If you’re drinking a cup of coffee or tea, actually smell it before you drink it, and when eating food, smell it first.” He suggests that, “if you do this on a regular basis, you will increase your sense of smell.” Mr. Winnegard trains his students to identify various fragrances by smelling different raw materials, repeatedly, until they become familiar with the fragrances. The materials that he uses are easily found in the kitchen such as, clove, nutmeg, cinnamon, carrots, vanilla and celery.

Professor Tim Jacob at the school of Biosciences, Cardiff University states that, “The more familiar you are with smells, the better you are at detecting them.”

Take Small Sniffs
Mr. Winnegrad suggests that you keep these ingredients in small jars, separately and smell your collection every day for half an hour. He also suggests taking 2 to 3 short inhalations rather than taking one big deep sniff. He says, “That way you will avoid nose fatigue.”

Use the Fragrance Language
Jacob says, “The way male cheese tasters, wine tasters and coffee tasters help to recall smells is by developing a language.” The trick is to associate some words or descriptions with the fragrance. This is how it works, Jacob says, “If you’ve got two reference points — how something smells and how you’d describe it — your brain’s capacity for recall improves.” For example, the common word used in perfumery for the plant smell is “green” and the word “woody” represents masculine fragrances.

Sniff Sweat
You might not like this one but lab test on rats reveal that sniffing sweat can actually increase the number of receptors in the nose. This is what Jacob has to say, “Some steroids that occur naturally in sweat have been found to increase our sensitivity. Tests in rats have shown that it increases the number of receptors, and in humans it has been suggested that the same thing is happening.”

Get Exposed to clean Air
Jacob says, “”The nitrogen oxides in the air found in built-up urban areas damages your nose receptors. The receptor cells are very exposed.” The cells in the nose usually last for three weeks, and are renewed after some time. Living in highly polluted area can kill off the cells more quickly, before they can be replaced.

He suggests, “Moving away from the city and into the countryside can help to restore this.”

Work out
Vigorous exercise can increase the nasal airflow and an increase in nasal airflow helps improve smell, says Jacob.

Avoid mucus producing foods
The sense of smell fades if there is nasal congestion. Avoid foods that can cause excessive amount of mucus such as milk, yogurt, cheese and ice-cream.

Incorporate Zinc to your diet
Often, Hyposmia is linked with zinc deficiency. Try to take foods containing zinc in order to boost your olfactory power. You can find zinc in lentils, sunflower seeds, oysters and pecans. You can also take daily supplements containing zinc.