Get More from Your Most Underrated Sense
I love the smells of the holidays. Turkeys roasting… pies and gingerbread baking… evergreen trees, and scented candles everywhere. Whether or not you celebrate this time of year, it’s hard to beat the thousand wonderful scents that fill the air.
But for many people, the holidays are also a time of frustration. Because they’re among the millions of Americans – especially older Americans – who have an impaired sense of smell. The National Institutes of Health note that as many as 1 in 4 men over 65 may have serious problems with their sense of smell.
And it’s a lot more than frustrating. Because some people lose the desire to eat when they can’t smell their food. Others could find themselves in mortal danger… because they can’t smell a gas leak or noxious chemicals.
Even if you don’t have a serious problem, you’re losing your sense of smell. It began to fade almost from the time you were born. By the time you hit 30, chances are you already had a measurable loss.
There are good reasons for keeping your sense of smell sharp as long as you can…
- Most of your sense of “taste” is actually triggered in your nose by aroma molecules from your food.
- Smell is the sense most closely linked to memory. A scent is one of the most powerful memory triggers we know of.
- Your sense of smell adds so much pleasure to life.
But before we talk about helping keep your sense of smell sharp, let’s look some of the most common reasons you may lose some or all of your ability to smell.
The most common reason your sense of smell fades is age. That’s why so many people begin to wear too much perfume or aftershave as they get older. They simply can’t smell it as well as they used to.
Other common factors are obstructions in the nose… traumatic head injury… a sensitivity to dust, pollen or other irritants that “stuff up” your nose… and cigarette smoke. Herbal remedies may help reduce the stuffiness caused by sensitivities.
Getting away from cigarettes can help, too. University of Pennsylvania doctors found that people recovered much of their lost sense of smell after they quit smoking.1
I don’t know of anything you can do to recapture your sense of smell after a head injury. But age may be a different matter.
For some people, getting the right nutrients may help. For example, one of the signs you’re not getting enough zinc in your diet is a loss of taste and smell.
Men need about 11 mg of zinc per day. Women need a little less… about 8 mg. But if you don’t eat much meat, you may not be getting enough zinc. Beef and dark turkey are excellent sources of zinc. Milk, cashews and yogurt also provide a decent amount, though far less than beef.
Another nutrient that may help you keep your sense of smell sharp is choline. Choline isn’t a vitamin, but it’s an essential nutrient. Your body uses it to make an important neurotransmitter called acetylcholine. This nervous system messenger is critical for memory… mental sharpness… and your sense of smell.
Your body can’t make choline, so it has to come from your diet. Women should get about 425 mg of choline a day, while men need about 550 mg.
Beef liver and eggs are excellent sources of choline. Seafood, broccoli and Brussels sprouts are other good sources.
You may also be able to give your sense of smell a boost another way. Experts at the University of Cardiff say many people report that exercise sharpens their sense of smell, though the effect is temporary.2
It’s easy to take our sense of smell for granted. But it makes our lives more pleasurable in so many ways. Using these tips, you may be able to enjoy the benefits of a keen nose for many years to come.
Yours in continued good health,
Best Life Herbals Wellness Team
1 Frye, R.F., et al, “Dose-related effects of cigarette smoking on olfactory function,” JAMA. Mar 1990 2;263(9):1233-1236.
2 Gatcum, H. and Jacob, T., “Ansomnia,” University of Cardiff. 2001.