Our sense of smell can add so much joy to our life from experiencing the aroma of our favorite restaurant to fresh flowers in Spring. If you’re wanting to know how to regain a sense of smell to get back to enjoying these fragrances, you’re in the right place.
When we start to lose our sense of smell, this can be alarming and discouraging. However, there are several reasons why this may happen. Keep reading to learn more about why smell is important, what can decrease our sense of smell, and how we can improve it.
Why Smell is Important
Our olfactory perception is the ability to be aware of different odors. This ability plays an important role in our daily life in numerous ways:
- Smells can keep us safe. They warn us of risks such as fires, gas leaks, and spoiled food.
- Scents are linked to our memory. What we smell often relates to an old memory.
- Aromas can affect our emotions. For example, a lavender scent is known to be calming while lemon can be uplifting. Smelling freshly brewed coffee can make us feel ready to start the day.
- Eating is less enjoyable without the ability to smell. In fact, flavors aren’t the same unless we can taste and smell our food.
Common Reasons Why People Lose Their Sense of Smell
There are a variety of reasons why people experience loss of smell or Anosmia.
It can be a symptom of infections such as:
- A common cold
- The flu
Nasal passages and proper smelling can also be affected by age and certain medical conditions:
- Nasal deformities such as abnormality in the structure
- Nasal polyps (noncancerous growths)
- Neurological diseases (i.e. Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, Schizophrenia multiple sclerosis)
- Brian aneurysm, injury, or surgery
- Zinc deficiency
- Dental issues such as gingivitis or gum disease
Additionally, a lack of smell sensations can be a side effect of prescription medications, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy.
Daily habits can also affect our sense of smell. These are some practices to avoid:
- Cigarette smoking
- Cocaine abuse
- Excessive alcohol
- Not consuming enough Vitamins A, B6, B12, and/or zinc
How to Regain Sense of Smell: 7 Simple Strategies
Olfactory loss can be very frustrating, but it is possible to do to improve it. Various studies such as this one have shown that different techniques can improve olfactory loss.
Researchers have seen that the brain responds differently before and after olfactory training, demonstrating that the olfactory nerve has an innate ability to regenerate.
Let’s take a look at how to regain a sense of smell or at least give your olfactory perception a boost.
1. Eliminate Strong Smells
It may sound counterproductive, but this is a suggested first step in regaining your sense of smell and it’s only temporary. After we experience scents for so long, our olfactory sensory neurons become immune to them.
Did you know that master perfumers actually use this method to perfect their skills? First, we get rid of fragrances, especially strong ones, for a short period of time of up to a few days. Then, we start to bring them back which leads us to our next treatment method.
2. Smell Training
Olfactory training consists of smelling the same few scents for a few minutes every day. Take several short, gentle sniffs and be mindful of the odor. You could even jot down what changed from the last time you did the activity. Sniff fragrances that have strong aromas (like the ones you briefly eliminated) such as garlic cloves, spices, mint, eucalyptus, and ground coffee.
You can also do olfactory training with essential oils, compounds extracted from plants. The oils take on the smell of the plant and you can find many that smell great.
For all-natural essential oils that are easy to sniff, check out these nasal inhalers that come in a variety of scents from mint to melon.
Read more: Boom Boom Nasal Inhalers on Shark Tank
3. Be Aware of Smells Around You
When you’re trying to regain your sense of smell, being mindful of the smells around you throughout the day can also enhance your olfactory perception. Possibly keeping a journal can allow you to do this with extra awareness.
Take notice of scents when you normally wouldn’t. Think of it as learning a new hobby — the more you do it, the better you can become at it. Think about how your shampoo smells in the shower or what fragrances are around you as you walk through a parking lot. Use descriptive words like faint, harsh, fresh, and rich to describe aromas.
4. Exercise More
If you’re experiencing a loss of smell, one way to improve it is to get moving. Research shows that exercising can reduce the risk of further olfactory impairment and it can clear up the nasal passages. It’s not exactly determined why this is, but it could be due to the effect exercise has on our overall health in general.
Simple exercises like daily walks with your dog or morning yoga can be enough to heighten your olfactory perception.
5. Stop Smoking
If you’ve been a longtime smoker, there’s a chance your olfactory neurons have been damaged. Naturally, this can cause alterations to your sense of smell. The good news? Tossing out the cigarettes for good can rehabilitate your nose over time. It can also improve your taste so that you can savor your meals more.
6. Drink Less Alcohol
Olfactory impairments likely won’t occur unless there is heavy consumption of alcohol. However, research over the years has discovered that alcohol can affect hearing over time, especially for those with alcohol dependence.
The occasional glass of wine with dinner or Saturday beers shouldn’t cause a loss of smell. However, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to avoid daily happy hour binges.
7. Improve Your Diet
As mentioned, a lack of nutrients can reduce your sense of smell. Vitamin B12 and zinc are key to boosting your smell sensations. With that said, try incorporating more of these foods into your snacks and meals.
- Beef and liver
- Salmon, tuna, and oysters
- Low-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese
- Whole grains
Pro tip: don’t forget to smell your foods before eating them. Not to mention, doing this also allows us to enjoy the taste of our meal more.
If you find that you are eating a well-balanced diet and still have a deficiency, ask your doctor about taking a multivitamin supplement.
Because our olfactory bulb has the ability to be restored, it’s certainly possible to strengthen your smell sensations. We hope that with a better understanding and tips on how to regain a sense of smell, you get back to fully enjoying your favorite aromas in no time.