How does your food taste when your nose is blocked due to a common cold or any other reason? Somewhat bland right? Have you ever wondered why this happens?
The sense of smell is the last thing we pay attention to, but it has a significant role in how we relish our food or define the taste and smell of food and other fragrances.
The reason is that our sense of taste is partially dependent on our sense of smell. The sensory receptors in our nose and tongue work together to help our brain define the flavor of a particular food.
It is common for people to lose their sense of smell when they are in the throes of a severe respiratory infection. This has a negative bearing on how your food tastes as well.
Even though your taste buds are fully functional, the impaired sense of smell makes it difficult for you to taste the original flavor of the food. This hampering of the sense of smell is referred to as anosmia, which inadvertently makes your food taste bland until the condition clears. (1)
- What causes Loss of Taste and Smell?
- Loss of Taste and Smell Symptoms
- Preventive Tips
- Tips to Manage Loss of Taste and Smell
- Method 1: Castor Oil
- Method 2: Alpha Lipoic Acid
- Method 3: Zinc
- Method 4: Inhalation/Vapor
- Method 5: Vitamin B
- Method 6: Apple Cider Vinegar
- Additional Helpful Tips
What causes Loss of Taste and Smell?
Infections such as the common cold and influenza as well as sinus problems account for most cases of temporary loss of smell and taste. There are some other factors that can result in the onset of this problem, such as:
- A head injury or a stroke
- Dental or oral problems
- Exposure to certain chemicals such as chlorine, formaldehyde, benzene, trichloroethylene, and paint solvents
- Radiation therapy for neck or head cancer
- Snorting cocaine through the nose or smoking cigarettes
- Hormonal changes
- Dental or oral health issues
- Side effect of certain medications (2)
A permanent loss of taste and smell may be due to certain medical conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia, Parkinson’s disease, and epilepsy.
Loss of Taste and Smell Symptoms
- Distortion of nose and tongue functions - fragrances that are pleasant smell odd or distorted
- Inability to distinguish flavors due to this disorder
There are some tips and techniques that you can follow to help keep your sense of smell totally intact and to avoid certain mishaps that can result when you suffer from anosmia.
If you are prone to colds or flu and/or you have sinus problems, the following precautionary measures are a must:
- Quit smoking as it dulls the sense of smell.
- Regular or excessive alcohol intake can adversely impact your food-tasting abilities. It may help to limit your alcohol intake if you notice any such signs. Swearing off alcohol is even more preferable if you wish to savor your food for its original flavor.
- If an ongoing infection or allergic reaction hampers your sense of smell, use a saline solution to rinse the inside of your nose.
- You can also revive and restore your olfactory faculties by giving aromatherapy a try. Citrus oils such as those derived from lemon or orange, as well as other strong-smelling potions such as rose oil and peppermint oil, have been found especially helpful in this regard. (9)
Tips to Manage Loss of Taste and Smell
Here are some home remedies to improve your senses of taste and smell.
Method 1: Castor Oil
Castor oil is an antioxidant known to have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that can help effectively clear up stuffed nose and restore the sense of taste and smell. This remedy lacks scientific explanation, however, it has a lot of anecdotal support for the users.
Single-Step Method: Put castor oil drops in your nostrils
- Warm up some castor oil and, using a dropper, drip 1 drop in each of your nostrils.
Do this twice a day, once in the morning and once before going to bed at night. Do this until your senses of taste and smell are restored.
Method 2: Alpha Lipoic Acid
Alpha lipoic acid is an antioxidant that naturally occurs in the body and protects your body from cellular damage. It plays a vital role in maintaining cellular health.
Studies have shown that alpha lipoic acid may help restore your nerve function and assist both your senses of taste and smell. Consult your doctor before consuming the supplements of alpha lipoic acid. (3)
Including foods rich in alpha lipoic acid, such as broccoli, organ meat such as liver and heart, and spinach, in your diet is a great way to restore your ability to smell and taste.
Method 3: Zinc
Zinc is important to produce an enzyme called anhydrase, which is critical for taste and smell. This is why a deficiency of zinc in your body may significantly impair your senses of smell and taste.
Zinc boosts the productions of white blood cells in your body and helps fight infections effectively.
Consume foods rich in zinc such as meat, oysters, raw milk, raw cheese, kefir, beans, and yogurt. If you are planning on taking zinc supplements, consult your doctor for the proper dosages.
Method 4: Inhalation/Vapor
Inhaling steam is a great way of opening up your nasal congestion. The warm and moist vapor moistens the inner lining of your nose and reduces the inflammation. Such actions clear up space inside your nostrils, enabling you to breathe easily. (6)
A drop or two of eucalyptus essential oil will help you feel relieved faster. The eucalyptus oil is antibacterial and removes the problem-causing virus and toxins.
Single-Step Method: Put eucalyptus oil in a humidifier and inhale the steam
- Fill your humidifier with water and put 2 to 3 drops of eucalyptus essential oil into it.
- When it starts to let out steam, lean over it and cover your head with a towel.
- Inhale the steam for 5 to 10 minutes, and then remove your towel.
- Repeat this method two to three times a day to restore your senses of smell and taste.
Method 5: Vitamin B
Your olfactory system, which is your sense of smell, works on a complex network of nerves.
A fragrance or an odor activates the nerve cells in your nostril, and the nerve cells send signals to the brain, which is why you can recognize the smell. Nerve damage can disrupt the olfaction centers of your brain and diminish your sense of smell.
Studies have shown the correlation between vitamin B deficiency and losing your senses of smell and taste. A severe deficiency of vitamin B can damage your nerve cells, paralyzing your senses of smell and taste. (7)
Eating foods rich in vitamin B, such as shellfish, milk, soy and rice beverages, and poultry, can improve your senses of smell and taste.
Consult your doctor for dosages if you wish to take vitamin B supplements.
Method 6: Apple Cider Vinegar
The pungency of apple cider vinegar (ACV) makes it an effective natural ingredient for the restoration of your lost sense of smell. This liquid owes its strong sour taste to the acetic acid present in it.
It is this characteristic vinegary taste that tingles your taste buds and pervades through your olfactory senses to give your central nervous system a much-needed shake.
This stimulatory effect of apple cider vinegar was corroborated by a study published in Chemical Senses in 2014. The findings revealed that the smell of vinegar was strong enough to be picked up by the patients with anosmia, while the placebo engendered no response. (8)
Moreover, vinegar also exhibits antibacterial properties that can help you recover faster from nasal infections, which are often responsible for your loss of smell.
Thing's you'll need:
- Apple cider vinegar - 2 teaspoons
- Honey - ½ teaspoon
Single-Step Treatment: Drink a mix of apple cider vinegar and honey in water
- Mix apple cider vinegar and honey in some water and drink this solution twice a day.
Additional Helpful Tips
- You can replace eucalyptus essential oil with peppermint essential oil for the steam inhalation.
- Eat or drink foods that are citrus or sour such as sauerkraut, orange, and yogurt.
- Be cautious when eating leftover food. Check the expiry date of packaged food products.
- Refrain from eating any food item that you suspect may have gone bad or is unsafe for consumption.
- When your sense of smell is compromised, you may not be able to detect smoke in the event of a house fire. Thus, in the interest of your own safety, consider getting fire detectors and smoke alarms installed in your house.
- Charles Spence. Just how much of what we taste derives from the sense of smell? Flavour. https://flavourjournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13411-015-0040-2. Published November 2, 2015.
- Schiffman SS. Influence of medications on taste and smell. World Journal of Otorhinolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2095881118300234. Published March 26, 2018.
- Cormie SE, Hirsch AR. 74 Alpha Lipoic Acid Responsive Hypergeusia. CNS spectrums. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30859990. Published February 2019.
- Pisano M, Hilas O. Zinc and Taste Disturbances in Older Adults: A Review of the Literature. The Consultant pharmacist: the journal of the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27178656. Published May 2016.
- Yagi T, Asakawa A, Ueda H, Ikeda S, Miyawaki S, Inui A. The role of zinc in the treatment of taste disorders. Recent patents on food, nutrition & agriculture. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23305423. Published April 2013.
- Little P, Stuart B, Mullee M, et al. Effectiveness of steam inhalation and nasal irrigation for chronic or recurrent sinus symptoms in primary care: a pragmatic randomized controlled trial. CMAJ: Canadian Medical Association journal = journal de l'Association medicale Canadienne. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5026511/. Published September 20, 2016.
- Derin S, Koseoglu S, Sahin C, Sahan M. Effect of vitamin B12 deficiency on olfactory function. International forum of allergy & Rhinology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27119316. Published October 2016.
- Kurtz, Daniel B. W, L. T, et al. What a Tangled Web We Weave: Discriminating between Malingering and Anosmia. OUP Academic. https://academic.oup.com/chemse/article/24/6/697/320336. Published December 1, 1999.
- Naka A, Riedl M, Luger A, Hummel T, Mueller CA. Clinical significance of smell and taste disorders in patients with diabetes mellitus. SpringerLink. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00405-009-1123-4. Published October 14, 2009.