Health Advice



Restoring your sense of smell

By Michael Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet Oz, M.D. on

"The act of smelling something, anything, is remarkably like the act of thinking," said Lewis Thomas, physician, poet and author of "Lives of the Cell." Smells evoke layers of sensations, stimulate memory and lead to pleasure or repugnance. Without a sense of smell, everything from food and flowers to air, water, even other people, becomes far less engaging. For some folks, it also causes distortions in odor and taste; what was previously pleasant becomes distasteful or repulsive.

Up to 1.6 million people may be having chronic difficulty detecting smells because of COVID-19, according to a research letter published in JAMA Otolaryngology -- Head & Neck Surgery. That's in addition to the 13.3 million adults age 40 and older in the U.S. who have a non-COVID-19-related loss of ability to smell (olfactory dysfunction).

There are many potential causes of olfactory dysfunction, beyond COVID-19, including head trauma, diabetes and some cancers, zinc deficiency, nasal polyps, viral infections or allergies. If the loss of smell persists or isn't treatable with medications (for allergies, say) or surgery (to remove polyps), it can trigger depression (in 40% of patients), inappropriate weight loss (food has no taste, so why bother) and nutritional deficiencies.

That's why experts recommend that after two weeks of loss of smell, folks start olfactory training for at least three months. It involves sniffing a set of odors -- typically lemon, rose, cloves, eucalyptus, plus coffee -- for 20 seconds each (with eyes open) at least twice a day. You can set up new neural pathways and retrain your brain!



Health pioneer Michael Roizen, M.D., is chief wellness officer emeritus at the Cleveland Clinic and author of "What to Eat When" and its companion cookbook.

(c)2021 Michael Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet Oz, M.D.

Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

(c) 2021 Michael Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet Oz, M.D. Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.



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