Did you know that there’s a word for the loss of the sense of smell? It’s called anosmia and it can happen for a number of reasons.
By far the most common reason for losing your sense of smell is nasal congestion. When you suffer from allergies or catch a cold or the flu, your nasal passages can become blocked, impairing your ability to smell. This symptom is usually temporary and your sense of smell will return once your nasal passages clear.
Another common cause of anosmia is a lack of key nutrients—in particular zinc. Zinc deficiency has been shown to significantly impair your sense of smell so make sure you boost your diet with foods rich in this mineral. Try adding oysters (far and away the best source of zinc), lentils, sunflower seeds, and pecans to your diet. Alternately, if you’re having trouble with your sense of smell, you can take zinc supplements for a period of time and see if that doesn’t do the trick.
As for more complex causes of anosmia, medication is one culprit. Certain meds can trigger a loss of your sense of smell. These include amphetamines, estrogen, naphazoline, phenothiazines, and resperpine. Also, if you have been taking nasal decongestants over the long term, these could also be responsible for your lack of smell.
Sometimes anosmia happens when air can’t reach the part of your nose where your smell receptors are. Nasal polyps, nasal tumors, and nasal septal deformities can all be responsible for blocking the flow of air to the smell receptors, affecting your sense of smell.
Other health conditions can impair your ability to smell odors. Alzheimer’s, trauma to the head, nervous disorders, and in rare instances, tumors of the head or brain can all lead to an ongoing case of anosmia. Anything that disrupts your endocrine system can also upset your sense of smell. Your endocrine system is a system of glands that release hormones that regulate your bodily systems. Your endocrine system (and subsequently your sense of smell) can be disrupted by exposure to toxins. Detoxing your body could help you regain your ability to smell.
Too much stress can cause your sense of smell to disappear temporarily. If you are under a great deal of stress, take measures to reduce your stress levels. Try yoga or other meditation exercises. Go for counseling, get some exercise and participate in activities that you enjoy and that help you to relax.
And finally, age can be a factor in many cases of anosmia. As you grow older, your sense of smell may become less sharp.
If you’ve lost your sense of smell, here are a few precautions you should take around the house. Install smoke detectors. If your anosmia is ongoing and doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon, make sure you have detectors that can sense gas fumes. This is especially necessary if you have gas appliances. Alternately, you could consider having electrical appliances instead of gas to increase your safety.
“Smell-Impaired,” MedlinePlus web site; http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003052.htm, last accessed Oct. 29, 2013.
Naudin, M., et al., “Alzheimer’s disease and olfaction,”
Geriatr Psychol Neuropsychiatr Vieil. Sept 1, 2013; 11(3): 287-293.
Gaines, A.D., et al., “Anosmia and hyposmia.” Allergy Asthma Proc. May-June 2010; 31(3): 185-9.