Can You Improve Your Sense of Smell?
You don’t have to be a wine aficionado or a bloodhound to appreciate a strong, refined, and healthy sense of smell. Yes, it’s true that the sense of smell can become less powerful with age. But there are some ways you can improve or enhance your sense of smell if you want to be more nasally aware.
1. Pay More Attention to What You Are Already Smelling
You may be surprised at how many scents you routinely ignore. Try keeping an “olfactory journal” for a few weeks so you can jot down some of the various smells you notice – at least the pleasant ones. Subtle ways to do this include taking in the scents of the foods you eat and visualizing appealing scents or fragrances.
2. Train Your Nose with Self ‘Smell Quizzes’
Once you become more aware of the smells you routinely encounter, go a step further and “train” your nose with fun quizzes. For instance, you might pick four smells and then notice when you smell them during your normal routines. Another tactic is to choose four or five scents you are fond of and really take a good sniff of each one. Doing this will stimulate olfactory (smell) receptors in your nose.
It can also be helpful to associate certain pleasant aromas with equally pleasing feelings so you’ll be more likely to recall different scents. For example, you might quiz yourself about the smells associated with a favorite meal you associate with happy times in your life the next time you have it.
3. Get More Exercise and Watch Your Diet
There’s research suggesting that the sense of smell is stronger after exercise. It’s not known why this happens, but it may be because exercise produces chemicals that stimulate parts of the brain associated with smell. Exercising enough to work up a good sweat has also been associated with a reduced risk of losing smell capabilities that sometimes diminish with age.
Smell impairment (hyposmia) is sometimes linked to dietary deficiencies. Zinc and B12 deficiencies, in particular, have been associated with smell impairments. Foods rich in these two nutrients include:
• Chickpeas, lentils, beans, and other legumes
• Shellfish, salmon, tuna, and red meat
• Seeds and nuts
• Cheese, milk, and other dairy products
• Beef, liver, and chicken
• Clam and sardines
• Fortified cereals and non-dairy milk
If you do have noticeable, unexplained difficulty identifying smells, check in with an ear, nose, and throat specialist to find out why. Other than obvious injuries or age-related changes, your ability to smell can be affected by chronic sinus infections, nasal polyps, and undiagnosed neurological disorders.