If you were listening in on Sunday, you’ll have heard Fiona talking about our sense of smell as an introduction to Julie Payne‘s interview about aromatherapy. Here’s a reminder of what Fiona had to say…
Our sense of smell is an amazing thing. We get our sense of smell via 5 million smell sensors in our nose. Sounds impressive doesn’t it?
But compared with dogs, who have 220 million and even rabbits who have 100 million of these sensors, our sense of smell is limited. Nevertheless, an average human can recognise 10,000 different odours, with women usually scoring higher across all tests.
Our lives are shaped by smells from our earliest days and it’s the sense most closely linked to memory. That’s why the bakery in a supermarket is often near the front – that homely smell makes us feel welcome. Vanilla is another odour which often reminds us of cakes, ice-cream and childhood, which goes some way to explaining why perfumes based on vanilla are so popular.
But imagine what life is like if you have no sense of smell. All those things you can’t enjoy… And one of the worst things is that your sense of taste more or less disappears too, as what we consider our ability to taste is about 80 per cent due to our sense of smell.
For most of us the experience is temporary; we get a cold, for example, and for a few days everything tastes like cardboard. But for some a sense of smell is something they can only imagine – or remember.
It’s reckoned up to 3 million people in the UK suffer from anosmia – the medical term for no sense of smell – although the reasons vary. Commonly it’s due to nasal polyps – swellings often related to allergies – which form a blockage in the nose. It is often possible to operate on these polyps and restore the sense of smell. One snag is that the polyps can recur.
Currently, there’s only one NHS Smell and Taste Clinic in the UK, near Great Yarmouth. Here the surgical team led by consultant Carl Philpott has pioneered a new technique which means these operations often have a longer lasting effect.
Anosmia can also result from a head trauma or injury. And some people are simply born with no sense of smell. Anosmics report even wishing they could smell bad smells just so they understand what they are like – one of Carl Philpott’s patients said in an interview she even wanted to be able to smell farts!
Smell is fundamental to how we bond with our children and our close circle, so losing your sense of smell affects your feelings of connection with others. That loss of connection can lead to feelings of depression. These days there is a charity called Fifth Sense that works to support people with anosmia. It was set up by Colin Boak who suffers with anosmia himself, following an accident,
Occasionally, a woman experiences anosmia during pregnancy, starting in the first trimester. It usually returns after the birth.
The early weeks of pregnancy are more often associated with the opposite condition, when the sense of smell is hyper-sensitive. Women report being unable to stand the smell of coffee, despite having loved it before, and the smell of food can be very unpleasant with the odours much stronger than usual.
When people contact Fiona about this, the remedy she most often advises is a homeopathic one called Sepia, which can ease the feelings of nausea made worse by an acute sense of smell.
For more help with symptoms in the early weeks of pregnancy, contact Fiona via her website – and watch this space for a reminder of Julie’s hints and tips on using essential oils for health and around the home…