Moment for Health: That Smelly Smell

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smellI can smell Fall. It has a sweet earthy crispness, drifting in and out as it piggybacks on the cool wet wind.

I smell the rain in the background, laced in white puffy clouds, ready to fall to the ground when the moment arises.

A smattering of other morning smells swirl into the mix, coffee, bacon, and vanilla-spice shower gel from the neighbors open window across the street.

With all the smells that taunt my nose, I can only imagine what Rocky must smell, a sensitivity better than mine observed when his nose snaps back, zig-zagging him across the lawn to the spot where the pheromone of some other dog clings.

In that moment it serves me well that my nose only contains about 5 to 6 million receptor cells versus his 220 million. I desire not to smell those smelly smells he smells. Yet for humans those tiny nerve receptors touching down in the inside of the upper nose (nasal cavity) give another view of the world in an infinite possible of ways.

Our olfactory nerves connect right up to the most ancient and primitive part of the brain, the limbic system, or better known as the seat of emotion. It is here the smells render up memories that can make the heart warm up or provoke a vomit attack.

No one smells an odor the same way. There are known yummy smells like putting a dash of cinnamon in cookies to make the nose tingle in delight even more; or sautéing a bit of garlic to trigger gastronomic gurgles for a better appetite.

Sprinkle a bit of baby powder on yourself and try not to smile while taking a big whiff. Nice smells actually influence positively a person’s looks, a situation, or even an object. And eating is tied directly to our smeller. Taste is dependent on the olfactory nerves to clarify what is crunching between our teeth as we chew our food.

So consider it to your advantage in keeping the whiffer in tip-top shape. Dr. Alan Hirsch, M.D., F.A.C.P, board-certified neurologist and nationally recognized smell and taste expert, gives some good advice on his website ( for keeping the nose in the know.

1. Avoid head injuries by buckling up in the car and wearing helmets when riding bikes. Nose nerves are delicate and can tear easily with any type of impact to the skull.

2. Exercise increases our sense of smell as does keeping the body well hydrated with water.

3. Adding zinc to the diet for those deficient in this mineral can help put the sense of smell and taste back on the map (yes oyster lovers, keep on slurping).

4. Medications can blot out the sense of smell and taste, so ask your doctor if yours is one of those and are there alternatives.

5. Humidify the air if living in a dry climate. Moistures help the olfactory receiving smells.

6. Quit smoking, it damages the olfactory nerve receptors.

7. Blow your nose and keep it clean with saline spray.

8. Stick to one glass of wine or beer to keep the blood alcohol levels from interfering with the sense of smell.

9. Avoid bad smells for long durations of time. It can dull the receptors to the point of the loss of smell. If your job has you breathing strong smells, wear a mask over the mouth and nose.

10. Go and do some sniff therapy of your own since it is possible to train the nose and brain to notice smells better. Wine tasters do it all the time to keep their nose in tune. Sniff something with a good solid odor a couple of minutes several times a day for 3-4 months. The nose will soon get sensitive to that certain smell.

For me, I’d rather use the palette of mother nature to enhance my sense of smell, sticking my nose up like Rocky does, smelling the minute particles dancing their way through

the air, like the smell of freshly mowed grass or the smell of the salty Pacific—although I must admit there’s nothing like the smell of Sicilian pizza cooking in the oven.

Wherever the odoriferous molecules abide, be it the kitchen or outdoors, it is there for our smellers to smell. Seems we just need to take a little more time and care to notice it all.

Contact Gina Dostler at [email protected]

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