Imagine sitting down for your favorite meal, digging in, then feeling your heart drop when you’re not tasting or enjoying food without a sense of smell.
It’s a sensation most people have experienced when eating with a cold. But for those with anosmia, the full or partial inability to smell, it can be a daily occurrence. And the fallout can be both short-term (taking less pleasure in meals, accidentally eating spoiled food) and long-term (malnutrition and even depression).
Smell and taste are closely related, though the two senses are physically distinct. When people chew and swallow food, air that’s infused with food aromas is pushed from the mouth to olfactory receptors, which creates unique flavor sensations often thought of as “taste.” However, many of those sensations are really linked mostly to smell.
So with anosmia — and a decreased ability to “taste” food — how can meals still be vibrant and enjoyable?
Consider these tips:
Take pleasure in color. If food seems bland and unappealing, go for colorful dishes packed with produce. Chefs commonly say that we “eat with our eyes” first, and a visually enticing plate can seem better right away.
Notice texture. If your favorite chocolate doesn’t pack a punch anymore, notice the melt-in-your-mouth sensation. If a salad doesn’t seem impressive, pick out and appreciate the unique textures of each ingredient.
Try a finishing touch. Intense ingredients such as lemon or lime juice, red pepper and ginger can heighten food’s sensory appeal at mealtime.
In any case, if you’re having issues smelling, talk to a doctor right away. Anosmia can have many root causes, ranging from nasal irritation to physical injuries to brain and nerve trauma. It’s important to address the cause early on, as that could impact your overall treatment.
Something to remember: although sometimes permanent, anosmia is often temporary. Your doc can recommend a specialized course of treatment to increase the likelihood that you can smell — and fully taste — your favorite foods again.
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