Up to 95% of people with Parkinson's experience a change in their ability to smell. A loss in smell is called anosmia, while a reduction in smell is called hyposmia. People with Parkinson's can have a change in their smell if the part of the brain that controls smell (Olfactory system) is compromised. Sometimes, this can be one of the earliest symptoms as people can report changes in their ability to smell well before they experience any changes with movement. A change in our ability to smell is not something that is visibly seen by others, so it can be overlooked by your health care professionals. However, a change in our smell can really negatively influence someone's quality of life. Smell is so connected to taste, and having our taste compromised can lead to reduced appetite and possibly excessive weight loss. If you are experiencing problems with your sense of smell, read more to learn how to possibly enhance your sense of smell.
Mindful Meal Preparation
Whenever you are starting to prepare your meal, be very intentional with your thoughts and mindset. Try to pull out all the different aromas with each step of your meal prepping. Ask yourself the following questions:
How does every individual ingredient smell when they are raw compared to how they are cooked?
How does mixing ingredients impact the aromatics?
What herbs and spices could be added to your dish and how would they change the aromatics?
With any traditionally fragrant food like onion or garlic, try cooking them separately and spend time focusing on the smell.
Many people tend to eat while doing something else like watching TV, reading, or even on the go. When you eat your meals, try to limit all distractions (example: turn the TV off) so you can concentrate what is on your plate. This allows your brain to truly focus on just one task - eating.
When taking bites of food, focus on the smell before you place the food in your mouth. Once you are chewing, try to focus on the taste.
When you are trying to smell something, always do it with the same "technique" or pattern, like wafting a scent into your nose. This can help strengthen the connection between your brain and your sense of smell.
Try experimenting with high flavor condiments such as spicy brown mustard or hot sauce.
Other ideas on how to improve your sense of smell
Make your own scent kit with different herbs and spices. Put spices in their own jar or use the container they are in and cover up a label. Try to test yourself and see if you can smell the different herbs and spices correctly. Once you reveal the label, try continuing to smell it while moving the jar around your nose and then start to move it far away. This will help make you work harder to catch the scent!
Aerobic exercise! Some research and reports from people with PD suggest that consistent aerobic exercise can preserve our sense of smell.
Go for a nature walk and try to identify different smells: Flowers, grass, mud, leaves, etc. This can be a fun thing to do with all seasons!
Safety measures with loss of smell
Make sure you have all of your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms fully operational. If you cannot smell you will have to rely on your alarms.
When cooking, try to check your food at regular intervals so your food does not burn and possibly start a fire.
A message from the Michael J Fox Foundation:
Loss of sense of smell may be one of the most important signals of Parkinson’s risk. A landmark study is exploring this link toward prevention. We’re asking everyone age 60 and up without Parkinson’s disease to take a smell test. Help scientists learn more about risk and develop new treatments.
If you are looking for an objective measure of your sense of smell, talk with your doctor. There are tests that can be performed to examine your smell. The test is called the UPSIT Test.
There are home kits that are made from IdentiMD if your doctor is unable to test.