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Phantom Smells May Be More Common Than Thought, Study Finds

If you’re prone to “smelling” something that your friends or family say they don’t smell, you may be experiencing symptoms of what could be a serious health concern, NBC News reports. Studies show that phantom smells or strange odors no one else can detect could be a signal of a temporal lobe seizure, onset of Alzheimer’s, epilepsy or just an oncoming migraine. Researchers said phantom smells appear more often as we age, and that MRIs or CT scans can be used to rule out certain triggers such as a tumor.

Whether what you’re smelling is real or not, we do know that scientists have found that our ability to smell is decreasing as pollution and other environmental factors increase in our daily lives. It was interesting that the featured article also noted that people experiencing phantom smells also often had weight problems — a condition that scientists say can occur when our ability to smell changes.

This is because, as your sense of smell decreases, your cravings for foods with stronger, more pronounced flavors increases, which can lead to obesity if you follow through on those cravings and eat those foods.

That being said, healthy 80-year-olds have been found who have just as keen an ability to smell as much younger adults, which suggests that your sense of smell doesn't just degrade as a matter of course, but rather may be dependent on your overall physical and mental health. And, to that end, new research shows that, indeed, smell sometimes can be a powerful indicator as to your present state of health.

If you notice your sense of smell slipping, and you know you're not zinc-deficient (another influencer on your ability to smell), there are steps you can take to improve it. First, I'd suggest reading through my nutrition plan for a comprehensive dietary plan that will support your health on multiple levels. Next, try these tips that are known to boost your sense of smell:

  • Exercise: Research shows that the more you exercise, the less likely you are to develop problems with your sense of smell as you age.
  • Become scent conscious: Make a point to smell your food before you eat it and notice the scent of flowers, cut grass or even rain. Doing this regularly will help increase your sense of smell.
  • Try "sniff therapy”: Choose three or four different scents, such as floral, fruity and coffee. Sniff them four to six times a day, which will help the different receptors in your nose to work better.
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