Your Husband Really Can’t Smell That, And How To Ensure He Doesn’t Get Alzheimer’s

A recent article published in the journal PLOS ONE indicates that women may have a better sense of smell than men due to having more cells dedicated in their olfactory bulb. The olfactory bulb is the region of the brain that is first involved in smelling something. When an odor first hits your nose, aroma compounds, called aeromatics, come in contact with the neurologically specialized cells of the nose, called olfactory sensory neurons. These sensory neurons then send messages into the olfactory bulb to begin the process of identifying the smell, and then reacting to the smell. It is hypothesized that an individual with a more complex olfactory bulb, would in turn have a more complex sense of smell, allowing them to sense things that less complex olfactory bulbs would not be able to recognize.

Olfactory bulb

Vesalius’ Fabrica, 1543. Olfactory Bulbs and Olfactory tracts outlined in red

The small sample size from the research article (11 women vs. 7 men) indicates that women do in fact have a greater potential for having a more efficient sense of smell than men. Based on the results of the eighteen people surveyed, the women had an average of 43% more neurons in their olfactory bulb than the men. Although the theory of a more complex olfactory system equating to a more sophisticated sense of smell sounds promising, the lead researcher in the study, Roberto Lent, released a statement clarifying that the correlation has not actually been proven. Even though women have been shown to have more olfactory bulb neurons, researchers have not been able to identify why.

Smell loss, or anosmia, is a common symptom as one ages, and can be the result of a variety of imbalances within the body. Some of the most common include:

  • Zinc deficiency is estimated to affect over 2 billion people, according to Bill Sardi. Zinc imbalance can come as a result of certain zinc-depleting medications, diabetes, alcohol use, vegetarianism, and chronic digestive infections, including H. pylori. Zinc deficiency as a result of low zinc dietary consumption, or from one of the previously mentioned causes, can create a symptom of diminished taste and smell. In addition to impaired smell, a slew of other symptoms can result from a zinc imbalance in the body, ranging from low sperm count, psoriasis, acne, congestive heart failure, dyslexia, and Alzheimer’s disease. In the office, we screen for zinc deficiency through the use of a “zinc taste test” or “zinc tally test.” Squirting a solution of water and zinc into the mouth, and then monitoring the taste perception, we can get a general idea as to the potential for zinc deficiency in the body that may be associated with smell loss. Oral challenges with applied kinesiology then allows us to determine the exact nutritional support that would help replenish the zinc imbalance.
  • Head injuries and neurological disorganization can also lead to smell loss. Concussions from motor vehicle accidents or athletic injuries can affect an individual’s sense of smell. Additionally, these injuries can add up, and become cumulative. From a chiropractic standpoint, ensuring proper structural alignment of the cranial bones, and spine can reduce neurological stress.  One of the structural corrections that we do in the office for patients that have allergies, headaches, smell loss, concussions, and other symptoms involving the head is to mobilize the bones of the face through an endonasal technique.  As odd as it sounds, this correction is performed by placing a balloon-like device into the nasalpharynx (part of the body that connects the nasal passage way to the throat) and inflating the device in order to mobilize the facial bones from the inside out. Quantum neurology rehabilitation is also an effective technique used to rehabilitate the nerves involved with the sense of smell. Neurological assessments through quantum neurology help to identify the specific neurological pathways that would benefit from the low level light therapy applications associated with the rehabilitation procedures.
  • Nasal polyps are small noncancerous growths that can grown within the nasal passageways, obstructing airflow, and perception of smell. Occasionally, the same endonasal corrections that are used with head injuries, and neurological disorganization can also help with breathing and strengthening the sense of smell through improving the non-polyp passageways within the nasal cavity.
  • Metal and chemical toxicity can also affect the sense of smell. Harsh chemicals such as pesticides and solvents can disrupt neurological pathways in the body. Additionally, recreational drug use, such as cocaine, can also disrupt the neurology involved with smell.

Regardless of the source of smell loss, it is important to investigate the cause of the symptomatic change. Smell loss can be an early sign of neurological degeneration, and Alzheimer’s disease. Recently, researchers from the University of Florida identified a screening test for Alzheimer’s disease that involved using the sense of smell, a ruler, and a spoonful of peanut butter. The small pilot study published in the Journal of the Neurological Sciences indicates that screening an individual’s ability to smell peanut butter, could be helpful in identifying early stages of cognitive decline. Since peanut butter is a “pure odorant,” it is only detected by the olfactory nerves.

According to the University of Florida’s news release, “the scientists found that patients in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease had a dramatic difference in detecting odor between the left and right nostril — the left nostril was impaired and did not detect the smell until it was an average of 10 centimeters closer to the nose than the right nostril had made the detection in patients with Alzheimer’s disease. This was not the case in patients with other kinds of dementia; instead, these patients had either no differences in odor detection between nostrils or the right nostril was worse at detecting odor than the left one.” This is of interest because one of the first places that the brain will begin to show signs of degeneration in the presence of neurological degeneration is near the location of the olfactory bulbs.

Does your husband forget to do the things you ask him to? Feel like you have to repeat yourself over and over? Does the foul odor that comes from his feet (or other areas) peal paint from the walls, and cause the children to cover their noses and squeal in agony, all while he casually sits on the couch watching football? Time to grab the peanut butter, and schedule an appointment so that we can get to the bottom of of the smell loss. Although it is possible that the female olfactory system is just far superior to that of the males, it is also possible that nutritional imbalance, chronic inflammation (or infections), and neurological disorganization are at work. Through the use of chiropractic, applied kinesiology, quantum neurology rehabilitation, and clinical nutrition we can help support your husband’s nose, ensuring that he too has the opportunity to enjoy the smells that you and your children relish during football season.  🙂

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