How Do We Process Smell and Taste?

Imagine your favorite food. Is it a sizzling steak fresh off the grill or a cheesy Alfredo pasta? How about that new food video on Facebook that you just can’t wait to make (or show your spouse so they can make it for you)? All of this comes from our sense of taste that just makes our mouth drool. And a good reason why you love these foods so much is because you can probably smell them just by imagining them in your head. Smell and taste are inherently associated together because you experience one with the other. When you smell bacon in the morning it wakes you up and you want breakfast food. Or when you drive by a restaurant in the summer with your windows down and just the smell of what they’re cooking can make you pull over.

Chemosensory is associated with smell and taste because of the molecules our nose and taste buds pick up. Various nerve cells are located in our nose, mouth, and throat that directly communicate with our brain and lets us know what we smell and taste. From good sensations like a hot meal to warning us that there’s danger like smoke or rotten food. Your nose even protects other organs like making sure the cold air you breathe is warm enough to enter your lungs. So how do you protect your nose and keep it running (in a good way of course) the way it should? If it becomes dry, try over the counter nasal mists and hydrate your body accordingly. Although nasal decongestants may offer a quick fix, prolonged use could be more bad than good as it could become a dependent and make allergies even worse.

Have you noticed you’re not as picky with your food as you were as a child? Maybe you’re getting more mature in the foods that you enjoy and the sight of goat cheese doesn’t make you gag anymore. As you age, your sense of taste can start to change and your sense of smell gets better too! Growing up your sense of smell is most accurate around the age of 30, but slowly declines closer to 60 years of age.

Some lifestyle choices, such as tobacco use, can speed up the deterioration of smell and taste (especially smokeless tobacco for taste). Environmental factors such as allergies and pollutants in the air can also alter your sense of taste and smell. But don’t worry if you can’t taste that delicious sandwich you just made for your lunch while you’re sick. As soon as the cold or illness passes your senses should come right back to you!