Heeeeeeeeeeey, Merry Christmas, people! Nate and I are down at his parents’ house in Crowsnest Pass. We did our present unwrapping earlier today, which afforded me yet another opportunity to see how weird anosmia can be sometimes.
Nate’s mom got a little package of Jelly Belly jellybeans. The package consisted of jellybeans in eight (I think?) different flavors. One of the flavors was “buttered popcorn,” so she tried that because it sounded weird.
And it apparently tasted freakishly like buttered popcorn.
Both Nate and his brother tried that flavor as well and confirmed a very distinct butter popcorn taste.
So I tried it, too.
It tasted like sugar.
I didn’t get any of that buttered popcorn flavor at all. In fact, all of the flavors (including coconut, blueberry, and green apple) tasted exactly the same to me: like sugar.
I don’t know what Jelly Belly uses to get their particular flavors, but it sure as hell ain’t something that a person’s taste buds alone can figure out.
Believe it or not, I don’t think my anosmia has ever caused me to give myself food poisoning or anything like that. I mean, I’ve had food poisoning before (most likely?), but it’s not because I didn’t smell that the milk had gone rotten or that item XYZ was past its expiration date.
So as surprising as it might seem, my anosmia has never caused me any food-related problems.
But it just caused a problem for Jazzy.
I went to give Jazzy her soft food this morning and she took about half a bite of it before walking away. This isn’t unusual; on the weekends she gets her favorite type of crunchies, so she usually will ignore her soft food in favor of the crunchies.
But then Nate came in the kitchen and was basically like, “why does it smell like death in here?” Turns out the soft food I’d just given Jazzy was super rotten. And I had absolutely no idea.
I cleaned out the bowl and gave her some new non-rotten (as checked by Nate) soft food, and she ate some of it, but then she threw up like two minutes later. I’m not sure if she threw up because of the bit of rotten food she had or because she inhaled the other soft food + crunchies (which happens sometimes), but I still feel bad. I don’t give a crap if I accidentally poison myself, but I don’t want to hurt my kitty.
Heeeeeeeeeeeey, it’s Anosmia Awareness Day! Go hug a non-smeller and watch this video I posted awhile back because it’s fantastic.
(And get me this shirt, haha.)
I have a new theme song:
Everything in this is truth.
It’s Anosmia Awareness Day 2016!
I know anosmia isn’t the biggest deal in the world, but there’s a good number of us out there who have it, congenital or otherwise. Here’s a map of just those of us from the Anosmics of the World, Unite! Facebook page who’ve marked our locations for others to see.
Also there’s this, which seems pretty cool.
I’m not sure if I’ve ever actually posted anything about the Monell Chemical Senses Center on this blog, but basically it’s a group of scientists who specialize in research on taste and smell.
Anyway, the reason I’m bringing them up is because I was checking their website (as I do on occasion) and clicked on the “Research” tab at the top. Apparently they’re currently looking for congenital anosmics!
From the “Participate in Research” page:
“The Monell Chemical Senses Center is looking for volunteers who suffer from congenital anosmia and their related family members in order to study the genetic causes of this disorder. Eligible to adults (men and women) over the age of 18. Compensation is $15, given after the study is completed. Subjects will be asked to donate their DNA via a saliva sample. If eligible, individuals can request testing materials be sent to them directly.”
I might have to do this. It’d be super cool to be able to contribute to smell research in a small way.
Want to know a weird thing I do every once and awhile? Every so often I catch myself making a mental comment about the smell of something. Even though I can’t smell.
Example: tonight (well, this morning) when I went to make dinner I opened my fridge. I’d just bought a bunch of broccoli and that (apart from a container of feta cheese) was the only thing in the fridge. I saw the broccoli and immediately thought, “man, this fridge smells like broccoli.”
Did it? No idea. But that was just my automatic reaction. Similar smell-related reactions happen every once and awhile.
So I have no idea if that means that I can kind of smell like on a subconscious level or I’m just accustomed to associating the idea of smell with things that people have told me have a distinctive odor (like broccoli or garbage or things like that) and thus automatically assume whatever contains such odorous things must be infused with the smell. I’d bet on the latter, but who knows.
Weird brain is weird.
Not being able to smell usually doesn’t bother me (despite how much I bitch about it, haha). After all, since I’ve never been able to smell, I have no idea what I’m missing.
But every once and awhile, anosmia is incredibly inconvenient. For example, suppose I wear a shirt a few days ago and then end up wanting to wear it again for whatever reason. Apart from asking somebody else to smell said shirt, I literally have no way of knowing whether or not it’s stinky. There’s no way to check it. Same thing with, say the garbage. There is absolutely no way I can tell when it develops an odor without guesstimating how long it takes for the old broccoli stems in the trash can to start to rot and give off a foul smell. I just can’t ever know for sure (again, without asking some able-nosed person). Usually that’s not a problem, but sometimes it’s quite annoying.
Haha, sorry, just felt like mentioning that for whatever reason.
Opus Oils announces the Official Release of the olfactory breakthrough, “Eau Pear Tingle” – A multi-sensory fragrance experience that was designed to be sensed by those with Anosmia.
“Eau Pear Tingle is as much about “sensation” as it is about the unique ability that perfume has to express periods of time. The fragrance starts out with a modern mouthwatering juicy twist that is redolent of green pear, pineapple and a hint of coconut. This is followed by the trigeminal effect of camphor, mint and black pepper that has a delightful side effect; it steadies the breath with a mild cooling sensation complemented by the essence of fir and wood shavings. The perfume dries down to an addictive classic base that is rich in sandalwood and musk. When you wear Eau Pear Tingle you journey from the present into the future and repose in the past. The fact that someone who has anosmia is able to sense this fragrance is truly an innovation in the art of perfumery. It is also cause for the industry to consider anosmia as a source of inspiration for scent creation targeting connoisseurs as well as the 65+ demographic that is regularly snubbed by the industry; whether they have age related smell loss or not…”
I WANT SOME.
Woah, Coldplay. Woah.
Crank this up and sit in a dark room.
This reminds me of Muse’s Madness in the “this is by one of my favorite groups but doesn’t sound at all like them but it’s even more magnificent because of that” sense.
Apparently there are a lot of mixed feelings about this song, but I really like it. Give it a listen and decide for yourself.
Also: it’s Anosmia Awareness Day today! Go hug a non-smeller and check out this blog run by someone who has anosmia.
For our second long story in Fiction, we had the options of either writing something new or revising one of our old draft stories we did earlier in the semester. After screwing around with a nonsense cliché story, I made the decision to revise my “Odor” story (first draft posted here). There are actually two reasons I wanted to do so:
1. For a long while, I’ve wanted to write about my experience with anosmia. Apart from a blog about it every now and again, I’ve never been able to really formally write about it. I’m not sure why—it’s kind of a difficult thing to write about in a formal setting, I guess. But trying to make a fictional story that involved a character who had anosmia really made it easy to express a lot of the things I wanted to express about anosmia without having it be about me. So that meant a lot.
2. When we workshopped my draft of “Odor” way back at the beginning of the semester, someone asked, “being born without a sense of smell is a thing?” I think that’s all I need as my second reason.
Or, if you don’t have time (I got a little copy/paste happy, sorry. And yes, the actual article is quite a bit longer than this) (all emphases added by me):
- The negative consequences of olfactory dysfunction for the quality of life are not widely appreciated and the condition is therefore often ignored or trivialized.
- None of the treatments that have been investigated are in wide use and in most cases olfactory dysfunction is untreatable.
- Interactions with medical service providers can also be a source of frustration. One study showed that in Germany and Switzerland, 25% of patients felt that they had not been managed well and 6% felt that their condition had been trivialized.
- 2% of the subjects of this study are scared of getting exposed to dangers because of their olfactory dysfunction. The main concern is the inability to detect a gas leak or a fire. Several subjects report that they have actually failed to detect a gas leak. Similarly, the inability to detect fires has resulted in dangerous situations for some subjects.
- The most important odor to manage is one’s body odor. There are severe social consequences of failing to maintain the culturally expected body odor and many individuals who suffer from smell loss therefore are worried about their olfactory appearance.
- “Just recently one of our cats urinated on a piece of carpet, and it apparently reeked, and the smell was making my boyfriend nuts, and I couldn’t smell it at all. His reaction to me was complete disbelief, as if I was faking that I couldn’t smell something horrid.”
- For those with congenital olfactory impairment the challenge starts with convincing their parents and other adults that they cannot smell. Children with congenital smell loss are usually unaware of the dysfunction and only “discover” their condition as teenagers. One subject reports her experience when she was six years old and came home from school where cinnamon rolls were baked, wondering what this “smell” everybody else got so excited about was: “My mother got surprised, because she had absolutely no clue about this condition before that. We went to the hospital to check it out, but with little result. I was asked to smell several different things while being blindfolded, and I couldn’t smell anything. The result was however that I was a stubborn child who lied, so not much more was done.”
- Once affected individuals have convinced others of the existence of their condition, they often face a lack of sympathy. Olfactory impairment is not considered to be a serious disability and sometimes affected individuals are even told that they should be happy about their inability to smell unpleasant odors.
- “It’s a weird affliction. People don’t really get it. They think it’s not as big a deal as it is. After all, they figure anosmics aren’t disabled. We don’t need seeing-eye dogs or sign language to interact with our environment. And they are right — partly. We can function without drawing attention to our plight. We can do virtually everything we could before we lost our sense of smell, except enjoy the immensely important aspects of human life that most people take for granted”
- It is especially aggravating for the patients when members of the medical profession to which they turn for help trivialize their condition.
- Children who do not have a sense of smell often just mimic others’ reactions to smell without actually perceiving any smells.
- “Smelling seemed to me like religion, you just had to have enough faith to make it true.”
- “When I was little I used to pretend that I was able to because I thought I had to be able to “learn” how and I just wasn’t good enough at it yet.” [I thought this all the time]
- “I had always figured a sense of smell was something that developed as you got older.”
- In addition to places, times, and events, people also have characteristic smells. Many subjects in this study note that they cannot smell their babies or children. Others complain about not being able to smell their romantic partner and wonder if their olfactory impairment influences their romantic relationships.
- “I have become afraid: does my lack of sense of smell keep me from finding someone I’d like to spend the rest of my life with?”
As I think I’ve said before, anosmia (usually) isn’t that big of a deal for me, but for other and especially for people who become anosmic after having a sense of smell, it can be pretty messed up. If you’re interested in reading about peoples’ experiences with phantom smells (which sound like hell), check out the article.
Losing your sense of smell != losing your sense of taste. There’s a reason scientists/biologists have classified smell and taste as two different senses.
TASTE is what our taste buds give us. It refers to the five basic receptors in the mouth: sweet, salty, sour, bitter and umami. You could rip out our olfactory bulbs and we’d still “taste” food. Taste is physically different than smell. It is the result of our tongues receiving chemical information, and we can basically get five pieces of information (the five tastes) about food from taste.
FLAVOR is everything else: it is the combination of every other sensory input that we experience when consuming food. Visual appearance, atmosphere, lighting, sound, music, texture, mouth-feel—and smell. Smell is obviously the big one here. While it too is chemical, smells can give us vastly more information about food than taste can, especially when combined with other environmental factors (sound, texture, and whatnot) and the fact that smell is the sense most closely linked to memory.
So while anosmics can most certainly taste food (or much of it, at least; garlic does absolutely nothing for me and onions are crunchy and nothing else), they miss out on the huge flavor component that smell provides.
Now that I think about it, I might guess that that’s the reason why a lot of acquired anosmics tend to claim that they’ve lost their sense of taste entirely as well—because they’re so used to experiencing food WITH that added flavor component from smell, once they lose that they’re reduced to just “tasting” food, which is likely exceedingly bland in comparison. Whereas the congenital anosmic—like me—has never experienced the extra flavor from smell and thus doesn’t “know” of the subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) differences that smell can create. Therefore, for them, most foods are still very distinguishable from one another.
The next article I read that says “anosmics can’t tell the difference between a raw potato and an apple,” I’mma start stabbing fellows.
So April Fool’s Day makes me want to stab people. But Google’s April Fool’s nonsense is actually pretty great.
This would actually be useful to losers like me whose noses don’t work.
Happy Anosmia Awareness Day, everyone!
For the second year in a row, an awareness day for the nose blind has been organized.
I’ve posted this video before, but it’s an awesome mini documentary and is obviously relevant to today.
So this is probably something that is only of interest to me (but isn’t that the case with most of the crap on this blog?), but I’m posting it anyway.
Dr. Keller specializes in human odor detection at the Rockefeller University. His website has links to a bunch of really cool smell-related pages/projects/info.
There was something really important I was going to say as well today, but hell if I remember what it was now. I apologize. I’ve been embroiled in 17th century mathematical disputes for the past week. I can’t be concerned with the present.
OH, WHAT NONSENSE IS THIS?!
Researchers at the University of Michigan have come up with a way to restore the sense of smell in anosmic mice!
Experimenting on mice that had lost their sense of smells due to a type of cilia dysfunction, researchers at the University of Michigan infected the mice with a modified strain of the common cold virus. The virus, containing the desired DNA sequences, rewrote the mice’s cells as the infection worked through their bodies. Once the mice had recovered, they were once again able to smell.
Dr. Jeffrey Martens explains that the virus was used to reintroduce neurons that transmit the sense of smell to regrow the cilia that the mice had lost. Unfortunately, though, the lack of cilia in the mice was due to a specific birth defect that affected a specific protein. A similar birth defect occurs in humans, but is usually fatal. So for now, there are no immediate applicable cures for human anosmics from these researchers’ findings, but hopefully the techniques and approach they’ve employed will lead them down the road that will one day allow those of us who lack olfaction to finally smell.