The Alliance For Natural Health

The Pulse of Natural Health Newsletter

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Studies: Delicious Smells and Tastes Are Directly Linked to a Strong Immune System

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beautiful girl smelling a red juicy appleSome prescription drugs dull your senses—and weaken your body’s ability to repair itself.

Recent Duke University research showed that enhancing the taste and smell of foods for patients in a retirement home resulted in stronger immune systems. (In a side benefit, they also got better grip strength in both hands!) In other studies, this same group of researchers found that flavor-enhanced foods in­creased the flow of saliva and, more importantly, salivary IgA (immunoglobulin A—the body’s natural antibiotic to fight pathogenic bacteria).

As Dr. David Williams, in his Alternatives newsletter, pointed out last year, these studies give us some extremely useful information when it comes to protecting ourselves from infections. Most of the infections we contract involve the mucus membranes—the moist outer layer of cells that covers the inner surfaces of the nose, mouth, lungs, and intestinal tract. “Good” bacteria that reside on these mucus membranes compete with the pathogens. The lymphatic system surrounding the mucus membranes produces natural antibodies like IgA. Higher levels of IgA equate to stronger immune status.

The area of the brain that processes smell and taste signals forms a direct neurological pathway to the immune system. In other words, pleasant tastes and smells strengthen your immune system. Delicious food is healing food, quite literally.

Unfortunately, many drugs can dull our smell and taste sense perception. “When you connect the dots,” Williams says, “it be­comes obvious that the astronomi­cal increase in the use of prescrip­tion and over-the-counter drugs, and changes in our food supply and dietary habits, are contributing to taste and smell perception prob­lems. And it’s not just a problem among our elderly. It’s occurring throughout all age groups. It’s a hidden risk factor for many of the health problems that have quietly slipped beneath the radar.”

Research also shows that certain food molecules exhibit hormone-like properties that stimulate or inhibit specific actions in the body. For example, the fish oils DHA and EPA bind to a hormone receptor which sets off a chain reac­tion that blocks inflammation and weight gain while improving blood sugar control. Last year, researchers discovered that obese individuals were more likely to have a defect in this receptor.

Other studies show that decreased taste and smell perception can decrease the desire for healthy foods, which reduces energy production. Similarly, loss of the sense of smell can signal other conditions such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

Many medications not only disrupt the ability to taste and smell. They also reduce saliva production and increase cravings of salt and sugar. Less saliva makes us more vulnerable to infection. In addition, as we have reported, sugar causes type 2 diabetes and is now being linked to the development of Alzheimer’s, damages the heart, and reduces energy metabolism and synaptic activity in the brain—effectively making you dumber. In other words, our prescribed medications are not just risky because of the acknowledged side effects. They can make us sicker in a variety of less-understood ways.

Happily, there are natural ways to enhance your sense of taste and smell:

  • Reduce your use of medication;
  • Eliminate your exposure to cigarette smoke and airborne toxins;
  • Supplement with zinc, copper, magnesium, alpha lipoic acid, and vitamins A, B3, and B12 (studies suggest that large numbers of people are short of some of these nutrients, especially magnesium);
  • Get checked for hormonal or endocrine disorders, which can alter your taste and smell;
  • Try techniques such as “swishing” your liquids, deeply sniffing each item on your plate, and eating slowly and mindfully, to appreciate and help enhance flavor;
  • Practice nose breathing (don’t breathe through the mouth, especially when eating); and
  • Try some natural flavor enhancers, oils, and syrups like Flavorganics or Nature’s Flavors.

We would also suggest that increasing the diversity of our diet will create more diversity in our flavors and smells. What this research tells us is that our country’s increased reliance on processed foods and an industrialized food supply instead of on heritage breeds and heirloom species is destroying our health in new, surprising, and often subtle ways.

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  • Shasha

    HI, Zinc, Vit C, fish oil, Vit D3 and more may help the immune system along with no gluten/dairy/soy/sugar/GMO..vitamins/good oils, LDN. Zinc may help the senses…eyes/smell/taste etc. Vit B12 methylcobalamin shot/under the tongue kind/spray in mouth, Mg and alpha lipoic acid, coenzyme Q10 and B complex etc may help people.

    • Beth Powell

      Agreed with the exception of raw dairy which has numerous health benefits.

  • Mark Thorson

    Stimulating the immune system is not automatically a good thing. Ragweed pollen and dust mites also stimulate the immune system, otherwise they would not strongly provoke allergic reactions in many people. Some purely synthetic compounds also provoke these reactions, like the notorious putative anti-AIDS drug DNCB, which has been thoroughly discredited for use against AIDS even though it massively stimulates an immune system reponse.

    Up-regulators of the immune system should be viewed with suspicion. The immune system is the body’s defense against foreign molecules, bacteria, and viruses. It is up-regulated when confronted with something it perceives as bad. We shouldn’t go around looking for these molecules and taking them in the belief that it is always good to aggravate the immune system. If that’s what you want to do, DNCB is the molecule you’re looking for. It’s much more powerful than dust mites or ragweed pollen.

    (Hmmm . . . I wonder why nobody is selling dust mite or ragweed supplements. There might be a market opportunity there!)

  • Wendy

    Which medications specifically affect taste and smell?

    • Beth Powell

      if you click on the hyperlinked “Many medications not only disrupt the ability to taste and smell.” in the article, you will find the list of medication that negatively affect the senses of taste and smell.

  • Kathryn Hoey

    Leave us alone to live as we please!

    • Mike iseley

      Very interesting. I have a son with autism and through a completely organic diet eliminating all the garbage food,dies, pharmeucutical garbage he is now getting better. We need to educate people. It seems greatly that our new generation is being destroyed with all the toxins we consume. I eat healthy and stay away from all drugs and feel better than I have ever felt in my life. Thank You for blessing us with your new findings.

    • Char

      Kathyrn Hoey,

      If the manufacturers of processed foods would stop putting MSG and other toxins in our food, we could all live better and healthier lives. You must be a youthful person, not yet knowing the pains and heartaches ahead of you due to some of these problems. I agree, we should not have the government in control of everything, but if the manufacturers could be honest and understand that we would be around longer to buy their foods if they didn’t poison us, then maybe the government would not have to step in after all. We have to educate ourselves and others, because they look at only the bottom line right now and not a long term plan.

  • Becca

    I LOST MY SENSE OF SMELL YEARS AGO after intense exposure to mixed xylene isomers in a flea fogger insecticide and later to volatile organic compounds especially mixed xylene isomers in a floor stripper. Perhaps the combination is the reason I cannot smell food, mercaptan, and other things other than urine.