Loss of Taste and Smell Post SARS-CoV-2: Reasons and Solutions

Losing the ability to smell and taste food can be extremely upsetting.  This can be made more stressful with the general lack of empathy and appreciation for the devastating impact on the person suffering. If you have struggled to get your sense of taste and smell back after recovering from SARS-CoV-2 then this is going to be an important article for you to read.  This issue has really made me think about all the kids with autism who are picky eaters and although I cover this topic in detail in my article for Summer 2021 edition of the Autism Eye magazine,  but I believe this article will help shine a light on an aspect of picky eating which is far less well known. 

What happens when we can’t taste or smell food?

When we eat the pleasure centres in our brain get stimulated and ordinarily, this happens multiple times a day. If these simulations are missing on an ongoing basis, stress levels can go up with a significant impact on our immune system which can result in systemic inflammation.

Taste is a form of neurosensory stimulation. To be able to taste, we need specific cranial nerves to function including the facial (CN VII), glossopharyngeal (CN IX) and vagus (CN X) nerves. These nerves are all from the same embryonic origin so when one of them gets impacted so do all the others, resulting in the loss of multiple crucial functions in the body. 

  1. Loss of these nerves reduces the ability to inhibit inflammatory proteins such as TNF alpha in the small intestine and the spleen and IL-6 in the liver, leading to systemic inflammation.
  2. To digest our food we need to have strong hydrochloric acid (HCL) in our stomach and produce adequate amounts of enzymes to break down our food. When these cranial nerves don’t function correctly we don’t produce enough HCL or digestive enzymes which can lead to food intolerances, reflux, constipation and other digestive issues.
  3. Loss of cranial nerve function can also result in poor gut motility which can lead to small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) and chronic constipation as well as other digestive issues.

Anti-inflammatory foods and supplements

As part of the approach to regaining health, it is important to adhere to an anti-inflammatory diet and use anti-inflammatory supplements. Avoiding or minimising common inflammatory foods can help support your recovery. Inflammatory foods include:

  1. Processed sugar
  2. Damaging fats found largely in processed foods such as baked goods, crisps, sweets and poor quality chocolates
  3. Gluten, dairy, and processed soy-based foods

Increasing anti-inflammatory foods such as ginger, garlic, and turmeric, and eating a rainbow of vegetables and fruits, and high-quality protein found in meat, fish, poultry, and beans and lentils may go a long way in supporting your health. You can also consider anti-inflammatory supplements such as:

  1. Curcumin
  2. Boswellia
  3. Green tea extract
  4. Holy basil (Tulsi)
  5. Garlic (Allicin)
  6. Omega 3 fatty acids from fish 
  7. Vegan Omega  3 fatty acids from algae
  8. PEA (Palmitoylethanolamide)

Please note these supplements should only be used short term and under close supervision by a medical professional or a qualified practitioner. You can register with Amrita Nutrition using the code IA12LW to get 10% off all supplements.

Stimulating cranial nerves to regain taste and smell

It is crucial to stimulate the vagus nerve and support its function in those who have lost their sense of taste and smell. Here are some tried and tested options for you to consider, ensuring you get guidance from a trained professional:

  1. See a cranial osteopath who can help with regaining vagus nerve function. The General Osteopathic Council has a list of qualified osteopaths for your consideration. It would be helpful to find someone local to you as you may need several treatments.
  2. Chew your food until it’s liquid. Chewing activates all of the cranial nerves involved.
  3. Sing loud and proud! singing can activate all cranial nerves involved and can also be a good way of releasing stress. A similar impact can be achieved through gargling, chanting, and humming. 
  4. Use a TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) device which is generally used for pain relief but can be used successfully in improving vagal tone. You can get reasonably priced machines online. Please do your own research to find the best device. 
  5. Stimulate the tongue by using bitters as this is the strongest form of taste stimulation. Dr Shade’s Bitter X would be a good choice. Bitters, when taken before a meal, can also be excellent at stimulating HCL and promoting digestive enzyme production.
  6. Use Betaine HCL supplements with enzymes to stimulate digestive function. Pure Encapsulation Digestive Enzymes Ultra with Betaine HCL would be a good choice.
  7. To improve motility you can use foods like ginger and globe artichokes, or in cases where supplements are required, you can consider Integrative Therapeutics Motility Activator.

Other considerations

    1. Vagal mortar outflow is cholinergic which means that we need adequate choline for optimal function. To identify whether you have a high need for choline it would be important to check specific genes involved in choline production, such as PEMT and MTHFD1. Eggs, meat, chicken, fish, brewers yeast, and wheat germ are good sources of dietary choline. Supplements such as PC (Phosphatidylcholine) by Body Bio can be a good choice if the need for choline is significant or where there are polymorphisms in the genes involved.
    2. Taste and smell are typically affected by damage to epithelial cells by SARS-CoV-2. Epithelial cells are the safety shield of the body and line the surfaces of organs and glands in the body. A targeted epithelial repair protocol with special emphasis on gut and lung epithelial cells should form the cornerstone of recovery.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Before you include any of the supplements mentioned please make sure that you discuss them in detail with your medical professional or qualified practitioner. As a reader of this blog, you can register with Amrita Nutrition using the code IA12LW to get 10% off all supplements mentioned in this blog post.

If you would like to become a patient of Brainstorm Health, please complete a brief contact form, to ask for a free discovery call to discuss your needs.