Can Alcohol and Smoking Impair Your Taste and Smell?

A lot of researches have been done on the various effects of alcohol and smoking on lungs, liver, kidney etc., however, to your surprise, the effect of these on the two most important senses of the human body i.e. taste and smell, are equally detrimental for the human body. Following is the research study that was carried out by a group of scientists to find out the effects of alcohol and smoking on subject's ability to taste and smell.

Can Alcohol and Smoking Impair Your Taste and Smell?

Research Study Revealing the Effects of Alcohol and Smoking on Taste and Smell?

A recent study by Richard Doty, the Director of 'Penn Smell and Taste Center' along with the researchers from Harvard University did a research to detect the ill-effects of alcohol and smoking on the taste and smell senses which included more than 3500 men and women. It was found that heavy drinkers and chain smokers had impaired smell and taste whereas the ones who were mild drinkers and smokers could smell and taste however the ones who didn't drink or smoke could smell and taste the best.

Methodology for the Research Study

In order to detect the effects of alcohol and smoking on the taste and smell, the subjects were exposed to the 'Pocket Smell and Taste Test'. In this test, the subjects were given strawberry, chocolate, leather, grape, smoke, soap, natural gas and onion to taste and sniff. The failure to identify 6 out of these 8 items was marked as a case of ill effects of alcohol and smoking on the senses of taste and smell. The subjects chosen were a mix of individuals who smoke and drank alcohol and also included the individuals who didn't smoke or consumed alcohol at all.

Findings of the Research Study on Effects of Alcohol and Smoking on Taste and Smell

During the study, it was found that the subjects who consumed more than 4 drinks of alcohol were associated with a higher prevalence of the sensory impairments as compared to the subjects who did not drink. At the same time, the red flag was not raised for the subjects who consumed less than 4 drinks in a day. Similar were the findings for the people who smoke. Individuals who were chain smokers had sensory impairments of smell and taste whereas the ones who didn't smoke or smoked only 2-3 cigarettes a day had better sense of taste and smell.

How Does Alcohol and Smoking Impair the Taste and Smell?

When people drink excessive alcohol and smoke excessively, the alcohol and nicotine activate the receptors in the nose as well as on the taste buds which further triggers the nerve fibers linked to the brain, to form various experiences like hoppy, fruity etc. As and when the amount of alcohol and nicotine increases in the blood, it leaves a distinct effect on the nerve endings which is responsible for smell as well as taste. These sensory nerves are also called as chemosensory perception. Therefore, because of the distinct effect, the chemosensory perception, deviates from the usual taste and smell registrations in the memory and hence the impairment of the smell and taste senses occur.

Treatment of Impaired Taste and Smell Due to Alcohol and Smoking Use?

Avoid Toxins

Quit smoking as soon as possible. If the subject is a chain smoker, try reducing the number of cigarettes gradually, instead of diminishing it all at once, as it may generate withdrawal effects in the body.

Reduce the number of drinks however it would be better if the subject can completely stop drinking alcohol. The olfactory receptors as well as the taste receptors shall become normal with time.

Brisk Walk or Running

Try engaging your body in physical activity. To start with, try doing a 10 minute of brisk walk or running. The excessive sweating during the exercise helps the body in excreting out the toxins from the body and hence would help in regaining back the sense of smell and taste.

Sniff Therapy

It is a therapy to train your nose (indirectly brain) to smell correctly. Try smelling a pungent or strong odor for 2-3 minutes, each day. Continue this activity for 3-4 months and you may notice your sense of smell getting better with time. Try doing it by humidifying the air as the sense of smell is the highest when the moisture content in the air is high.

Drink Water

Drink a glass of water every hour because nicotine and alcohol induce dehydration in the mouth due to which the taste buds don't function effectively. Drinking water regularly would keep the taste buds hydrated.

Train Your Mind

Try eating food that you have always loved and cherished the most for what it tasted like. Keep looking at the dish and try to remember the taste. While you eat it, the stronger the imagination, the sooner you will regain back the sense of taste. Try repeating the activity with various dishes that you love the most.

Remember, smoking and drinking alcohol is like having temporary fun but it comes with long term detrimental health effects. Quitting it may be tough and rough, however, it is worth enough.

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Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD, FFARCSI

Last Modified On: July 5, 2017

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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