Friday, April 15, 2011

The Nose Knows

One reason that I can’t lose weight is that I smell food all day (I’ll use any excuse).  I work in an office setting that has cubicles instead of offices.  I can’t close my door to the smells of food people bring to eat at their desks.  Furthermore, the “food cube” is located right outside my cube and I can smell whatever is placed there. 
I have been blessed, or cursed, with the nose of a bloodhound.  My husband is always amazed when I walk in the door and ask him if he has eaten one thing or another because I smell it as soon as I walk in.  My son hates it because I often complain about his room because I can smell if it’s dirty.  I can tell if someone has been in the house because I can smell them and I always know when I walk in the door if one of his friends is over.
It is really amazing, this sense of smell.  We can smell something that is even too small to see with our eyes; things even too small to be seen with a microscope!  These things are called odor particles and there are millions of them are floating around.
Our nose is like a huge cave built to smell, moisten, and filter the air we breathe. The air enters through your nostrils as we breathe in.  Our noses contain tiny little hairs called cilia that filter all the things trying to enter your nose. The cilia act as tiny brooms to sweep all the dirt out of the nasal cavity so that the air is clean on its way to the lungs. After passing through the nasal cavity, the air passes through a thick layer of mucous to the olfactory bulb where we recognize smells because each molecule fits into a nerve cell which then sends signals to the brain where they are interpreted.
Our sense of smell is also tied to our sense of taste.  You probably have noticed that when you have a cold, you don’t like the taste of food because your nose is stuffed up and you can’t smell anything.  Those senses are important because they can warn us of impending danger such as toxic chemicals, fire, or poisons.  Smell and taste contribute to our enjoyment of life by stimulating a desire to eat, and eating is what I do too much of.  Interestingly enough tobacco smoking,  the most concentrated form of pollution, impairs the ability to smell and taste, but even when I smoked my sense of smell was heightened.
I also found that a heightened sense of smell has a medical name, hyperosmia.  I came across an entry in Wikipedia which said that hyperosmia has been “seen in patients with cluster headaches, migraines, and adrenal cortical insufficiency (Addison's Disease)”.  There is also a murder mystery was written called Perfume: The Story of a Murderer.  The book is a 1985 literary historical by German writer Patrick Süskind.  Apparently, the story focuses on a perfume apprentice in 18th century France who, born with no body scent himself, begins to stalk and murder virgins in search of the "perfect scent". 
So be it a curse or a blessing, my sense of smell is tied to some fascinating stuff.  I thought I smelled a rose in all of this!

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