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Most people pay little attention to their sense of smell. It just goes about its business identifying, categorizing and memorizing thousands of different odors each time we breath. Every day we breathe an average of 23,040 times and flood our smell receptors with over 238 cubic feet of air, yet rarely do we take any notice unless, of course, it’s an erotic perfume or a dead skunk.
Long ago relegated to the bottom of the sensory pile, our sense of smell is going through a revolution and emerging as the new medical frontier. Recently, health-conscious baby boomers have joined the movement by tapping into the power of the olfactory sense as an easy and personal way to improve their health and well being.
To help you get more acquainted with the enigmatic sense, this is the first of a two part article called, 24 ‘Gee Whiz’ Facts about Your Sense of Smell.
We smell with our brains.
It’s true! Your nose merely acts like a giant cave which is designed to moisten, channel and filter the air you breathe. When you breathe in, the air is cleaned by tiny little hairs called cilia that work like a broom, sweeping out all the other things that entered your nose, even bugs. The air then passes through a thick layer of mucous to the olfactory bulb located near the front of the brain. This is where the odors are identified as each scent molecule fits perfectly into a nerve cell like a lock and key. These cells send signals along the olfactory nerve to the brain where they are identified.
Everyone has a unique odor identity or smellprint.
Like your fingerprint, how you smell is unique. No two people have the exact same odor identity or “smellprint,” except for identical twins. Your smell print is determined by a number of factors including genes, the environment, diet, medicines, your emotional state, your skin type, and even the weather.
The brain can process approximately 10,000 different smells in an area the size of a postage stamp.
We breathe in pairs…
Except for two times in our lives: the beginning and the end. At birth, we inhale for the first time; at death, we exhale for the last. It takes two seconds to inhale and three seconds to exhale. With every breath, your sense of smell is at work, even when you’re sleeping.
A woman’s sense of smell is much stronger than a man’s.
Her sense of smell is also more sensitive in the first half of the menstrual cycle and reaches its peak when she is most fertile and sexually responsive. Scent plays a critical role in our sexual function.
Our sense of smell is weakest in the morning, and the ability to perceive odors increases throughout the day.
Approximately 80% of what we taste is actually attributed to our sense of smell.
Our sense of taste is limited to five distinct sensations: salty, sweet, bitter, sour and savory. All the flavors we taste are actually determined by our sense of smell. That’s the reason why our food tastes bland during a cold for example.
Our sense of smell and taste naturally declines as we age.
Our sense of smell peaks when we are in our late teens and then begins a gradual decline. People who have an impaired ability to smell, and therefore taste, tend to follow diets that are less healthy.
Prolonged exposure to foul smells can impair your ability to smell.
If you are exposed to noxious odors (such as cleaning solutions or petroleum products) on a prolonged basis, wear a mask over your nose and mouth to filter out the smell.
When it comes to sex, your sense of smell may be the most important sensory organ.
Decades of research demonstrates that in our mating behavior, humans tend to follow their noses. Odors can accelerate puberty, attract our mates, control menstrual cycles, affect our sex drive, alter men's hormone levels and even influence sexual orientation.
Smell has a powerfully link to memory.
The sense of smell is quite primitive in brain terms and feeds into the emotional areas of the brain much more directly than our other senses.
Our sense of smell is strongest in the spring and summer.
This is probably due to the additional moisture in the air. For the same reason, it is also stronger after exercise, which also increases the moisture in the nasal passage.
Luke Vorstermans is the co-founder of The Sense of Smell Lab, a world leader in the development of innovative products that use our sense of smell to influence behavior, trigger memories, manage cravings, enhance moods and improve sexual health. Learn more about enhancing your sex drive with the unique Scentuelle patch