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Why am I noticing new smells in familiar foods? Improved digestion? Overload/deficiency?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created December 04, 2012 at 1:25 AM

I've had two episodes in recent months of noticing strong new aromas in foods I've been around all of my life. In one case it was an aversion, while the other smell is appealing.

I've been experimenting with diet ever since I realized I had gut problems 9 years ago, so dietary changes are nothing new. However, this "new smell" phenomenon is completely new for me, and I wonder if anyone can shed any light.

The first smell I noticed was in areas where people were cooking with olive oil or other liquid oils (though I try not to associate with anyone who cooks with polyunsaturated oils...), and also around diesel vehicles. I assume it was some sort of lipid in aerosol, maybe oxidized. I had been in these situations all my life, but had never noticed this particular aroma. I don't remark on it as much these days, it peaked perhaps in July or August.

I had an aversion to the aroma, but once I actually started eating, the food was as appealing as ever.

The second smell I noticed first in my urine. I had been taking some herbs my acupuncturist had given me, first to "drain dampness" and then to "move chi" (liver chi I think) and I assumed that it was either something from the herbs or something they were causing me to excrete.

(Aside: I am seeing an acupuncturist about a case of "non-infectious" epididymitis. My theory is that, in improving my gut health, I evicted a fungus from my digestive tract and it took up residence in my epididymis instead. My doctor did a urine test that came back negative for pathogens, but I'm not convinced that the test would catch everything.)

When asked to describe the weird smell in my urine, I couldn't think of anything similar. However, several weeks later, I was eating chicken and I found a dark strip of meat near the ribs that was very appealing. Later I found a similar appealing flavor in turkey, and I realized it was the same as what I had been smelling in my urine. I've noticed that beef has this aroma very strongly. I find it very appealing. Thinking through other foods I've eaten recently, I think pork might have it as well, but I have not noticed it in beef liver (though there are a lot of flavors going on there!), fish, or egg yolks.

It's not in vegetables, starches, butter, coconut, or anything else I can think of off the top of my head.

I've gone pretty far out on some limbs with diet and supplements, but I had never experienced new aromas in familiar foods prior to this summer.

If I had to guess, I would say my gut has never been healthier at any time that I can remember.

Is it possible for improved digestive function to improve olfactory perception? Or is it more likely that I was just so full of lipids (I was eating a lot of saturated fat in the summer - I still am, but have reduced my intake somewhat), and now perhaps so low on some nutrient, that my body has finally decided to use a new signal? It would be strange, because I've felt much, much worse and not gotten any new olfactory signals.

Any insight would be appreciated.

Thanks!

Update: I think I identified the smell in my urine - I opened a bottle of Thiamin today, and there was the smell! It's almost definitely thiamin I'm smelling because I opened a bottle of riboflavin made by the same manufacturer, with identical "Other Ingredients" and didn't smell the smell at all. This leads to the obvious question, why am I all of the sudden peeing out a bunch of thiamin? Three hypotheses would be 1. My gut is healing and I'm doing a better job of absorbing thiamin in food, 2. My gut flora have changed and are manufacturing more thiamin, 3. Some part of my brain thinks I'm deficient in thiamin (while perhaps my kidneys do not?) and I'm hyper-aware of it everywhere.

I'm more inclined to think that it's #1 or #2 except that I never remarked on the smell of thiamin before, and now smell it strongly and find it appealing in many meats, especially dark meat poultry and beef.

Almost forgot! Hypothesis 4: the herbs are causing me to purge some store of thiamin, meaning that it's coming out in my urine and I'm hungry for more. (What would the store of thiamin be?)

Insight?

Cb9a270955e2c277a02c4a4b5dad10b5

(10989)

on December 06, 2012
at 01:35 PM

Okay, we'll if you're supplementing with zinc then I'd put my money on that, here's an excerpt from mayoclinic. "Lack of zinc may lead to poor night vision and wound-healing, a decrease in sense of taste and smell, a reduced ability to fight infections, and poor development of reproductive organs." -http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/drug-information/DR602313

747f9c27424619fe3ae717c7455c292e

(610)

on December 06, 2012
at 04:01 AM

I've never limited red meat (well, 3 years as a vegetarian 18 years ago...) but I have been supplementing with zinc for a few months because I suspected a deficiency.

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41747)

on December 05, 2012
at 12:06 AM

Quite possibly the best 'real' answer here. I personally though think all this heightened senses and ability to detect deficiencies that paleo paleo claim to have are nothing but BS.

C2450eb7fa11b37473599caf93b461ef

(3225)

on December 04, 2012
at 02:10 PM

No insight. Just have to tell you that a very similar thing has happened to me. For a while, it made eating *very* unpleasant. It's since calmed down a bit, and also I've gotten used to the new smells. I couldn't find any explanation.

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4 Answers

7
32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41747)

on December 04, 2012
at 02:55 AM

You're developing your paleo super powers.

2
Cb9a270955e2c277a02c4a4b5dad10b5

(10989)

on December 04, 2012
at 01:08 PM

This happened to me when I started supplementing with zinc about a year ago, also this happened with my dad. You might just be meeting the FDA for zinc for the first time in a long time, red meat and oysters are some of the richest sources of zinc. Have you started including more of these in your diet and did you previously limit their intake?

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41747)

on December 05, 2012
at 12:06 AM

Quite possibly the best 'real' answer here. I personally though think all this heightened senses and ability to detect deficiencies that paleo paleo claim to have are nothing but BS.

Cb9a270955e2c277a02c4a4b5dad10b5

(10989)

on December 06, 2012
at 01:35 PM

Okay, we'll if you're supplementing with zinc then I'd put my money on that, here's an excerpt from mayoclinic. "Lack of zinc may lead to poor night vision and wound-healing, a decrease in sense of taste and smell, a reduced ability to fight infections, and poor development of reproductive organs." -http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/drug-information/DR602313

747f9c27424619fe3ae717c7455c292e

(610)

on December 06, 2012
at 04:01 AM

I've never limited red meat (well, 3 years as a vegetarian 18 years ago...) but I have been supplementing with zinc for a few months because I suspected a deficiency.

0
3491e51730101b18724dc57c86601173

(8395)

on December 04, 2012
at 10:24 PM

I think our senses of smell and taste have been terribly blunted by the excess sodium and sugar in commercially processed foods. After eliminating them, it seemed like my tastebuds "woke up". Many things taste so much more wonderful now, and a few things are too strong.

And yes, I think even the sense of smell was affected. I can walk into the office kitchen and smell cookies, cakes, and pastries before I see them--that sugary smell has become nauseating to me. Last night my kids were drinking teas loaded with peppermint in one case, and heavy with cinnamon, ginger, allspice in the other. They were so strong and nauseating to me. We have a road trip planned during the holiday break, and I have banned those teas and peppermint treats from the car during our 10 hour drive. The punishment for scofflaws is that I get to listen to NPR on the radio the entire way!

One other thing that may have changed is that your sinuses may have been clogged due to allergies to SAD foods. Now that they may be more clear, your sense of smell is enhanced.

0
Cf416725f639ffd1bb90764792ce7b8a

(2799)

on December 04, 2012
at 04:20 AM

That happened to a friend of mine. Turned out to be a brain tumor...

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