Thursday, December 10, 2009

Nobody Knows the Nose -- And, Why They Should

Nobody knows the nose. I really shouldn't say that. Nobody cares about the nose. I really shouldn't say that, either. The nose really doesn't have a function in a capitalistic society. Unlike the hands that actually make things, the nose doesn't make any thing. The ears are necessary for communication in the workplace; the nose doesn't communicate much to other people in a visible sense. The eyes are essential to travel to and from the workplace, they are part of the pathway that facilitates visual motor coordination and, thus, help the hands make things to that can be bought and sold. Unless you work in a perfume factory as a tester, the nose really can't be monetized.

So, when you tell the average doctor that you really don't have much of a sense of smell, he's really not that interested. So, my complaints about not having much of a sense of smell have been pretty much ignored.

Frankly, it hasn't bothered me that much and I've tended to ignore it. Yes, I have ignored roommates complaints about not removing food that has gone off in the refrigerator in a timely fashion. At best, I told them that I really don't have much of a sense of smell and that they would have to tell me when my food went off. I do try to periodically clean my refrigerator; however, sometimes the bacteria get ahead of me and go to work faster than I can detect the smell. My roommates have never realized that I really can't smell things. Most people can't bring themselves to tell someone when something smells bad. It is just one of those social things that you are supposed to be aware of, even anticipate, and manage properly. When people finally managed to broach the subject, they are often at the point of being quite annoyed.

I wonder sometimes if I should simply walk around with a clothespin on my nose -- you know, a symbolic crutch for the nose. Something to designate the handicap, like a cane does for the crippled.

I am not a dirty person. I bathe at least one time a day, sometimes, two or three times a day in hot weather or after exercise.

I just don't smell things like other people. I found an interesting letter to a doctor from a woman named Penny who also had a diminished sense of  smell. She describes her journey to the colorful world of smell and I hope to make a similar journey as well. For her, it involved using some prednisone and going to a special clinic that concentrates on the disorders of smell.

"I can taste food, smell flowers and distinguish between socks that have been laundered and those that have not. I can smell dinner burning and the additive put into natural gas. I can enjoy being put off by the unpleasant odors of sewer gases and cap poop...

You can still see, hear and feel the glory of the world around you—even the flowers and plants. Feel the textures, absorb the splendor of the colors and shapes, listen to the leaves rustle in the wind.

Learn to taste in food in new ways: savor texture, colors and what you can sense with your tongue: sweet, sour, salt and bitter. (My favorite dinner was refried beans into which I mixed chopped farmer’s market tomatoes and thinly sliced serrano chilies. I topped this with a couple of tablespoons of low-fat sour cream. Great texture with sweetness, bite, and a distinctive flavor. If you don’t like refried beans, you can mash or puree canned white beans or kidney beans or pinto beans and mix them with tomatoes, chilies, sweet fresh corn taken off the cob or other things your tongue can taste.) Most herbs and spices won’t register. Mint might, and cumin. Dr. Davidson advised me to use curry powder (which usually contains cumin) the way other people use salt. Experiment and never let yourself be disappointed if you can’t taste something—but always let yourself be delighted when you can (even if you wouldn’t choose to taste whatever it was again)."  Letter to Otolaryngologist from Penny

I have started on my journey through my nose. A nutritionist has found that I have a vitamin D deficiency. Lack of vitamin D or zinc can cause decreased sense of smell. So now I am taking more vitamin D and that has helped somewhat. I can smell garlic when I cut it and food cooking downstairs in my kitchen. On a side note, vitamin D has seemed to even out some of the moodiness I have felt with the change in weather. Cloudy days don't get to me as much.
I have started to see an ENT. Apparently I have a deviated septum and enlarged turbinates (bones in the nose). I am using Flomax to help keep the nasal passages open. I am not sure how much Flomax is really helping. I have another appointment in a week and we shall see what's next.
So why so much attention to the nose? Well, there is a whole sensual world that I am missing. The scent of flowers -- I don't really walk up to flowers and poke my nose and inhale deeply. I want to inhale. That's the point. The aroma of food -- I do have some sense of smell because I can taste food. Indeed, I have had religious moments with food. There is a master chef from France in my town. There are only 250 master chefs in the world and he is one of them. Fortunately, I am not so far gone that I cannot smell and taste his superb creations with the appropriate reverence that they deserve. It would be nice to smell the woods as I walk through them. Or, smell my husband when I bury my nose in his chest.

This brings me to my next thought. You know, the nose is very important in terms of detecting the pheromones that play an important part in sociability and attraction. Pheromones such as androstenol have been clinically proven to enhance sociability and help create a sense of trust. Androsterone creates an aura of protection and reliability. Another pheromone, Androstadienone, is also called the "love pheromone" because of the emotions it elicits. So, I have a weird suspicion that maybe, I am also missing out on the whole social undercurrent that everyone else is unconsciously aware of.
There is the concept that is gaining currency in many spiritual and ecological circles of the noosphere. The noosphere, to put it simply, is the idea that we are all connected as human beings to each other. I will talk about this more in future posts. But for now, I'd like to simply throw out the notion that maybe the nose will have something to do with the bonding that needs to go on between human beings that will establish these global connections.

I've never thought of nominating the nose for a Nobel Peace Prize, or, maybe a Nosebel (sorry, I couldn't resist a bad pun).   But, maybe the nose deserves more recognition-- more people knowing about the nose.
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