Loss of Taste & Smell: Why It Matters And How To Treat

Many Long Covid patients have a continued loss of taste and smell. This is not just horrid and not a little depressing, but it has quite major consequences down the line. It essentially means less sensory stimulation in the nervous system, which can lead to:

  • Diminished inhibition of TNF alpha production in macs in the small intestine and spleen [ie. increased inflammation],
  • Diminished inhibition of IL-6 production in the liver [more inflammation],
  • Diminished HCL and digestive enzyme production [leading to worse absorption, more food sensitivities] and
  • Diminished motility in the gut [with greater risk of constipation, bloating, IBS, SIBO].

I saw this useful summary of how to encourage taste and smell to come back using vagal nerve techniques. I share in case it is useful for anyone you know struggling with long Covid.

…the take-home message may be that it’s enormously important to consider stimulation of the vagus nerve in patients who have lost their sense of taste. We want to be on the lookout for worsening food sensitivities, dry eyes, constipation, bloating, or other GI dysregulation.

For treatment, we want to consider instructing the patient regarding the following:

transcutaneous vagal nerve stimulation (tVNS) using a TENS device.

chew every mouthful of food until it’s liquid…. Chewing drives sensory input.

stimulate the tongue periodically with a bitter taste. Berberine can be used for this, for example [or these bitters]. Bitter is the strongest form of taste stimulation, so you may have some ability to get something going with bitter, compared to other tastes.

sing at high volume. There is an interesting paper in which patients with sleep apnea were given opera lessons, which greatly improved their apnea. The sensory/motor loop activation involved in control of the throat muscles provided vigorous activation of CN V, VII, IX, and X….

…taste and smell are typically affected by damage to epithelial cells by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. So it’s useful to take measures to address epithelial repair, using the approaches you would use with the intestines or lungs.[ie. treat for leaky barriers with eg. Permatrol]

Dr Yanuck

I hope that helps.

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