How to Get Smell and Taste Back after Covid 19
What do you do after you’re sick and lose your smell? Losing your smell likely means you've also lost your sense of taste. You are not alone. This happened to me too! More specifically, it IS happening to me now. I have 100% loss of taste and loss of smell.
It has been five weeks without smell or taste, and my optimism about it returning on its own is beginning to fade. It's time to take this issue seriously because it may not return on its own, so I did a lot of research to find targeted nutrition to support neuron rejuvenation in the olfactory nerves.
Progress update on 12/3/2021: it has been 11 weeks since covid zapped my taste and smell! I am making progress, but it's slow. I would say I have 40% smell and taste back, but I've noticed any progress I make is immediately lost when I eat sugar!
Progress Update on 1/7/2022: it has been 15 weeks now and I would say I have 50% smell and taste back. The mushroom tinctures seem to be helping, and as I said above, I lose progress when I eat sugar.
Progress Update on 2/7/2022: This sugar dilemma is a massive reason I decided to lead (and participate in) a 21 day No Added Sugar Challenge! We started February 1, 2022 so after 7 days with zero sugar, I realized today my smell and taste are improved. I would say I'm at 70% smell and taste back. Removing sugar from my diet has provided the most success so far!
Progress Update on 4/9/2022: Going 21 days without eating sugar made a massive difference in my sinus inflammation. I got to 85-90% of my taste and smell back by day 21. On day 28 without eating any sugar, I ate lifesavers and the next morning my sinuses were inflamed and my taste was negatively impacted. The inflammation lasted several weeks! That little bit of sugar was all it took to set my progress back.
What Causes Loss of Smell and Taste?
During infection, the olfactory nerves, which regulate the sense of smell, were destroyed and died from inflammation. I had a lot of burning in my sinuses during the first week of my covid symptoms. My ability to taste was also lost 100%. Without my sense of smell, I'm unable to detect subtle flavors.
Two Factors Involved in Regenerating Your Smell
There are two necessities involved in getting your smell back (fingers crossed!).
#1: New neurons need to be regenerated and regrown. The olfactory system has a unique ability to regenerate throughout life, so it is possible.
#2: It's crucial to reduce inflammation in the body, and diet is a major factor in this. This is likely why I notice a setback in my progress when I eat sugar. Sugar is very inflammatory.
Targeted Nutrition to Promote Neuron Rejuvenation in the Nose
After much research, I recommend these targeted nutrients, smell therapy, and greatly reducing inflammatory foods in order to promote a return of smell and taste.
Solution #1: Zinc + Zinc Ionophore (ie: Quercetin, ECGC, Hesperidin)
A zinc deficiency can be associated with loss of smell and taste, which is an easy, quick fix. Simply, take zinc. The Institute for Functional Medicine recommends taking 30-60 mg of zinc daily, in divided doses. A chelated form is ideal, but zinc acetate, citrate, picolinate, or glycinate are also good forms of zinc.
Do not take zinc for the long term because it can cause an imbalance in your zinc to copper ratio. Do not take zinc on an empty stomach.
For people who can taste and smell, if you take zinc and it leaves a sour taste or very metallic taste in your mouth, it means you likely don’t need zinc anymore. Your body has met its threshold.
It’s important to note: zinc needs a zinc ionophore to transport the zinc into the cell where it’s needed to fight the virus. Without the ionophore, much of the zinc stays outside the cells, which isn’t effective for supporting immune health. Examples of zinc ionophores include Quercetin, EGCG (in green tea), and Hesperidin from citrus flavonoids. When my covid symptoms first appeared, I started taking this Zinc with Quercetin supplement, and I continue taking it now because my smell and taste have not returned 100%.
Solution #2: Lion’s Mane and Cordyceps Mushrooms
Cordyceps and Lion’s Mane mushrooms support the regrowth of the neurons in the nose faster. After five weeks without my full taste and smell, I started using Brain by Host Defense because it contained these two mushrooms. It was recommended by Dr. Bradley Campbell, a holistic physician I have a lot of trust in.
I am familiar with the brand Host Defense, which uses a specific hot water extraction method to release the mushrooms’ beneficial compounds. This method is crucial when buying mushroom supplements otherwise the compounds get stuck in the hard chitin of the mushroom and your body can't use them. This brain formula also has other brain herbal support ingredients and is a very nice blend for brain, nerves, blood flow, and connective tissue repair.
Update on 12/3/2021: I ran out of Brain by Host Defense and moved onto more potent mushroom support. I discovered a company local to where I live called Manuka Mana, and I bought two tinctures of pure Lion's Mane and pure Cordyceps. This company uses an ultrasonic mushroom processing technology to create a highly bioavailable mushroom extract. I have taken 1 ml of both tinctures for about three weeks, and I do think they are helping my smell, and I really notice them helping my brain function!
As of 4/9/2022 I continue to take the Lion's Mane and Cordyceps tinctures on a daily basis.
Solution #3: B-Complex Vitamins
B vitamins are key players in nerve growth and regeneration, especially thiamine (B1), pyridoxine (B6), and cobalamin (B12), which maintain neuronal viability in different ways. They constantly protect nerves against damaging environmental influences. Vitamin B1 acts as a site-directed antioxidant, vitamin B6 balances nerve metabolism, and vitamin B12 maintains myelin sheaths.
When nerve damage is present, the presence of vitamins B1, B6, and B12 supports nerve regeneration by promoting the development of new cell structures. The absence of these vitamins will favor permanent nerve degeneration.
Every day I take either B-Complex Plus by Pure Encapsulations or Bio-V by Uckele, which is a vitamin-only supplement.
Solution #4: Smell Testing Therapy
Smelling any strong scent is really helpful and has been used for years in something called olfactory therapy. Smell training stimulates the turnover of the specialized nerve cells, helping to restore smell function. Some research shows changes in the smell areas of the brain may happen too.
Just as there are three primary colors of red, blue, and yellow, there are four primary scents to start “smell testing” right away. Those four scents are floral (rose), fruity (lemon), aromatic (cloves or lavender), and resinous (eucalyptus).
First, pretend like you can smell again while you are smelling different strong smells of different qualities. Next, deeply inhale each scent for 15 to 20 seconds, usually twice a day. You want to change your smells every 12 weeks, and the longer the smell training continues, the better. Keep going because it is not an instant result.
I started doing smell therapy using different essential oils I had at home. I use Orange, Lavender, Lemon, Clove Bud, Blossoms, and Deep Breathe (a blend). I love the Rocky Mountain Oil brand. I’ve used their essential oils for 5+ years after doing a ton of research on the quality and purity of different essential oil brands.
Along with deeply inhaling essential oil scents, I have also been cooking various strong smells, such as sautéed onion and garlic, sautéed green curry paste, and Indian food with curry.
Solution #5: Avoid Inflammatory Foods
I notice when I eat sugar, my smell progress digressed significantly and it's because sugar is very inflammatory. The body's inflammatory response stems from an increase in the production of free radicals and inflammatory cytokines.
I'm leading a 21 day no added sugar group starting February 1, 2022. My "why?" is to get my taste and smell back! Want to join me?
Five primary ingredients and foods that trigger inflammation, and I recommend you reduce these things as much as possible:
Refined Carbohydrates and Ultra-processed foods
Excess Omega-6 Fats (foods containing vegetable oil, soybean oil, corn oil, canola oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil)
Hydrogenated Fats (Fried foods, Margarine, Shortening)
Lifestyle factors that trigger inflammation include:
Eating foods you have an Allergy or Sensitivity to
An imbalanced Gut Microbiome
Poorly Managed Stress
Lack of Sleep
Solution #6: Eat Anti-Inflammatory Foods
Build your diet full of vegetables, fruits, high-quality proteins, healthy fats, nuts, and seeds. If your gut tolerates beans and lentils, eat those regularly.
Include herbs, spices, garlic, onion, and ginger. The more colorful your diet, the healthier it is.
Food For Thought When I'm Losing Patience
I keep reminding myself, recovering 100% of smell and taste is going to take time and diligence. I've read it can take weeks to a year depending on how much nerve destruction happened.
On a spiritual and emotional level, here's one thought I keep having: Love, Certainty, Gratitude, and Presence help speed up any sort of healing process.
I hope this information is helpful. Have you found anything that has helped you get your smell and taste back?? Please share and leave me a comment. I would love to hear your story!
Have a great day,
I have been a Registered Dietitian for 21 years, and I practice Functional Nutrition which is a holistic approach that finds the root cause of health troubles. If you want to improve your health and need someone to guide you through the process, let's set up a time to chat on the phone.