thyroid and smelling smoke

Thyroid and Smelling Smoke: Defects of smell and taste for people with Hypothyroidism

Managing sensory changes like Thyroid and smelling smoke with diminished taste perception by correcting conditions of hypothyroidism.

Are you smelling smoke if there’s no smoke around? Are you experiencing a diminished sense of smell and taste? Well, the reason you may not smell or taste things the same could be because of hypothyroidism.  

Thyroid and smelling smoke with altered taste – you must be wondering what’s the connection? 

Let’s get into that. Hypothyroidism is a condition where very little thyroid hormone called thyroxine is secreted. This hormone is required for the normal development of the nervous system including the formation and maintenance of smell receptors & taste receptors. The information from your taste buds and nose reaches the brain, where the messages are read. When this mechanism is impaired, it leads to diminished taste perception and sense of smell. This leads to a lack of food intake attributing to weakness and lack of energy. Perhaps it is going to mess up with the enjoyment of food and explains why hypothyroidism can cause you to become averse to food and lose your appetite.  

Here are a few common complaints about thyroid disorders : 

  1. ‘Everything tastes salty’ – Studies indicate that majority of those with untreated hypothyroidism have elevated threshold for detection and recognition of salt. As a result, the salt taste dominates over the other tastes making them feel that every food tastes salty. 
  2. ‘I have a metallic taste’ – Some people attribute change in taste due to thyroid medications like hormonal therapies.  Studies show that reduced zinc levels have been associated with decreased taste acuity in people with hypothyroidism.  
  3. ‘I can sense the smell of smoke when nothing is burning around’ – It is a common condition in thyroid disorders called Phantosmia, which causes one to smell odors that are not present around. It’s also known as olfactory hallucinations. Some common odors experienced by people are Cigarette smoke, Burning rubber, Ammonia, Rotten / spoiled foods.
  4. ‘I feel my tongue is swollen and painful’ – People with hypothyroidism may also experience something called ‘thyroid tongue’ which can refer to a dry, discoloured and painful tongue.  
  5. ‘Stuffiness in my nose causes bad odour’ – Hypothyroidism has proven to cause nasal congestion and sinus infections which generally causes foul odour and alters the taste.  

If you’re facing similar complaints, it’s time to improve your thyroid levels and get treated by an endocrinologist.  

Before that understand what are the causes of hypothyroidism. 

  1. Auto immune disease: A process where the body’s immune system acts against its own tissues, in this context – the thyroid gland. These antibodies affect the thyroid’s ability to produce hormones.  
  2. Treatment to hyperthyroidism: Sometimes correcting hyperthyroidism (excess thyroid hormones) can end up lowering the thyroid hormones resulting in hypothyroidism. 
  3. Medications: If you are taking any medicines for psychiatric conditions which has lithium in it, consult your doctor about the effect on your thyroid glands.  
  4. Pregnancy: Some women develop hypothyroidism during pregnancy because of antibody production against their own thyroid glands.  
  5. Iodine deficiency: Iodine is essential for thyroid hormone production and very little iodine intake can lead to hypothyroidism.  

As a nutritionist and wellness coach, I had a challenging experience with one of my clients who was experiencing typical symptoms of hypothyroidism like fatigue, chronic headaches, and a diminished sense of smell and taste.  

A simple dietary and lifestyle approach made a huge impact.  

  1. Dietary support included a moderate fibre diet, diary and gluten free diets, reduced usage of kale, broccoli and cabbage. Inclusion of selenium and iodine rich foods.  
  2. Lifestyle support like decreasing stress with yoga, exercising regularly – aerobic exercises and following a proper routine.  
  3. Nutritional support included zinc and vitamin D3 supplementation with an herbal support of ashwagandha roots.  
  4. Of course, medications with hormone replacement support from the endocrinologist.  

And after three weeks of the program the client felt more energetic and regained her sense of smell and taste – an indication that the condition can be reversible with the right kind of approach. 

Can foods have an impact on thyroid disorders? 

Hypothyroidism is a very tricky condition to manage. Some nutrients heavily influence the function of the thyroid gland and certain foods can inhibit your body’s ability to absorb the hormones that you take as a part of your thyroid treatment like soy products, gluten, fatty processed foods, sugary foods and coffee.  

Here are some super foods for thyroid disorder (hypothyroidism): 

  1. Eggs: Whole eggs are the best option for hypothyroidism as much of their iodine and selenium content is present in the yolk and the whites are full of proteins.  
  2. Chickpeas: Chickpeas are high in fibre and help in constipation which is a common complaint in thyroid disorders. Chickpea is also good source of zinc which is critical for thyroid function. 
  3. Fish like tuna and sardine: These fish are good sources of omega- 3 and selenium, which are known to decrease inflammation in thyroid disorders  
  4. Brazil nuts: These nuts are enriched with selenium which reduces inflammation, supports the nervous system by improving brain function and improves thyroid function. Limit your intake to 1-3 nuts per day.  
  5. Oysters: These are good sources of copper and zinc, which helps in regulating immune system and thyroid function.  
  6. Shellfish, clams, crabs, lobster: This category is best when it comes to foods that support thyroid health. Clams and mussels are rich sources of selenium, iron and iodine which are essential for normal thyroid function and hormone production. Shell fish are also a rich source of natural iodine which prevents iodine deficiency. Shell fish like wild salmon are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Studies show that it improves thyroid sensitivity.  
  7. Chicken: A great source of lean protein, which provides zinc necessary for normal functioning of the thyroid glands.  Thyroid and smelling smoke with disturbances in taste are only a part of the sensory changes which may be observed in hypothyroidism. These changes generally return to normal after treatment with thyroid hormone replacement therapy and improved lifestyle.  

Written by Aishwarya Deepika, ENHAPP Wellness Coach & Nutritionist 

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