Shortly after I penned my last blog entry (eeeeewww, that smell !!, June 1 2015), I came across an article in The Guardian and, eventually a body of research, that suggests that the sense of smell is the “canary in the coalmine of human health”. A 2014 British study reports that losing one’s sense of smell strongly predicts death within five years. It suggests that the nose knows when death is imminent, and that smell may serve as a bellweather for the overall state of the body. The authors suggest two interesting reasons for this:
The tip of the olfactory nerve, which contains the smell receptors, is the only part of the human nervous system that is continuously regenerated by stem cells. The production of new smell cells declines with age, and this is associated with a gradual reduction in our ability to detect and discriminate odours. Loss of smell may indicate that the body is entering a state of disrepair, and is no longer capable of repairing itself.
The olfactory nerve is also the only part of the nervous system that is exposed to the open air. As such, it offers poisons and pathogens a quick route into the brain, and so losing smell could be an early warning of something that will ultimately cause death. Your nose knows death is imminent. ( http://www.theguardian.com/science/neurophilosophy/2014/oct/01/your-nose-knows-death-is-imminent) .
So, once you lose that sense of smell, within 5 years, you’re likely to be dead. Apparently, if I’m not dead already, the end is nigh! The good news is, I won’t smell it coming! Read what this doctor said about the “smell of death”and you’ll apt to agree that this is a good thing!
There is a distinct odor to imminent death. I know that smell. I have seen patients come in to the hospital extremely ill, with such problems as sepsis, pneumonia, pancreatitis, etc and the really sick ones are usually unconscious. When you walk in the room, there is a smell — I don’t know quite how to explain it. But I call it the smell of death. It is definitely a sickening smell… not quite like urine or stool… just something different.
I’ve seen a few patients come to the hospital with that odor.. and they would usually die within days. Sometimes, in the ED, I can walk past a room and know that patient will not live long. I wonder if others have noticed this? (http://sweetiedoc.soulcast.com/59247/Smell-of-Death#sthash.ewtDwJqm.dpuf)
This rather bleak picture I seem to be painting here shouldn’t be so dark since, like almost all symptoms of Parkinson’s, results are quite variable. I have been gradually losing my sense of smell over many years. I know others who report no real loss in this area at all. I don’t buy into the belief that my loss of smell is by any means a “death sentence” nor I am devoid of hope that future therapies, such as stem cell therapy, may be able to result in a rehabilitation or revitalization of my olfactory functions.
Right here and now, I may be living as one amongst the “smelling-impaired”, but as I lumber through my days, I know full well that I have the good fortune to be, in the words of a classic and prophetic doctor, “Alive! Alive! It’s alive! Alive I tell you!” (Dr. Frankenstein).