What Is The Gut/Smell Connection?

Updated: 7/13/22

One morning my husband and I were on our way to an event. We had eaten a nice breakfast. We picked up a young friend to ride with us. When we arrived about 15 minutes later we dropped off our friend and then had to leave. We were having such a hard time focusing and forming our thoughts. And, even though we had eaten breakfast, we were absolutely feeling this deep, hollow pit in our stomachs!! How could we possibly be hungry?

And then, it dawned on me. We were feeling the effects of our young passenger’s perfume!

I know what you must be thinking .... “how can smelling something affect our gut?”

Consider what happens when you smell bread or an apple pie baking? Does your mouth start watering? Do you feel yourself getting hungry and wanting to eat?

The part of our brain called the hypothalamus helps control our hunger. When the hypothalamus is stimulated it signals the pancreas to release hormones to adjust the blood sugar as needed. For example, when carbohydrates are eaten the hypothalamus signals the pancreas to produce insulin to help lower the blood sugar. If blood sugar needs to be raised, glucagon is released. In turn the liver is prompted to release stored glucose.

This efficient control of blood sugar gets disrupted when someone has environmental illnesses such as MCS or Multiple Chemical Sensitivities. Due to damage from toxins such as heavy metals and free radicals those of us with these conditions may feel exaggerated brain related symptoms from high blood sugar.....a so-called “heightened” sugar sensitivity.

What comes next is the well-known “sugar crash” followed by hunger. This is exactly what we experienced and I still experience.

So, can environmental fragrances affect our gut? Absolutely!!! They are “external” stimulants just like food smells are. These can include:

  • Carpet chemicals
  • Paint
  • Mold
  • Detergents/Dryer Sheets/Cleaning Products
  • Hair/Personal Care Products
  • Perfumes/Colognes
  • New Cars/Furniture/Clothes
  • Air Fresheners
  • Herbicides/Pesticides
  • Petrochemicals
Everyone and their neighbor typically use lawn chemicals whether for weed or mosquito control. One summer was so bad that even though my husband ate like a horse … he still “lost” weight and he didn’t have any extra to lose.

Recently I was completely taken off-guard while at a lake. Knowing I would be outside I thought there was nothing to be concerned about.  How wrong I was!  I immediately got that "deep-pit hunger". There were so many water vessels that were "burning oil".  I just was not expecting to encounter that.  In addition, I was exposed to the fragrances of suntan lotions and laundry products.  The incoherency, headache and nausea I had developed was something I had not experienced in such a long time.  Fortunately, there was fruit to be eaten but it was not enough because of the constant exposure.  Then, back at the camp, there was so much smoke from all of the campfires.  I did feel slightly better after eating. However, because of the "all day" exposure I was sure the "chemical hangover" would be affecting me for a day or two.  

After returning home I followed my "chemical hangover protocol" before going to bed.  The next day I was as good as new! I was never so happy to be "wrong"!!  

So, can what we breathe affect our gut health? Absolutely!!

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