If you get COVID-19, there’s a good chance you’ll experience a particular side effect: a loss of a sense of smell.
COVID-19, which is being studied by the medical community, brings attention to smell loss. It is still being understood by the medical community.
A woman claims her whole life has been dedicated to helping people with lost senses of smell.
Mimi Ellis is passionate about cooking fresh, delicious meals for those she loves. Her French parents passed their love of cooking down to her.
“Growing up, everything was about, ‘What’s for dinner?’ Everybody gathered in the kitchen together cooking things,” said Ellis. “Food is such a big part of my life.”
One morning, while going through an upper respiratory infection, Ellis walked into her kitchen and couldn’t smell fresh coffee. She worked as a physician’s assistant in an Ear Nose Throat practice and knew something was wrong.
“I knew there was a chance it’d never get better,” said Ellis. “Smell is such a big part of taste. This is about 80% of what we consider taste. I couldn’t perceive flavor, couldn’t tell you what was an apple, what was a pear. I was angry. Big time. I was so upset that I literally brought all my cookbooks home with me. I put them all in boxes and threw them in the garage.”
Ellis told her family she wouldn’t cook again. But one day her mind changed. It all began with Zoe, her daughter.
“My daughter is small in stature,” said Ellis. “She’s got the most common form of dwarfism. My daughter’s 3’11”, and she competed on her high school swim team.”
Ellis met Paralympians through her daughter in competitive swimming.
“The resiliency of the people we met through this was just life-changing,” she said.
Ellis realized that nothing was stopping Ellis and the others, so Ellis opened the cookbooks.
The Journal of Internal Medicine reported that around 86% of COVID sufferers experienced a loss of their sense of smell. Most people recover their sense of taste and smell within 60 days. A lot more people are talking about a temporary or long-term loss of sense of smell because there is a pandemic. Many are also suffering parosmia which is a bad or rotten smell.
“It’s very isolating for a lot of people who can’t leave their room,” said Ellis. “Absolutely, there’s hope.”
Ellis is now a certified health coach, and founder of the program and website Getting Well When You Can’t Smell. She offers courses and one-on-one Zoom sessions to people with lost senses of smell. It means teaching them how to use their senses in order to focus on textures and sounds when they eat.
“Hone in on those other sensory aspects of food; that’s what I try to teach people to do,” said Ellis.
This is called “olfactory-retraining”, and it is a method of returning a sense to smell.
“You get a little bite from the black pepper, and then you put it with all these colors and textures and tastes,” said Ellis, finishing up a dish.
“I like it,” said Zoe, looking at the dish her mother created from fresh kale, beans, onions, chicken, and dried fruit. “It’s very colorful. Very big dish.”
A woman who was raised with a love for good food says that she now has a lot of her senses of smell. She’s grateful to everyone who’s led her to this day of helping so many decide what’s for dinner.
“It’s just an awareness of what has to be possible, even when everyone else says it’s not,” said Ellis.
For more on Ellis’ work, visit her website.