By Judith Garner, Garner Healthy Living Everyday
All of us are constantly receiving feedback from our bodies and responding to it. The five traditional senses: sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch, consist of organs with specialized cellular structures that have receptors for specific stimuli. These cells have links to the nervous system and thus to the brain. This is how we are able to perceive stimuli originating from outside or inside the body.
Researchers have discerned that there are also other senses such as: balance and acceleration, temperature, kinesthetic sense, pain, and other internal senses. Interestingly, there is not a definitive agreement as to the exact number of bodily senses, but it is believed to be 21 or more.
Many of our body’s systems produce subtle changes, which are not always immediately apparent to us. With practice, one can become mindful, or acutely in-tune, with their body’s senses making it easier to recognize changes that signal health clues.
Eyesight is affected by — and affects — the body, mind, and emotions. The body’s visual system is very sensitive to stress, tension, and fatigue of any kind, whether it’s physical, emotional, or mental. It is also very sensitive to any nutritional deficiencies and imbalances that might be present in the body — e.g. being overweight increases your chance of developing diabetic eye disease or glaucoma.
Although sight is not technically part of taste, it certainly influences perception. Aside from looking artistic, there is a big reason why plating and presentation of food are such a huge part of our dining experience. To our brains, “taste” is actually a fusion of a food’s flavor, smell, visual appearance, and touch into a single sensation.
The role of smell is significant in aiding our taste perception. In fact, the sense of smell plays an equal, if not greater, role than our taste buds in helping us detect tastes. Loss of taste experienced during a cold is due to the loss of smell by respiratory infection. When you can’t smell or perceive odors, your ability to taste food diminishes greatly.
Smell is a warning system, alerting you to danger signals such as the stench of spoiled food, odor of a gas leak, or the smoke of a fire. Problems with your chemical senses may be a sign of serious health conditions such as an early sign of Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, or multiple sclerosis. It can also be related to other medical conditions, such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and malnutrition.
Common causes of smell disorders are:
- Sinus and other upper respiratory infections
- Growths in the nasal cavities
- Head injury
- Hormonal disturbances
- Dental problems
- Exposure to certain chemicals, such as insecticides and solvents
- Numerous medications, including some common antibiotics and antihistamines
- Radiation for treatment of head and neck cancers
- Conditions that affect the nervous system, such as Parkinson’s disease or Alzheimer’s disease.
Taste and smell are crucial to our health — these senses provide information about our food. Specific qualities of our food, such as sweet, sour, salty, and bitter tasting, are conveyed to us via taste receptors on the tongue and in the mouth. We learn to rely on our senses of taste and smell to warn us away from foods that may be dangerous; for example, spoiled or tainted.
Some factors that may cause taste change include:
- A dry mouth
- Loss of smell
- Minor infections, such as a cold or flu
- Cigarette smoking or the use of smokeless (spit) tobacco
- Medicine or surgery
- Nutritional deficiencies of zinc or vitamin B12
- Certain diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Bell’s palsy, hepatitis, Sjögren’s syndrome, and oral cancer
Estimates indicate 40–50 percent of adults over the age of 65 years have a measureable hearing impairment. Hearing loss has been linked to changes in cognitive ability, particularly when listeners are faced with the task of understanding speech that is acoustically or linguistically challenging. Recent studies have gone even further, suggesting a potential link between hearing loss and dementia.1
Disturbing sound levels and noise pollution affects people’s health and quality of life. Damage to hearing occurs at noise levels higher than 80 decibels, which is the level of heavy truck traffic. Constant background noise levels as loud as a garbage disposal unit, traffic noise from a major road, and other noises higher than 60 decibels can cause cardiovascular effects, such as high blood pressure, faster pulse rates, elevated cholesterol, irregular heart rate, and heart attacks.
Touch is a natural way of reacting to pain and stress and conveying love and compassion. Touch stimulates physiological processes in the body and people who are touch-deprived are prone to diseases and emotional dysfunction. Studies have shown how essential touch is for babies to thrive and develop. The need for touch does not decrease with age. On the physical level, human touch has the ability to lower blood pressure and reduce stress and tension. Other effects are the release of natural painkillers and neurotransmitters necessary for mental function.
Human touch is known to have emotional benefits and positive healing effects on people. Massage therapy, recognized to relax the mind and the body, can bring a host of physiological and psychological effects in your health such as improvement of circulation, strengthening of the immune system, relaxation of tense muscles, reduction of spasms and pain, and improvement of range of motion, among many others.
If you are experiencing a disorder with any of these bodily senses, talk with your doctor.
Garner Healthy Living Everyday helps people discover principles and practices of health providing resources, education, and support in the areas of weight-loss, habits of health, healthy eating, and processed-free lifestyle. Offering certified independent health coaching with Take Shape For Life and certified independent Processed-free America facilitator. We have mentors and coaches in every important area of our life — school, work, sports, and skills. Why should weight loss and maintaining our health be any different? For information, or to schedule a complimentary consultation, contact Judith Garner at 480-560-7842, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Like us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/judithgarnerhealthyliving.
1. Lin FR. Hearing loss and cognition among older adults in the United States. J. Gerontol. Med. Sci.66A, 1131–1136 (2011).
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