Olfaction and Relationships: The Powerful Language of Smells

We have examined the sense of smell from many points of view, paying special attention to its essential link with food. We have also observed its cognitive function, its emotional links and its evocative power.

Today we go a little further taking inspiration from the observations of Dr. Alessandra Graziottin who has done much research related to the power of smell in interpersonal relationships.

The nose is directly involved in our sentimental choices. It is an excellent adviser. We trust our sense of smell even more than our vision or other senses that intervene in our emotional picture. Everything starts from the skin, which generates, so to speak, our olfactory identity card. Each of us has a specific, unique smell, which is determined by the presence of pheromones. Erroneously pheromones are always associated only with the sexual sphere of the individual, but in reality, as Dr. Graziottin explains, these substances regulate any type of socially relevant behavior for each individual.

Pheromones activate primary behaviors that even bypass conscious thinking. They are secreted when they are generated by the survival instinct inherent in each of us. Dr. Graziottin cites panic situations in crowded contexts such as concerts, matches, rallies as a clear example. If a panicked person starts running, he generates the pheromones of panic and fear that in a certain sense "infect" those around him, with the consequence, unfortunately often harmful, that the crowd starts running for no reason in panic.

Taking instead a decidedly sweeter example, we can think of the relationship that is created between a mother and her newborn. Breastfeeding, in particular, makes the mother produce pheromones that allow her child to recognize her by her smell, in the very early stages of life, and only later, by voice and sight.

And in love? In the couple, chemistry becomes essential. Smell and taste are inextricably mixed in an intertwining that makes us understand that we really like or desire the person in front of us. For instance, when we like the smell of his/her skin, consequently we want to kiss it. If at some point we realize that our partner's skin scent is no longer "appetizing", or worse, even starts to bother us, it is a signal that should not be underestimated. The sense of smell always reaches a conclusion before reason.

In sexuality, chemistry is essential. Did you know that a woman, in the middle of the ovulation cycle, emits substances that make her more attractive to her partner, precisely because that is her fertile period? Knowing how to manage this type of situation therefore makes the couple's relationship much more stimulating and rewarding, and there is little to do: if the body is happy, we are happy, pervaded by positive hormones such as serotonin and dopamine. So making love helps us to live better, and taking advantage of our ability to grasp the nuances of our partner's smell gives an extra boost that will lead, as a result, to experiencing a more in sync relationship.

The olfactory identity card is regulated by our immuno-compatibility system. Said so it seems very complicated, but in a nutshell it means that when a couple, specifically a man and a woman, have a very strong and intense mutual attraction on the olfactory level, the chances that this couple, if they had children, will generate healthy, "viable" children is much higher. This is because our "cloud" of pheromones attracts and is attracted to another cloud that is compatible also from the point of view of the immune system.

How many times have we heard, especially from our grandparents or the elderly, that in the past, a woman who had an irregular menstrual cycle was recommended to get married (hopefully to someone she was attracted to) because it would fix everything? Behind this advice lies a strong and well-founded scientific reality. If a woman is with a man with whom she has hormonal compatibility, his testosterone charge intervenes on the her hypothalamus, thus regulating the functioning of her reproductive system.

All this, however, can also have unpleasant repercussions. When a woman approaches or enters menopause, her pheromone production decreases a lot, and it is a statistically proven fact that couples go into crisis just around 50 years old, when women move away from their fertile age and men start to produce less testosterone. Fortunately, there are supplements that manage to restore hormonal balance in a natural way, often avoiding unhappy consequences.

Stress also affects our smell. Stress drives away those close to us, which does not mean that if we are stressed we smell bad, but we produce an olfactory cloud of pheromone information that actually repels others.

A striking example is the mother who returns home from work stressed and on the verge of exhaustion and her husband or children make her return even more difficult. Children often sense the stress of their mother and react in a negative way. Their feeling starts from the nose. Who would have thought that this neglected sense could regulate the basic functions of life?

The sense of smell is a universe in and of itself...a world full of unexplored places that we are slowly trying to introduce you through our blog. Stick with TasterPlace for more interesting nose facts!




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