Parosmia has been in the news a lot lately, as it’s a common symptom of COVID-19. However, it can be caused by a variety of different conditions. We may not know why parosmia affects some people and not others, but we do know that it’s been neglected by medicine for too long.
Parosmia can be very difficult to come to terms with, and to know how to best overcome symptoms and help yourself to heal.
In our webinar on 27 October, our Chair Chrissy Kelly spoke with Dr Duika Burgess-Watson from the Altered Eating Research Network about strategies that you could use to experiment with food, flavours and textures. These looked at different areas of life and aspects of your relationship with food.
Our discussion touched on basic ‘functional’ relationships with food, including what to do if you really can’t eat, and how you might cope with the very early stages where lots of things disgust you. We also spoke about coping emotionally, and whether CBT might help some people.
Strategies to experiment with food
Our suggested strategies to experiment with food included experimenting with different ways to cook food, using different coloured plates, and using texture and other senses to get satisfaction out of food.
We also introduced some of larger strategies that may help to make meals palatable.
Bland and bold strategy
In the ‘bland and bold’ strategy, you need to identify two types of food to help you to tolerate meals and find foods that you can eat.
‘Bland’ foods are bases that you can eat that don’t have a strong odour to you – meals can be built on these, and it’s a useful tool to have these safe foods.
‘Bold’ foods are stronger flavours that work for you to cover up unpleasant smells. Some people find that cinnamon helps, or hot sauce. Finding something that works for you (and this may change over time) may help you to make a meal tolerable.
Portion and proportion
This is a strategy developed by a chef with parosmia, Carol Shadford, as a way to play with food ‘safely’.
In this, you prepare small portions of several different foods. One or two are ‘safe’ foods that you know that you can eat, and the others are foods to experiment with. You then test out different proportions of each food within mouthfuls – some with more of the ‘safe’ foods, some with less. This allows you to experiment with portion size, and to find foods that work for you.
You can hear more detail about these strategies in our video of the webinar.
As well as the tips shared in our webinar, we encourage you to join our Facebook group for people with parosmia – these are a great source of support, advice and tips, and just people who ‘get it’.