Can smells make your stomach hurt?

We all have experienced the discomfort of a sour stomach after eating something that did not agree with us, but have you ever had a reaction to a smell? Not just any smell, but one that makes you feel like you just ate some rotten eggs or spoiled milk. In this article, we will explore whether smelling certain things can actually make our stomachs hurt and what causes this phenomenon.

Allergic reactions

An allergic reaction is caused by the body’s immune system overreacting to an allergen. These could be anything from food to pollen or even scents such as perfume or smoke. When exposed to these allergens, the body releases histamine which can cause a variety of symptoms including itching, swelling and digestive issues.

Fragrance sensitivity

Fragrances are commonly used in perfumes, air fresheners and cleaning products among others. However, some people may be sensitive to specific chemicals found in fragrances leading to symptoms such as nausea and vomiting when exposed for prolonged periods.

Food allergies & intolerances

Food allergies occur when the immune system reacts negatively towards specific foods consumed while intolerance refers to difficulty digesting certain foods due to insufficiency of digestive enzymes in individuals (such as lactose intolerance). Often these conditions lead also lead common symptoms akin’nausea’, ‘bloating’, ‘cramps‘ .

The brain-gut connection

Smell has been long associated with taste assisting enhance our enjoyment during meals; activating memories through associations between smell /taste which results subsequent inputs interpreted through hippocampal reactivation systems connecting various parts of olfactory bulb . Intense negative odours however can stimulate further opposite emotions causing responses within CNS receptors ultimately sending signals via Vagus nerve resulting nausea/heartburn irregardless physiological causative agents.

### How does it work?

The sense of scent affects neurons located inside entorhinal cortex influencing how body perceives taste resulting in receptor-based signals traveling to hypothalamus and amygdala, part of the Limbic System , which ultimately determines whether crave or want to avoid foods. Resulting sensations are communicated by GI tract through complex interplay of neurotransmitters with shared receptors found on both neurons within brain/enteric muscles – leading various symptoms following negative olfactory inputs.

Common culprits

Some scents have stronger reactions than others such as those that signal potential danger or spoilage. Here are some common examples:

Rotten food

Spoiled food smells off-putting for a reason: To protect our bodies from harmful bacteria. When we detect food gone-bad, our natural response is to gag-back nauseating objects triggering vomiting reflexes-actions preventing toxin absorption into body.


Both organic and synthetic chemicals commonly used in cleaning products can emit powerful odours leading instant headaches, fainting spells & stomach irritation among other serious medical conditions prevalent in specific exposures mainly pesticides/toxic compounds exposure.

How you react towards chemical compositions often relate familiarity acculturative training regarding recognition forming perceived riskiness through repetitive sensitisation with training learning over time !


While they may smell pleasant (or not), perfumes contain a plethora of synthetic ingredients that may irritate scent-receptors inside nose – leading nausea/headaches causing discomfort.

### Body odor
We all know someone whose sweating makes us feel like running away but breathing these putrid (to your nose) fumes actually releases volatile sulphuric-acids causes nausea immediately making consumption impossible.

Ingested vs inhalation

It’s important to note here that while fragrances can evoke negative responses when breathed-in via nostrils indeed also intrusive flavours when mouth-ingested similarly; however these two occur differently physiologically due distinct routes taken signaling different CNS pathways responsible for reception-body processing .

Children & pregnant women

Children and expectant mothers are at higher risk of olfactory-related discomfort than average persons regarding negative olfactory stimuli primarily due to developmental stages of neuronal/skeletal development along with hormonal fluctuations all believed affect sensitivities related towards specific odorous substances. One should be careful not expose oneself too-prolonged periods during such times lest worsen negative symptoms each hour it is being experienced.

Smell aversion

Humans often develop scent-aversion after having bad olfaction-experiences avoiding previously encountered smell down road since unwanted experiences occur coupled with memories associated thought-level evaluation as harmful – an evolutionary survival mechanism . Helplessness may eventually follow complete rejection of food considered unpleasant however for safety purposes, especially when smelling something that may be indicative decay or toxin presence.


While smells cannot technically hurt our stomachs directly instead initiating different CNS pathways influencing regions in hypothalamus responsible for appetite regulation;too-powerful / stinky smells can lead nausea/ multiple other digestive upsets. Avoiding foul odors completely might not always possible given various contexts but certainly significant measures concerning personal hygiene, maintaining a clean environment will undoubtedly mitigate severity symptom onset reducing time-recovery intervals overall!

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