Table of Contents:
- Chemicals in Cigarettes
- Effects of Smoking
- Swapping to Vaping
- Common Symptoms Experienced When Quitting
- Nutrients to Help You Kick the Habit
The hazards of smoking are well known and research has shown that tobacco kills more people than AIDS, illegal and legal drugs, murder, road accidents and suicide combined.
In fact, in 2018 almost 100,000 deaths in the UK were due to smoking (1).
Quitting any habit can be hard and extra support may be required.
We always take an evidence-based approach and in this article we discuss how to quit smoking with the help of specific nutrients.
Cigarettes contain many noxious chemicals including:
- Carbon monoxide
- Hydrogen cyanide
- Vinyl chloride
Some of these chemicals can be found in paint stripper, car exhaust fumes, ant poison, rocket fuel, industrial solvent and insecticide - not the type of substances you should be inhaling.
The increased exposure from smoking to some of these chemicals may explain why there are so many health conditions associated with smoking and an increased risk of death.
Smoking cigarettes is known to increase free radicals within the body.
These are damaging molecules that can alter cells and cause changes with dramatic effects upon the body - such as cancer.
In addition to this, smoking can reduce the amount of antioxidants in the body, which play an important role in neutralising free radicals.
This can lead to a depletion of these antioxidants and a state of “oxidative stress” occurs.
This is when most damage is done as the body has a reduced ability to defend itself.
Smoking is also known to alter brain chemistry, hence smoking is so addictive.
There is a strong link between smoking and mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety (4).
Statistics are showing that smoking is on the decline however, there has been a significant rise in vaping over the past 5 years (1).
Using an e-cigarette is appealing when it comes to quitting smoking and many people report success.
However, the use of e-cigarettes does come with its own issues.
Chemicals such as propylene glycol, formaldehyde, nickel and benzene have been linked to respiratory tract irritation and an increased risk of bronchitis and ‘smokers cough’ (5).
E-cigarettes also still contain nicotine which has been linked to health issues such as cancer (6).
When quitting smoking it is common to experience a variety of different symptoms and it can be tough.
Going ‘cold turkey’ and not replacing cigarettes with patches, gums or e-cigarettes may often lead to a return to smoking as symptoms can be difficult to deal with.
As nicotine affects the sympathetic nervous system there can be an increase in anxiety, irritability and mood disturbances.
Hunger can be increased, potentially leading to cravings, over-eating and weight gain.
Once the body experiences a reduction in exposure to toxins from cigarettes you may be more able to detoxify and eliminate stored toxins that have built up.
This may give rise to symptoms such as headaches, brain fog, irritability, aches and pains, skin rashes and even nausea.
In order to reduce or manage these kinds of symptoms additional support can be found through natural means.
Supporting a balanced blood sugar is vital when quitting any addiction and eating a healthy balanced diet is always a good place to start.
Aim to eat a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, healthy proteins like eggs, chicken, turkey, fish and lentils and beans and avoid processed foods, sugar, alcohol and caffeine.
Focusing on specific nutrients or supplementing can be particularly beneficial and enhance the quitting process.
These are our top suggestions:
Found in whole grains, green beans, broccoli, nuts, and egg yolks, chromium helps the body to regulate blood sugar and supports insulin (7), keeping cravings at bay. A good level of intake for blood sugar balance is around 200µg or more (8).
Forms a complex with chromium to make a molecule called Glucose Tolerance Factor (GTF), thought to enhance insulin (9). Vitamin B3 can be found in tuna, chicken, portobello mushrooms, brown rice, avocados and peas.
Like chromium, cinnamon supports insulins action and aids in blood sugar balance (10). Add 1 tsp of Ceylon cinnamon to food daily as it is higher quality than cassia cinnamon.
Found in dark green leafy vegetables, almonds, pumpkin seeds, brown rice and avocados, magnesium is known to improve insulin sensitivity, therefore supporting healthy blood sugar balance (11). It is known as 'nature's tranquilliser' and is also useful for anxiety, stress and tension (12).
The omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA have been shown to support a healthy mood (13). As mood may fluctuate when quitting smoking, ensuring a good intake of omega-3 is vital. Oily fish such as salmon, tuna, herring, mackerel, trout and sardines are all rich in omega-3 and 2-3 portions should be eaten each week. A high quality fish oil supplement may also be of use.
An amino acid normally found in green tea, helps to raise alpha brain waves - those seen in states of deep meditation (14). A dose of around 200mg may be of use for anxiety brought on by nicotine withdrawal.
This amino acid is a key neurotransmitter thought to influence mental alertness and functioning. It may be a useful supplement during the first three weeks to combat the worst cravings.
These vital antioxidants are required to mop up damage by free radicals. They also assist the liver to process toxins and vitamin C helps to regenerate vitamin E once it has been used (15). Including foods such as citrus fruits, broccoli, peppers, avocados, oily fish and nuts and seeds can contribute to your intake, but supplements may be required as these nutrients may be low due to smoking.
Aids in supporting balance of glutamate, one of the most important neurotransmitters in the brain, and also dopamine, involved in the reward pathways. It is also important for the production of a key antioxidant called glutathione (16) and so supports detoxification and protection of body cells. NAC has also shown benefit for reducing cravings associated with cigarette withdrawal (17).
Quitting smoking may be difficult but with the right support the process may be a lot easier.
If you have tried to give up smoking and are finding it hard you may want to obtain advice from an experienced Personalised Health practitioner who can advise you of the most beneficial approach for your individual circumstances.
We’re dedicated to providing you with both insightful information and evidence-based content, all orientated towards the Personalised Health approach.
Did you find this article useful? We would love to know your thoughts.
With your comments we’d love to continue the conversation.
Let us know your top tips to quit smoking.
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