Although there is no doubt that anti-smoking messages have been getting through and the numbers of smokers decreasing, there are still around 100,000 people every year in the UK who are dying as a direct result of smoking. And for the sixth of the British population who are still lighting up, the need to quit has never been more pressing with increasing numbers of life-limiting conditions and health issues being directly linked with smoking – not all of them lung or respiratory related.
For some who has smoked for years the idea of giving up now might seem pointless, but the benefits gained from quitting smoking begin instantly. It only takes 48 hours of not smoking for all traces of nicotine to have left your body. After just 24hrs your risk of heart attack has also been reduced. So even if you have been a long term smoker you can help your health straight away.
That’s not to say ditching the cigarettes is easy. They are addictive and the cravings are hard to manage. But you can help yourself through your diet as certain vitamins and minerals can actually relieve the stress of quitting and support your body by returning the nutrients depleted by smoking, which in turn can help reduce cravings.
When our bodies are nourished and in good shape we are less likely to suffer from any kind of craving. Smoking impacts the body’s ability to absorb vitamin C so replenishing these reserves will restore lost nutrients. Vitamin C helps by reducing your desire to smoke, and also helps to control hunger cravings which in turn reduces weight gain after quitting– which can make some people light up again.
Foods such as citrus fruits, peppers and tomatoes are helpful and also beta carotene-rich foods such as carrots, sweet potatoes, and dark leafy greens, including kale and spinach. Researchers looking at 1,000 smokers giving up noticed those who ate the most fruits and vegetables were three times more likely to have stayed smoke-free for at least 30 days compared with those who ate the least.
Green tea is known as a great stress reliever and can help smokers cope with the withdrawal symptoms associated with giving up. Studies suggest that active ingredients in green tea may help to reduce stress without causing drowsiness. And, if you’re a coffee drinker, it can also help if you take your caffeine in tea form as switching your drink to one you wouldn’t usually associate with smoking can help break the habit. So it you used to light up when you had a coffee, switching to tea could help rid you of that prompt. Equally if you usually drink a black tea try switching to green to ring the changes.
We need B vitamins, including vitamin B1, vitamin B12, vitamin B6, vitamin B9 (folate), for healthy skin, hair, eyes, and liver and these are often found to be depleted in smokers. Some studies have found that people who take a B vitamin supplement find their nicotine cravings are reduced and irritability lessened. Vitamin B3 is thought to be especially helpful as it is chemically similar to nicotine. It’s thought that the vitamin attaches to the niacin receptor sites in the brain – usually taken up by nicotine in smokers. But you need to stick to the recommended daily dose as large amounts of niacin can result in liver damage.
If you have never heard of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and you’ve just given up smoking and want to know what it is, you are likely getting annoyed just trying to pronounce it! This little known nutrient works as a neurotransmitter in your brain. When GABA attaches to a protein in your brain known as a GABA receptor, it produces a calming effect and can help reduce feelings of anxiety and stress. As a result it can reduce the heightened tension which giving up smoking can create. A 2013 study performed by the University of California’s Department of Psychiatry concluded that integrating this supplement could be useful in helping those kick the nicotine habit. It’s not readily available in foods, it’s only found in fermented ones, such as kimchi, miso, and tempeh, so needs to be taken as a supplement.
If you’re going to bite the bullet and stop smoking, you might want to know more about hypnotherapy which is said to help. Also, you may well find alcohol to be a trigger that makes you want to smoke, if so, why not stop or cut back on drinking as well as cigarettes?
Finally, if you smoke because of your stress levels, try using the three minutes that you would have puffed on a cigarette to do something that genuinely lowers the body’s stress levels like going for a walk or making a healthy green juice. Just remember that you’re doing this for you, because you deserve it, and because YOU are worth it.