Continued From Part One: Understanding Addiction and Withdrawal
Remember to eat sensibly once you have stopped smoking. Stay aware that your appetite may increase, and you will most likely crave unhealthy foods. Be sure to include foods and beverages that will support your body while quitting smoking, and avoid those that will aggravate your withdrawal symptoms. Here are some dietary guidelines you may want to consider following:
Sweets are often craved after quitting smoking. This is your body’s way of trying to compensate for the sudden cessation of nicotine intake. Nicotine stimulates an immediate release of stored glucose into the system. This quick “sugar rush” makes you feel good and gives a temporary boost in energy. Of course, when blood sugar levels rise quickly, your body responds by releasing more insulin from the pancreas to control the rapid rise in blood sugar. The sudden drop in blood sugar levels, then leaves you feeling tired, anxious, or hungry. This is when smokers usually reach for their next cigarette. It is a continuous cycle that explains why smokers can easily consume more than a pack a day.
When you, your body no longer receives the quick sugar highs that it is used to. This may cause you to feel restless, get headaches or feel dizzy. To stop feeling these effects of sugar withdrawal, many people just replace their cigarettes with an increased intake of sweets. This is a bad idea; you may feel better in the short-term, but continuing this cycle involving rapid increases and decreases in blood sugar levels will only lead to other problems down the road.
Watch Your Portions
It is common for people to overeat after quitting smoking. Many, especially those who are fixated by the oral sensations of smoking, replace the habit of smoking with eating more food. Even if you are eating healthy, unprocessed foods, they will still add up and most likely lead to weight gain.
If you do not want to gain weight, you have to be careful with portion size at this time because, in addition to feeling inclined to replace smoking with eating, your metabolism will slow down as soon as you quit smoking. Nicotine is a stimulant which increases the resting metabolic rate. In the average smoker, this metabolism increase is equal to about 500 calories. To compensate for this drop in metabolism, you can decrease your caloric intake by about 500 calories a day for the first few weeks after you have quit. Alternatively, you can increase the rate at which you burn calories by exercising more.
If your schedule allows, it is ideal to have smaller, more frequent meals. This will help stabilize blood sugar levels and reduce cravings for unhealthy foods. Make sure you have breakfast. If you skip it, you may experience a huge drop in blood sugar, which ultimately can affect your food choices for the remainder of the day.
Focus on Protein and Whole Grains
Protein and complex carbohydrates will help you to maintain stable blood sugar levels. Avoid refined grain products, and focus on whole grains which allow for a much more stable blood sugar release. Include protein-rich foods such as eggs, tofu, string cheese, yogurt, beans, or fish into your snacks and meals. Getting adequate protein will also help ensure that you are getting the essential amino acids (the building blocks of protein) which you will tend to need more of at this time.
Make Sure You Get Your Basic Nutrients
Eating a well-balanced diet will help to provide your body with basic dietary nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, amino acids and essential fatty acids. These basic nutrients are essential in the formation of neurotransmitters, the chemical messengers of the nervous system. When the body does not have the necessary materials to synthesize neurotransmitters, memory and mental clarity may decrease, moods can become unstable, sleep problems may occur, and cravings for substances such as tobacco may arise.
A craving for tobacco can result because if there is a lack of neurotransmitters, people seek out a way to offset the associated symptoms. The nicotine in tobacco artificially overcomes these deficiencies and gives a false sense of well-being by temporarily improving mental functions and mood. Addiction occurs because nicotine also prevents the brain cells from producing enough neurotransmitters, so more nicotine is needed just to stay focused and happy.
If you ensure that you are getting all your necessary nutrients, you can achieve a balanced state without the use of nicotine, and thus, eliminate one of the reasons that may have kept you smoking. Make sure you eat a variety of nutrient-dense foods. Also, consider taking key supplements for a few weeks before and a few months after quitting. See the supplement section of this article for more information.
Include Citrus Fruits
Include citrus fruits or juice in your diet. Many say that drinking orange or grapefruit juice can help cut cigarette cravings because citrus gives a kick that is similar to smoking a cigarette. Some also find that having a cigarette after eating or drinking citrus fruit is unpleasant. Citrus fruits are also a great source of Vitamin C, and can help replenish the Vitamin C, which has been depleted from your body due to smoking.
Do be mindful, however, of how much citrus and other fruits and juices you consume. All fruit is high in a natural sugar called fructose, and although it is natural, fructose will still cause a relatively quick rise in blood sugar levels. Allow yourself to have fruit, especially citrus, but maintain a healthy balance with other foods and choose the whole fruit when you can, instead of just juice.
Reduce Caffeine Consumption
If you drink a lot of caffeinated beverages such as coffee, black tea, green tea, or caffeinated soda, you should cut down your consumption, or switch to a decaffeinated version as you quit smoking. This is important because nicotine reduces the effects of caffeine in the body, so if you stop or decrease your nicotine intake, the same amount of caffeine can have a 50-60% stronger effect on you. Over consumption of caffeine can also make withdrawal symptoms worse.
Nutritional Supplements to Help Quit Smoking
B Complex Vitamins
B vitamins help regulate and calm the nervous system and reduce stress and fatigue. B vitamins can help alleviate the anxiety and insomnia that often occur with smoking cessation. Your body uses more B vitamins when you are under stress and smoking depletes the body of B vitamins, so it is important to start taking B vitamins at least two weeks before you plan to quit.
Each B vitamin has different benefits for the body and the mind. Below, each B vitamin is addressed individually with its functions that are most relative for quitting smoking. You may feel that a few B vitamins are more useful than others, but it is advised to take the B vitamins together because they work in synergy with each other. A “B Stress Complex” may be best to take while you quit because it has slightly higher amounts of the B vitamins which are needed most when you are under stress, but adequate amounts of the other B Vitamins are included to prevent imbalance.
- Vitamin B1 (Thiamine): Helps regulate the nervous system and stabilize mood. A lack of B1 can result in irritability, depression, fatigue and difficulty concentrating.
- Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin): Important for the production of healthy red blood cells which transport oxygen throughout the body. More oxygen reaching the brain means a greater capacity to stay alert.
- Vitamin B3 (Niacin): Also called nicotinic acid, B3 is chemically similar to nicotine. It also helps to dilate blood vessels and improve circulation – the opposite of nicotine which causes blood vessels to constrict.
- Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid): Helps to protect from the effects of stress and is necessary for proper adrenal function. B5 is also needed for a healthy metabolism.
- Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine): Helps synthesize the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin and regulate the nervous system. Essential for the control of mood swings, irritability, anxiety, and depression. B6 also helps to metabolize fats and proteins and may help control cravings and weight gain that often occur when quitting smoking.
- Vitamin B7 (Biotin): Essential for the breaking down of dietary fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. Helps to stabilize blood sugar levels. Biotin also helps the body get rid of toxins.
- Vitamin B9 (Folic Acid): Folic Acid is important for proper functioning of the nervous system. It also reduces the effects of nicotine on the lungs and protects from cell damage which may lead to cancer.
- B12 (Cobalmin): Vital for maintaining energy levels in the body. B12 also helps to decrease cellular damage.
- Choline: Needed for the healthy conversion of fats in the body. Choline nourishes the brain and supports healthy cognitive function.
- Inositol: Aids in the metabolism of fats and cholesterol. Has a calming effect on the brain and has been shown to be beneficial for treating depression, insomnia, panic and other psychiatric disorders. Inositol has also been discovered to reverse cell damage in the lining of the airways of the lungs, turning precancerous cells back to normal.
Smoking depletes Vitamin C in the body. Smoking one cigarette uses up approximately 25mg of vitamin C. Smoking many cigarettes a day will use up any vitamin C, which you get from your meals, causing the body to function in short supply of Vitamin C. Even moderate smokers are short on their vitamin C levels in the body.
It is advised to supplement with Vitamin C as you prepare to quit, and continue taking it for a few months after you have stopped; Vitamin C will provide a lot of support to the body at this time. Vitamin C boosts the immune system and keeps the body strong and energized. Vitamin C also builds healthy tissues and helps restore function to blood vessels which have been damaged by years of smoking.
Research has even shown that using large amounts of vitamin C to saturate body tissues helped people to overcome the habit of smoking. This is due to the fact the Vitamin C help clear the system of the toxins created from smoking. By taking Vitamin C the body can eliminate nicotine and other toxins and help a person overcome the withdrawal phase more quickly.
Vitamin E is a potent antioxidant that protects tissues and cell membranes. Vitamin E helps neutralize cancer-promoting free radicals in the lungs as well as other tissues . It also repairs cell damage caused by cigarette smoking.
Be sure to take a form of Vitamin E which contains mixed tocopherols (alpha, beta, delta, and gamma). The most commonly available form is alpha-tocopherol, but it is gamma tocopherol which shows the greatest antioxidant potential. Gamma tocopherol also gets depleted from smoking, and the lack of gamma tocopherol in a smokers system is thought to be a factor in the development of cancer.
Chromium is a mineral which is necessary for a healthy blood sugar balance. It can help reduce cravings for unhealthy foods by regulating the drop in blood sugar levels which is common after quitting smoking. Chromium will also help your body deal with stress as it reduces elevated cortisol levels.
Magnesium is an essential mineral for proper nerve function. It calms the nerves and helps ease stress related withdrawal symptoms. Magnesium is also necessary for regular lung function. It acts as a bronchodilator and allows for easier breathing.
The antioxidant mineral selenium protects against free radical damage, reducing the risk of cancer, and also enhances the antioxidant properties of Vitamin E.
L-Glutamine is an amino acid which is most often used for muscle recovery and for promoting a healthy immune system, but it has many other benefits and can be a helpful supplement to take when you are in the withdrawal process.
L- Glutamine is shown to help decrease addiction cravings and is often used in programs for drug and alcohol addiction.
It is also a good supplement to take to prevent weight gain after quitting smoking because not only does L-Glutamine help to build muscle, it also stabilizes blood sugar levels and blocks cravings for sugar.
Taking L-Glutamine may also decrease anxiety, as it increases levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. GABA is an amino acid which has calming effects.
L-Glutamine can also improve brain function. If you are experiencing “brain fog” and having trouble focusing after you quit, L-Glutamine may be quite helpful. It crosses the blood-brain barrier quickly and is then converted into glutamic acid which is fuel for the brain. The result is an increased alertness, better memory and ability to focus.
For the first two or three weeks after quitting, take 500mg of L-Glutamine every six hours to alleviate withdrawal symptoms. The powder can also be taken under the tongue to stop cravings quickly.
Do not use L-Glutamine long-term unless you are also bodybuilding or doing another intense exercise which will burn the Glutamine because there is some controversy whether L-Glutamine is beneficial or harmful for long-term use.
Omega 3 Fish Oils
Fish oil is high in Omega 3 essential fatty acids. Omega 3’s are an essential nutrient for nervous system health. Taking Omega 3’s can help to stabilize mood swings which are commonly experienced when quitting smoking.
Continued in Part Three: The Best Herbs to Help You Quit Smoking
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