Nicotine Addiction

Smoking cigarettes has been proved to be associated with cancer of the lungs, larynx, stomach, pancreas and bladder; heart attacks and strokes; lung disease; stomach ulcers; diabetes; vascular disease; gangrene of the extremities; wrinkling such as crows feet and prune mouth; gum disease; impotency; abnormal sperm; a greater chance of miscarriage and low birth weight babies. Non-smokers live an average eight years longer than smokers.

Why Me?

OK, we know smoking is not good for us, 15 000 Australians die each year due to the direct effects of cigarette smoking. Smoking is the single most important cause of preventable diseases and premature death.

So why do we smoke? Because cigarettes contain the most addictive substance on earth: nicotine. Several ex-heroin addicts have told me that giving up heroin was easier for them than giving up cigarettes.

What To Do

The only way to give up cigarettes, is to want to. Not a half-hearted sort of want, but a determined and focused intention to live without cigarettes.

The good news is that many of the ill-effects of smoking can be reversed by quitting. Obviously, the younger you quit the greater the benefits. However, the rewards of not smoking will be felt by all within a month of abstinence from cigarettes.

Within the first few weeks of giving up cigarettes, it is quite normal for the body to go through a cleansing routine. You can expect a cold or flu within the first three months, during which you will cough up some unsightly stuff as your lungs return to working order. Do not be dismayed, this elimination is a good thing! Sleepless nights, oversleeping and concentration lapses may also be part of the deal. The first one or two weeks after quitting can be arduous, so give yourself all the support you need. Rest as much as possible and don’t put too much on your plate… literally and figuratively.

Diet

  • Avoid sugar, although you might crave it. Nicotine activates a tiny surge of the hormone adrenalin, which not only fires us up but raises blood sugar. This is why many ex-smokers start bingeing on sweet things. The plan is to keep your blood sugar constant. See the diet for Hypoglycaemia.
  • Avoid caffeine as it also raises blood sugar. Give up coffee and other caffeine drinks a month before you plan to give up cigarettes. The reason for this is two-fold: you will get a psychological boost from knowing you can give up an addictive substance (caffeine) and you won’t have to cope with the fluctuating blood sugar levels that make you reach for a ciggie.
  • Munch on sunflower seeds as these are high in the amino acid tyrosine, which helps reduce nicotine craving.

Herbs and Supplements

  • See Calm.
  • Herbal tisanes containing Siberian ginseng and withania may assist your adrenal glands cope with the stress of giving up the ciggies.
  • Take a strong vitamin B complex every morning, together with one B3 (nicotinic acid) tablet three times a day. Nicotinic acid mimics nicotine in nicotine receptor sites in the brain.
  • Take 500 mg vitamin C morning and night. Vitamin C replenishes the adrenal glands and assists the body in detoxification.
  • Take betacarotene, 20 mg daily, or one glass of fresh carrot juice each day for the health of the lung tissue.
  • Homoeopathic stop-smoking remedies can be helpful. Take a few drops under the tongue whenever you feel the urge to light up. Most of these remedies contain a mixture of homoeopathic dilutions, including coffee and nicotine.
  • A herbal remedy long recommended for addictions, including smoking, is tincture of oats, 15 drops in water, three times daily.
  • The amino acids phenylalanine and tyrosine (phenylalanine converts to tyrosine in the body) help reduce the craving for nicotine. Take 500 mg-1 g of either one to three times daily, between meals.
  • If you are suffering terribly from nicotine withdrawal, drink a glass of water containing half a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda one hour before each meal. This reduces the rate of nicotine excretion from the body, and decreases the symptoms of withdrawal. Taking bicarbonate of soda should only be a short-term remedy… only a day or two at the most, or you run the risk of altering blood pH (acid balance).

Other Steps

  • Like any addiction, smoking suppresses emotions. It is not unusual for uncomfortable feelings to increase when you stop smoking. Although difficult, try to stay with your emotions, rather than suppress them with something else. Counselling or a stop-smoking support group may be useful here. Also, take care to avoid taking up a substitute harmful addiction such as alcohol, drugs, overeating or excessive exercise.
  • One of the most effective ways of weaning someone off a harmful addiction is by substituting a less harmful one. It takes 30 days to make or break a habit.
  • Some exercise will help, particularly exercise that uses the lungs, such as swimming or jogging. If you give in to the temptation, and have a cigarette, you will find you cannot swim or jog as far without being breathless. Use this as an incentive to go back on the wagon.
  • Contrary to popular opinion, you don’t have to put on weight when you stop smoking. If you increase your exercise level and resist over-eating you are more likely to lose it.
  • Hypnotherapy has proved useful to many people.
  • Acupuncture is widely recommended.
  • The smoker pays a lot for the habit. Put the money you would normally spend on cigarettes into a piggy bank. If you are a one-pack-a-day-er, this will give you about $2500 of ‘ash cash’ in your piggy bank by the end of one year. Or give yourself regular rewards for instance a bunch of flowers, a CD or a weekend away.

At a glance

Good food
Hypoglycaemia diet, sunflower seeds.
Food to avoid
Sugar, caffeine.
Remedies to begin
Acupuncture, vitamin C, betacarotene, vitamin B complex, phenylalanine or tyrosine.
Lifestyle
Exercise, stop-smoking group or counselling, ‘ash cash’ reward system.
MindBody
Be mindful that smoking can suppress emotions. Give yourself permission to feel these emotions.
Recommended: Calm