6 Natural Ways to Quit Smoking


Tobacco smoke is packed with over 7000 toxic substances and well-known poisons including cyanide, nicotine, arsenic, and tar. Many of these (over 60!) are carcinogens, meaning they can cause cancer. You may not know that radioactive materials are also found in tobacco, including polonium-210 and lead-210. These nasty substances can gather in smokers’ lungs and linger for many years, ultimately causing lung cancer [2].

Regularly inhaling tobacco smoke from cigarettes can lead to cancer of the mouth, larynx (voice box), pharynx (throat), oesophagus, stomach, pancreas, bladder, kidney, cervix, and colon/rectum. What’s more, it can lead to myeloid leukaemia [2]. It should come as no surprise that smoking can cause early death, stroke, pulmonary and respiratory diseases (for example, chronic bronchitis), and coronary heart disease. Even more confronting, smoking can cause dangerous health complications to unborn children.

Despite these serious, scary, and undeniable reasons to stop smoking, it remains a very difficult task. Ask almost any smoker if they intend to quit, and most of them will say that they do wish to quit due to the risk of illness and the impact on their quality of life.

However, regardless of their best intentions, smokers can find it extremely difficult to escape the hands of cigarette addiction, causing them to cease, relapse, and repeat.

Quitting smoking comes with some very unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, both physical and emotional.

Consider more serious drugs such as cocaine and the way they adjust brain chemistry and encourage addiction at a level near-impossible to break. People who are reliant on serious drugs need physiological, medical, and psychological help to truly kick the habit. Cigarettes are not much different! It’s very hard to go cold turkey and kick a smoking habit all alone. Many people require nicotine patches and gum, which are chemical-based remedies.

However, there are scientifically proven natural remedies that can successfully curb cravings, reduce withdrawal symptoms, and ultimately allow smokers to quit for good.

Here are the best natural ways to stop smoking and some readily available natural products to help in that regard:

Acupuncture

Acupuncture is one of the best natural ways to quit smoking. This drug-free therapy can effectively reduce withdrawal symptoms when the nicotine intake decreases or ceases. It’s a great way to prevent intense cravings during the quitting process. It is believed that smoking triggers (such as seeing others smoking or touching cigarettes) can cause intense cravings and the urge to smoke. They can also trigger the parts of the brain associated with attention, motivation, and reward, therefore encouraging nicotine-seeking behaviour.

A study was published in 2013 in Psychopharmacology (Berl) [3], and it suggested that the levels of craving were reduced after acupuncture was administered. The study concluded that “Acupuncture alleviates cue-induced cravings through the regulation of activity in brain regions involved in attention, motivation, and reward relative to craving scores in the initial abstinence phase.”

• Hypnotherapy

Hypnotherapy is thought to be an avenue of natural help for quitting smoking. Hypnosis can help smokers to deal with withdrawals and ultimately to be a non-smoker for good. Hypnosis works by using visualizations and breathing exercises to nudge the patient into a trance-like state. This is essentially a state of heightened relaxation, with extra-sharp focus and awareness.

Hypnosis is thought to be effective because it builds upon the smoker’s drive and motivation to stop smoking, and encourages a healthy mind ready to make healthy, smart choices. It is understood that hypnosis works most effectively for people who are truly ready and motivated to leave cigarettes behind and forge ahead with healthier choices. In other words, the smoker has to be ready, and not reluctant to make the change. The influence of educational, behavioural, and cognitive interferences in such natural treatments as hypnosis should be taken into account.

Researchers at the San Francisco VA Medical Center found that the combination of hypnosis and nicotine patches (NP) is as effective as behavioural counselling for smoking cessation. The study also showed that this technique of intervention (NP with hypnosis) was far more effective in smokers with a history of depression than regular behavioural counselling. The study concluded that “hypnosis combined with nicotine patches compares favourably with standard behavioural counselling in generating long-term quit rates.” [4].

Despite all of this, hypnosis is not widely regarded as a well-established contender in the list of natural remedies to quit smoking. However, results from a meta-analysis that reviewed 59 studies of hypnosis found that “it seems justified to classify hypnosis as a “possibly efficacious” treatment for smoking cessation.” [5]

• Mindful Meditation

Mindful meditation is based around ancient Buddhist traditions and is understood to ease stress and promote a relaxed state of mind. Mindful meditation aims to adjust one’s perception of a stressful situation from threat to acceptance. This process reduces anxiety and stress and paves the way for positivity emotions and productive action.

People who suffer from psychiatric disorders such as depression, chronic stress, anxiety, and addiction can benefit from mindfulness training, as results now show. In 2011, the Yale University of Medicine Department of Psychiatry conducted a study to assess the effectiveness of mindful meditation on smoking cessation. They concluded that “this initial trial of mindfulness training may confer benefits greater than those associated with current standard treatments for smoking cessation.” [6]

A similar study showed that mindful meditation is a natural aid for quitting smoking as it helps to reduce nicotine cravings. The study concluded that mindfulness training “may be effective as a treatment for smoking cessation and that informal mindfulness practice predicts a decoupling of the association between craving and smoking.” [7]


Smoking cessation: natural products


Fresh Lime

In 2012, the Journal of the Medical Association of Thailand published a study that demonstrated how fresh lime can be used as a natural smoking cessation aid [8]. Fresh lime is an accessible, cheap, and non-toxic alternative to other smoking cessation products such as nicotine patches and gum, (these have their own set of side-effects and warnings). Lime has a raft of other health benefits that can improve the overall health of smokers and their challenged immune systems. For example, lime has antimicrobial properties that can fight against drug-resistant E.coli.

Exercise

Exercise is an excellent natural way to help you quit smoking. When you quit smoking, there are chunks of time that are suddenly free, when you would previously be occupied with your cigarette. Fill that time with something beneficial to your mind and body, such as exercise!

Regular exercise has been proven time and again to offer health benefits such as weight loss, reduced risk of heart disease, and reduced risk of type 2 diabetes. What’s more, exercise can curb nicotine cravings and offers a natural smoking detox by flushing toxins from the body. Exercise is known for its ability to release chemicals in the brain (endorphins) that improve your mood, reduce stress, and boost energy levels.

Addiction published a study that demonstrated the link between exercise and reduction in cigarette cravings [9]. A reason for this could be that exercise provides a distraction from thinking about cigarettes and smoking. Try this natural way to quit smoking next time you feel the urge to light up, and get out for a walk, run, swim, cycle, or gym class

• Nutrition, Herbal remedies, and Supplements

Not only does smoking increase the risk of serious disease, but it also steals crucial nutrients from the body, and reduces the body’s ability to absorb key vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

Antioxidants are vital as they combat free radicals that threaten to destroy cells, they protect the brain, and they help the body to respond to stress.

The first step toward maintaining a healthy store of nutrients and antioxidants is to eat a diet full of fresh fruits and vegetables. To supplement your diet, vitamins and herbal remedies are great for helping the body to cope with the stress of quitting smoking. In fact, these nutrients are mandatory for the body to reduce the damage caused by cigarette smoke and the poisonous chemicals it contains.


Stop smoking: natural supplements


  • Vitamin C: it is well-known that smoking reduces the body’s level of Vitamin C, and ironically, Vitamin C is used far more quickly in smokers. To put it into perspective, one cigarette can deplete the body’s Vitamin C stores by 25 mg. A study proved that only six puffs of cigarette smoke can ransack the body’s entire Vitamin C stores [10].
  • Smoking puts the body under extreme oxidative stress, which means that the body uses far more Vitamin C (than in non-smokers) to combat this level of free radical damage.
Vitamin C is an excellent protector against oxidative damage induced by smoking. It also helps to relax blood vessels in smokers who are more likely to suffer from impaired endothelial functions. This means that smokers are at an increased risk of blocked arteries (atherosclerosis), hypertension, and cardiovascular damage.

Vitamin C is an excellent supporter of endothelial efficiency and vasodilation via different mechanisms. For example, Vitamin C seeks out superoxide radicals, protects intracellular glutathione, and boosts the availability of NO [11] [12]. Pregnant smokers can reduce the poisonous effects of smoking on their unborn child by taking Vitamin C supplements [13].

Another powerful antioxidant is Vitamin E, which the body recycles with the help of Vitamin C, and as demonstrated, smokers require as much antioxidant activity they can get. What’s more, Vitamin C supplementation can reduce nicotine cravings, and detoxifying effects help the body to clean out cadmium, lead, and nicotine from the kidneys and liver.

Vitamin C supports the adrenal gland functions, therefore, it helps the body to handle the extra stress the body undergoes during the smoking cessation process. You’ll be interested to know that our adrenal glands contain 100 times more Vitamin C than the amount found in blood plasma.

  • Vitamin B: B Vitamins are important for a healthy nervous system. Unfortunately, smoking depletes the body of Vitamin B12, B5, and folate. Public Health Nutrition published a study that suggested smokers have low serum folic acid concentrations (compared to non-smokers). This can result in vascular and cardiovascular disease. What’s more, the study showed that higher white blood cell counts could indicate a change in the immune function of smokers [14]. On the flip side to these positives, note that Vitamin C destroys Vitamin B12 in the digestive tract which means Vitamin C supplements should be taken separately so as not to jeopardize your Vitamin B12 levels.
  • Vitamin D: Studies indicate that smoking can decrease levels of Vitamin D [15], and is heavily associated with low serum Vitamin D levels [16]. This is a significant finding as Vitamin D deficiency can lead to an increased risk of ailments such as osteoporosis, cancer, low immunity, heart disease, and upper respiratory tract infections.
  • In 2013, Clinical Chemistry online published research suggesting that decreased Vitamin D levels could increase the risk of tobacco-related cancer in smokers [7]. This study also demonstrated that Vitamin D supplements are highly beneficial for smokers and their overall health.
  • Herbal Remedies such as St. John’s Wort, Ginseng, Milk thistle, and Rhodiola Rosea are thought to reduce nicotine withdrawal symptoms and combat addiction. What’s more, such herbs help the body to respond safely to stress, boost the mood, increase stamina, and improve energy levels. If you’re on the hunt for natural things to help quit smoking, Milk thistle is an especially great herbal supplement as it helps the liver to cleanse toxins from the body
To avoid any nasty side effects or negative interactions with medications, check with your doctor before taking herbal remedies and supplements.

There’s no getting around the fact that a healthy and nutritious diet and collection of natural supplements can combat the damages caused by smoking. A balanced diet and help from natural remedies can definitely help to reduce the health risks of smoking, but they cannot reverse or totally prevent them. The only surefire way to protect the body from the devastating effects of smoking is to cease smoking outright. As tough as the adjustment may be, you deserve a disease-free, healthy, energetic, and long life.

References:
  1. Cigarette Smoking and Radiation. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  2. Health Risks of Smoking Tobacco. American Cancer Society.
  3. Kang et al. Neural substrates of acupuncture in the modulation of cravings induced by smoking-related visual cues: an fMRI study. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2013
  4. Carmody et al. Hypnosis for smoking cessation: a randomized trial. Nicotine and Tobacco Research. 2008
  5. Joseph P. Green & Steven Jay Lynn. Hypnosis and suggestion-based approaches to smoking cessation: An examination of the evidence. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis. 2000
  6. Brewer et al. Mindfulness training for smoking cessation: results from a randomized controlled trial. Drug and Alcohol Dependence. 2011
  7. Mindfulness training for smoking cessation: moderation of the relationship between craving and cigarette use. Drug and Alcohol Dependence. 2013
  8. Rungruanghiranya S, Ekpanyaskul C, Sakulisariyaporn C, Watcharanat P, Akkalakulawas K. Efficacy of fresh lime for smoking cessation. Journal of The Medical Association of Thailand. 2012
  9. Haasova M et al. The acute effects of physical activity on cigarette cravings: systematic review and meta-analysis with individual participant data. Addiction. 2013
  10. Eiserich JP, tan der Vliet A, Handelman GJ, Halliwell B, Cross CE: Dietary antioxidants and cigarette smoke induced biomolecular damage: a complex interaction. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 1995, 62(6):1490S-1500S.
  11. LV d Uscio et. Al. Long-Term Vitamin C Treatment Increases Vascular Tetrahydrobiopterin Levels and Nitric Oxide Synthase Activity. Circulation Research. 2003
  12. Motoyama et al. Endothelium-dependent vasodilation in the brachial artery is impaired in smokers: effect of vitamin C. American Journal of Physiology - Heart and Circulatory Physiology Published 1 October 1997
  13. Cindy et al. Vitamin C Supplementation for Pregnant Smoking Women and Pulmonary Function in Their Newborn Infants. JAMA The Journal of the American Medical Association. 2014;311(20):2074-2082. doi:10.1001/jama.2014.5217.
  14. Tungtrongchitr R et al. Relationship of tobacco smoking with serum vitamin B12, folic acid and haematological indices in healthy adults. Public Health Nutrition. 2003
  15. Jeff Nicklas. Does cigarette smoke exposure affect vitamin D status?. Vitamin D Council. 2014
  16. Kassi EN et al. Smoking is a significant determinant of low serum vitamin D in young and middle-aged healthy males. Hormones (Athens). 2014
  17. Shoaib Afzal, Stig E. Bojesen, Børge G. Nordestgaard. Low Plasma 25-Hydroxyvitamin D and Risk of Tobacco-Related Cancer. Clinical Chemistry. 2013.