“Nobody ever died from giving up smoking”
Nutritional Approaches to Nicotine Detoxification
Whenever I am driving or walking on the sidewalk around town, I am astonished at the sheer amount of smokers there are. Although the amount of smokers has certainly decreased over the years, why are there still so many people still smoking? With the amount of data and aggressive campaigns against smoking it seems that it would not be so popular with the younger generation yet over 380 billion cigarettes are sold annually in the US. I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s. A time when almost everyone smoked. It was just the thing to do.
Unlike certain drugs, the effects of cigarette smoking take place over a long period of time. The body has an amazing ability to detoxify and compensate for decades of smoking before manifesting noticeable and debilitating problems. But over time the body can only take so much repeated insult and the natural detoxification systems become overwhelmed and breakdown like worn out machinery. (Bauman 2015):
Although there are well-recognized emotional ties related to smoking addiction, for some there may also be an underlying metabolic imbalance that is worth considering. The foundation of this research and subsequent development of a nutritional support program for smokers is based on blood sugar regulation. Also being addressed is the fact that toxicity and nutrient depletion are directly caused by smoking.
Since smokers have a depleted store of raw materials in their systems, dietary and nutrient augmentation can be of significance to aid in quitting permanently.
Client education and targeted nutrition will be used to overcome the emotional and physical dependence on smoking. By providing education about important food and nutrient sources, will allow individuals to become active participants in their wellness plans and to make dietary and nutrient choices supportive to their quitting and their well-being.
Common Signs and Symptoms
What most fail to recognize is that there are significant events related to smoking that lead up to collapse of organ function. Smoking causes a tremendous toxic load and nutritional deficiency. Functional compromise starts to show up as seemingly minor irritations such as chronic cough, hoarseness and wrinkled skin and many others listed.
- Allergies and food sensitivities
- Accelerated aging
- Angina pectoris
- Decreased sense of taste
- Higher insurance rates
- Low sexuality
- Lowered immunity
- Memory loss
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Stained teeth and fingers
- wasted money
Lesser-realized effects and symptoms:
“Stress” mode always on by artificial stimulation of the adrenals
Depressed insulin activity
Increased toxic load on the liver and kidneys
Chronically activated immune system
Earlier menopause in women
Increased incidence of musculoskeletal disorders such as osteoporosis
Smoking usually starts as a social activity and progresses to a habit and then on to physical and or emotional dependency.
Nicotine addiction is the main factor in smoking addiction. Smokers find that immediate relief can be had during periods of stress or emotional distress or boredom. Smoking has the dual ability to both promote relaxation and to provide stimulation and focus. Once people begin experimenting or trying smoking, nicotine’s powerful ability to activate neurotransmitter receptors and to provide neurotransmitter like actions in the brain gains a foothold. Nicotine can temporarily offset the negative effects of neurotransmitter (NT) deficiencies by increasing NT receptor activity and by providing stimulating chemical activity; resulting in a good feeling as long as the drug is in the system.
According to Edward Bauman’s article “Nutrition and Substance Abuse”, Genetic susceptibility should also be considered as a cause.
Other causes include alcohol, caffeine consumption, declining blood sugar.
Many smokers substitute smoking cigarettes for meals. This actually falsely raises blood sugar without having food to digest but calms and reduces hunger.
More on the blood sugar connection
Many smokers eat less than non-smokers. When the body’s blood sugar levels decline, the hunger signal is prompted. Normally one would eat food but in the case of smokers they can just light up and transiently increase blood sugar without taking in calories. The result is that glucose levels rise and hunger subsides and the cigarette has provided zero nutrients. This “wear and tear” on the system can create insulin issues over time.
Nutrients are continually being used up by the stress inducers and hunger compensations without providing nutrients. It becomes a vicious circle of smoking and using up raw materials without replacing them.
What to do – The Smoking compensation Nutritional Protocol
This protocol is not necessarily a mechanism to quit smoking as it is to conduct damage control of the body. It is designed to replenish the raw materials needed by the body to conduct normal function and to restore and maintain blood sugar balance.
The recommended protocol is threefold:
Restore and replenish nutrient reserves- For a 4 to 8 week interval attention should be given to supplying an antioxidant diet that includes ample amounts of vitamins and minerals.
Reduce-further oxidative damage caused by smoking. Several nutrition based detox programs suggest waiting 1-3 months before total withdrawal from tobacco. This time period should be for physiological building and preparing for total withdrawal.
Restore and maintain blood sugar balance. Once the nutritional foundation is established and the emotional support system is in place the same dietary recommendations are to be continued while emphasizing blood sugar balance and carbohydrate utilization.
Before actually quitting, one should begin a detox process by eliminating caffeine, sugar, drugs and alcohol then begin a recovery diet and exercise programs.
1. Restoration of nutrient reserves involves two teams of nutrients: Antioxidant team and amino acids team.
Antioxidants can decrease toxicity of smoking effects by latching onto the free radicals that are so prominent in the smokers body. Antioxidants should be used in conjunction with each other to obtain maximum effectiveness.
Vitamin C– 400-2000 mg three times a day. Up to a maximum of only 400 mg per day for those at risk for cancer (Higdon, 2006). Vitamin C levels are especially affected by smoking and blood levels of vitamin C are typically lower in smokers than non smokers (Sherman, 2010). Since it is not synthesized in the body it must come from supplementation. Vitamin C is a very important antioxidant, is necessary for overall cell health, and is the first line of antioxidant protection in the body (Murray, 1996). It is particularly potent in the presence of bioflavonoids, which have been shown to protect vitamin C and preserve its action. They also work together to help protect against inflammation by reducing allergic reactions, which is important for improving overall digestion(Bauman, 2015).
Zinc (30-75 mg daily) is depleted from smoking and this deficiency also causes a deficiency in Vitamin A. Is essential to good health and has an extensive list of benefits because it is involved in so many enzyme and body functions. For example, Zinc is important for it’s support in immune function, inflammatory conditions and healing mechanisms of the gut, to name a few. Zinc protects tissues and mucous membranes, reduces cadmium absorption and supports immune function. (Bauman, 2015).
The best-known source of zinc is oysters, but it is present in relatively high amounts in other shellfish, fish and red meats. It’s also found, though in lesser amounts, in plant foods such as whole grains like oats and whole wheat, legumes, and nuts and seeds like pumpkin seeds, pecans, brazil nuts. However, the zinc is less bioavailable in plant foods due to the phytic acid compounds that make the zinc less absorbable. Good sources of zinc in my meal plan are brazil nuts, beef, shrimp, pumpkin seeds, pecans, seaweed. Although the recommended general health dosage of zinc is 15-20 mg, therapeutic dosages can range from 30-60 mg for men and 30-45 mg daily for women (Murray, 1996). Day one of my meal plan contains over 60 mg of zinc which is a high therapeutic dosage for men. I believe that since smokers are so nutrient depleted and we are trying to develop a solid nutritional foundation we can go a little high on the micronutrients.
Vitamin A-(5,000-7,500 mg daily) Higher doses may not be advisable for those at high risk for lung cancer. Chronic high doses can interfere with vitamin D absorption further increasing risk for osteoporosis which is already a problem for smokers.
Beta Carotene-(20,000-40,000 mg daily from whole foods and whole food supplements only) This is significantly lower in smokers so should be a priority to boost levels. Supplement with whole-foods based mixed carotenoids.
Vitamin D3- (2000 IU to start) Levels should be tested to determine if more is needed.
D3 can only be obtained from animal sources. Sources include: adequate sunlight(10,000 IU’s in 20 minutes), egg yolks, grass fed beef liver, fatty fish, fish oil, cheese and raw milk.
Omega-3– Eat adequate amounts of omega-3 fatty acids to balance out the naturally high amounts of omega 6 in the standard American diet. Fish oil (Stronger Faster Healthier brand)
Vitamin B complex- B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B9, B12
- B1: 100-200 mg
- B2: 50-100 mg
- B3: 10-250 mg
- B5: 50-500 mg
- B6: 50-200 mg
- B9:5-methyltetrahydrofolate (5-MTHF) or as L-methylfolate, Folinic acid-400Mcg)
- B12: 200-1,000 mcg
B vitamins, being water soluble are depleted easily and even more so in smokers. B1,B6 and B12 are the first to be depleted. The entire B complex is necessary when supplementing because they work synergistically.
B vitamins are one of the major vitamins found in foods that help the body deal with stress.
B1and B5 help protect against smoke-produced carcinogens and assist cysteine’s actions, B3 (niacin or nicotinic acid) does the opposite of nicotine in that it dilates blood vessels instead of constricting them, B6 protects nervous and immune system, B5 for skin protection and adrenal health, B12 protects against cellular damage by tars and nicotine,
B9 (folate) 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.
Foods rich in B vitamins include all animal meats and organs, nutritional yeast, egg yolks, broccoli, green leafy plants(foliage), oats, seafood, legumes, mushrooms and sweet potato (Bauman, 2015).
Vitamin E-(400 – 800 I.U daily) is an important antioxidant, which is necessary for overall cell health. It’s also an immune stimulating vitamin that helps to ease fatigue and is an important supplement for stabilizing cell walls and protecting fatty acids.
Protects lungs against carbon monoxide, free radicals and decreases cadmium toxicity.
Preferably as mixed tocopherols or full-spectrum E. Foods abundant in vitamin E include leafy greens, nuts and seeds and their oils, organ meats, wheat germ, whole grains, seafoods and sea greens. (Bauman, 2015).
“to perform their vital roles, vitamin C and E work together. They have a synergistic effect that will not be gained just by intake of one or the other separately, and adequate levels of these nutrients are especially important for people who smoke.” (OSU, 2006)
Selenium- (200-400 mcg) Works better with vitamin E, supports tissue health and reduces cancer potential, decreases cadmium toxicity, stimulates the immune system and boosts production of glutathione.
Other synergistic nutrients include but are not limited to:
Magnesium: (500-1,000 mg)
Calcium: (850-1,250 mg)
Copper: (2-4 mg)
Chromium: (200-500 mcg)
The Amino Acids Team
Balancing the brain chemistry and providing psychological equilibrium is where proper amino acid supplementation comes into play.
Amino acids provide the psychological stimulus to compensate for nicotine.
Amino acids with ample amounts of vitamins and minerals provide the substrate to replenish the critical “feel good” hormones such as acetylcholine, dopamine and seratonin.
Acetylcholine:(Oral glycerophosphocholine-1,200 mg daily, divided doses between meals for one month followed by 600 mg daily for maintenance) This is the brain’s natural nicotine and can provide focus, creativity and clarity. Found in choline-rich foods such as egg yolks, meat, grass-fed butter, and peanut butter. Also available as a food source in the form of Phosphatidylcholine, aka lecithin.
Tyrosine:(1,000 mg twice daily or use 500 mg tyrosine and 500 mg L-phenylalanine on an empty stomach. If ineffective, increase dosing 500 mg at a time until withdrawal symptoms abate.) Tyrosine requires 40 mg of vitamin B-6 as a cofactor, preferably P-5-P which is the activated form. This is the precursor to the pleasure neurotransmitter dopamine which creates pleasant feelings and alertness. Best food sources come from animal protein. A 3 oz serving provides .3-1 g.
Tryptophan and 5-HTP: (50-300 mg of 5-HTP since there are contamination problems associated with tryptophan supplementation. Also requires vitamin B-6 as a cofactor.)
Some individuals do not respond to 5-HTP but will to tryptophan. Tryptophan acts as an anti-depressive, anti-anxiety neurotransmitter. In the body tryptophan is converted to 5-HTP and 5-HTP is then converted to Serotonin.
Cysteine: (N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC) 500-1,500 mg daily) Is the precursor to glutathione and helps detoxify cadmium and other chemical byproducts of smoking. Also aids in reducing smokers cough by breaking down mucous.
Glutamine: (3-10 grams daily) Can also be used sublingually by breaking open a 1/4 teaspoon capsule to curb cravings and for an emergency energy source. is an amino acid that is critical to cellular health, muscle growth and protein syntheses (Murray, 2005). Can also aid in inefficient insulin utilization and to calm nicotine and sugar cravings.
Lobelia: (Mix 5-30 drops tincture in 4 oz of water and take 1 tsp every 1-3 hours.)
This has a similar chemical structure and physiological effects as nicotine but without the addictive qualities. It stimulates the same receptor sites while lessoning the desire. Lobelia also supports the adrenal glands and nervous system, cleanses and restores the lungs and bronchi.
When used in small amounts, Lobelia can provide antispasmodic and sedative effects in respiratory ailments. May cause nausea and vomiting in sensitive individuals if taken in large and frequent doses.
Kava kava: (50-300 mg daily until withdrawal symptoms disappear.) Helps curb many symptoms of nicotine withdrawal such as anxiety, insomnia, irritability and restlessness.(MedlinePlus, 2010).
Kava kava has been associated with liver damage and should not be taken by those with hepatitis or other liver conditions or by those who drink regularly. Use for short term only (no more than 3 months).
Other herbs: Nervine herbs are available in combination products that may be very effective. Tinctures containing skullcap, oat seed, St John’s wort, celery seed and lavender flower can be useful. See handout on nervines.
The emphasis on meal plans for this condition to start with is in a building direction: 25-30% protein; 30-40% fat; 30-45% carbohydrate. Alternate with building and cleansing directions as deemed appropriate. Day one of my meal plan contains well over 100% RDA of B1,B3,B6,B12, C, selenium and zinc. I would supplement with an additional 500-1000 mg of vitamin C three times a day as the therapeutic dosage. The main sources for vitamin C are from spinach, red bell pepper, sweet potato, lime. Some of the herbs used in my menu plan help to regulate blood sugar, which is a critical factor in the success of this program. Vitamin A in the form of beta carotene (from grass fed meat) is abundant and well over RDA throughout the meal plan.
Lifestyle: What healthy program would be complete without exercise and stress reduction. Exercise, although a form of stress can be used in regulated doses just as a medicine. Benefits of exercise include but are not limited to, stress reduction, improved metabolism and energy. One should have a healthy balance of flexibility, mobility, strength and conditioning. Exercise can help to relieve stress and trigger endorphin release to help calm.
It should also be stressed of the importance of drinking adequate amounts of purified water to prevent dehydration of the skin and body.
Be aware of the effects on your mood and body while smoking and notice if you choose to smoke rather than eat a meal.
90 Day Detox Program is available from NutritionAsRx. Let me be your nutritional coach and guide to get you through the tough times. This program is based on the nutritional approaches just described in this post. Meal plans mentioned in this post are available when you sign up for the detox program. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can discuss the best approach toward your freedom from nicotine.
American Lung Association, (n.d.). Educational pamphlets: Free at last; Facts about cigarette smoking; Facts about second hand smoke; Smoking and pregnancy.
Bauman, E. (2015). Therapeutic Nutrition Textbook, NC203. Penngrove, CA: Bauman College.
Bauman, E. (n.d.). Nutrition and substance abuse. Article written for Tuttles Pharmacy, Santa Rosa, CA
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(2006). Vitamin C. Linus Pauling Institute. Retrieved from http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/vitamins/vitaminC/
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Murray, M. (1996). The encyclopedia of nutritional supplements. New, York, NY: Three Rivers Publishing.
Pizzorno, J., Murray, M., Joiner-Bey, H.(2008) Clinician’s Handbook of Natural Medicine. Churchill Livingstone.
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Oregon State University (OSU) (2006, Feb 25). Study With Smokers Shows Vitamins Combine For Benefits. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/02/060224104219.htm
Ross, J. (2002). The Mood Cure. New York, NY: Penguin Putnam. Tobacco, Pgs. 276-277.
Sherman, B. (2010). Smoking, nutrition and supplements. Retrieved from http://www.quit-today.info/quit-smoking-support-programs/smoking-and-supplements.php