5 Natural Tips to Help You Quit Smoking for Good

August 27, 2019

"These are all essential ways to help you fight through cravings and successfully quit smoking once and for all!"

Today’s live show with Dr. Nancy Lin, PhD is the next one in her series on breaking addictions. Today Dr. Nancy tackles the leading preventable cause of death in the world — smoking.

Dr. Nancy will discuss why quitting tobacco can be very difficult, then talk about the best ways to quit for good. We’ll look at traditional methods of quitting, and then she’ll show us some very important natural, yet effective, tips to break a tobacco addiction. Plus she’ll share the surprising new research on e-cigarettes, and much more.

Video Highlights

  • 05:11: The Smoking Problem
  • 13:50: Tobacco Trivia
  • 17:09: A Recap on Addiction
  • 18:25: What Makes Quitting Smoking So Difficult?
  • 21:22: Smoking Triggers
  • 22:12: The Payoff of Quitting
  • 26:34: Common Quitting Aids
  • 30:42: Top 5 All-natural Tips To Help You Quit Smoking
  • 40:04: Wrap-Up

At this point, we all know that smoking is terrible for our health, so we’ll spare you the lecture. We also know that despite all the information on the dangers of smoking, which has been out there for decades now, it is still the leading cause of preventable illness and death worldwide. 

Of course, we didn’t always know that smoking was so harmful. In fact, in the 1930s, doctors were hired to advertise cigarettes, saying things like “Give your throat a vacation. Smoke a fresh cigarette.” Doctors even prescribed “healthy” cigarette brands, with slogans like “More doctors smoke Camels than any other cigarette.” Fortunately, since then, a host of information has been discovered about how dangerous smoking really is, but even so, it’s a pervasive problem worldwide.

People are more likely to smoke if they have one of these 8 occupations: farmer, fisher and logger, maintenance worker, building cleaner, healthcare assistant, mechanic, production worker, transportation worker, welder, food prep or server, and construction worker. On the other hand, the following occupations have the lowest smoking rates: finance and business, architects or engineers, the legal field, scientists, educators, librarians, and healthcare workers.

Smoking is also more prevalent in the following 17 countries: China, Czech Republic, Belgium, Albania, Macedonia, Lebanon, Indonesia, Jordan, Serbia, Bulgaria, Greece, Russia, Moldova, Ukraine, Slovenia, Bosnia, and Belarus (at nearly 3,000 cigarettes per person per year!)

People know that it can increase your risk of heart and lung disease, certain types of cancer and even diabetes and other conditions. And we all know that quitting is essential for our health — we hear it all the time. Knowing all this, doesn’t it surprise you to still see so many people still smoking?  

It shouldn’t, because smoking cigarettes — or tobacco of any kind, for that matter — is highly addictive. Many people who are addicted to smoking would like to quit too, but they just can’t; or, a better way to say it is they just haven’t found the right way to break their addiction.

So, if you don’t smoke already, good! Keep it that way. But, you probably know someone who does smoke. If so, this episode is for you. We’re going to give you some tips and tools to help you support your friends and loved ones in their efforts to break their tobacco addiction. 

If you are a smoker, quitting is tough, but it is definitely something that you can do! We are going to cover some of the most effective and all-natural, tips and tricks to help you quit for good! So hang in there, you can do this.

Tobacco Trivia

  • We just told you that quitting smoking is the number one preventable cause of death worldwide.  In fact, over 7 million people die from smoking-related diseases each year. According to the World Health Organization, of those 7 million, over 1 million deaths are directly related to second-hand smoke! The numbers are just as surprising here in the United States, where nearly 480,000 deaths, or one in every 5, are a direct result of smoking each year.
  • We also told you that quitting smoking is the number one way to live longer. On average, non-smokers live 10 years longer than smokers.
  • We talked about how difficult quitting smoking is. Nearly 70% of smokers want to quit, but have a hard time doing so. New research suggests smokers make an average of 30 attempts before they successfully quit smoking! That’s a lot, right? But don’t let that number discourage you. It actually shows how addictive tobacco is and how challenging it can be to quit. Let’s use that number to motivate us to quit as soon as possible — and for good!

A Recap on Addiction

In part one of this series on addiction, we talked about what addiction is. Addiction is not just a craving, and needs to be addressed as the powerful thing that it is… so let’s review: 

Addiction is a complex condition; it’s actually thought of as a brain disease that is characterized by excessive and compulsive use of something, even if there are harmful consequences from its use. We’d say smoking checks that box, would you agree?

It’s important to note that the tips and recommendations that we’re going to share over the course of this addiction series are those which Dr. Nancy has found helpful while working with her clients, so while we want you to pay attention to them and apply them to your own life, we also want you to recognize that you could have an addiction issue that requires the help and support of a medical professional. If you do, don’t wait — do it now! Get the help and support you need and deserve. 

 

What Makes Quitting Smoking So Difficult?  

Well, any addiction is hard to quit, of course — that’s what makes it an addiction. But smoking, perhaps more than any other addiction we’ll cover, requires changing in three specific areas; it requires changing physically, behaviorally, and cognitively.

Really, in order to successfully quit smoking, you will need to actually retrain your brain to get past the physical withdrawal symptoms, which can be devastating. The actual withdrawal symptoms of tobacco, and specifically nicotine, usually peak after 1–3 days and then decrease over a period of 3–4 weeks. These symptoms can include:

Physical symptoms:

  • Headaches
  • Sweating
  • Restlessness
  • Tremors
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Waking at night
  • Increased appetite
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Digestive issues, including constipation

Physiological symptoms:

  • An extremely strong desire or craving for nicotine
  • Irritability or frustration
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Anxiety
  • Mood swings

It’s important to point out that most people give up on their attempt to quit, or give in to their cravings when these withdrawal symptoms are at their peak — after 1 to 2 days without nicotine.

Smoking Triggers

In addition to the physical and psychological withdrawal, quitting smoking requires you to also rewire your behavior pattern. Smoking forms deep-rooted routines that many people really struggle to break out of… in fact, for many, these daily routines serve as triggers that create strong urges to smoke. 

These routines or triggers include:

  • Smoking after eating dinner
  • Driving in their car
  • Being at a party
  • Drinking morning coffee
  • Dealing with a stressful situation
  • Talking on the phone

The Payoff of Quitting

And while these all make it really difficult to quit smoking, your body actually wants you to quit — even though you will go through temporary, but extreme withdrawal, your body is really craving a life without the constant exposure to the 7,000 chemicals and over 70 known carcinogens found in cigarettes. How do we know? Consider how fast after giving up smoking your body starts to rid itself of harmful chemicals and how much it heals itself in just a short period of time without exposure to cigarettes. Consider that the positive health effects of quitting smoking begin just 20 minutes after your last cigarette.

  • 20 minutes: your blood pressure and pulse rate starting to return to more normal levels.
  • 8 hours: Your carbon monoxide levels will return to a more normal level.
  • 24 hours: There’s already a decreased risk of heart attack and nicotine levels in your bloodstream will have decreased to nearly negligible amounts.
  • 48 hours: previously damaged nerve endings start to regrow. You may also start to notice that senses that were previously dulled due to smoking improve; this includes smelling and tasting things better than you were before.
  • 3 days: after quitting smoking, you’ll often find yourself breathing more easily.
  • 2 weeks: Your lung function increases as much as 30%, making breathing and circulation better — which also improves energy levels.
  • 9 Months: For many, their lungs have already repaired themselves at this point.
  • 1 Year: Your risk of heart disease decreases by 50%.
  • 5 Years: Arteries and blood vessels begin to widen, lowering your risk of stroke.
  • 10 Years: Chances of developing lung cancer and dying from it are reduced by 50%. 
  • 15 Years: Your chances of developing heart disease is equal to that of a non-smoker.
  • 20 Years: Your risk of death from lung disease and cancer drops to the level of a person that has never smoked.

Before we talk about how to break this habit, we just have to point out one other huge benefit of quitting smoking — you are going to save a ton of money — literally thousands of dollars per year! Let’s do some quick math. The average cost of smoking right now is $7 per pack... but a pack of cigarettes in New York City costs nearly $13! So let’s say you are a pack a day smoker: that’s $35 a week, $140 a month, $1,680 a year. You save at least $16,800 over 10 years! Imagine what you could do with that extra money in your pocket!

Common Quitting Aids

Okay, let’s talk about quitting. There are a number of over-the-counter and prescription nicotine replacement therapies available to help break your craving for nicotine. The most common are nicotine gum, nicotine patches, lozenges, or prescription medications that help quell your urge to smoke. They also make filters you can put on your cigarette, which removes 70% of the tar. You’ve probably seen the commercials for those products on television. Those are all options for you to consider and should talk to your doctor about the benefits and drawbacks of each.

You’ve probably also heard a lot about e-cigarettes or vaping as an effective way to quit smoking, but we would definitely pump the brakes on jumping over to these devices as a way to quit smoking! Despite being on the market for a while and despite their aggressive advertising as the “safe alternative” to smoking, more quality studies are needed to determine the effectiveness of electronic cigarettes for smoking cessation and the long-term safety of these devices. 

Here’s what’s reported about them in the Harvard Medical Newsletter: besides nicotine, e-cigarettes can contain harmful and potentially harmful ingredients, including:

  • Ultrafine particles that can be inhaled deep into the lungs.
  • Flavorants such as diacetyl, a chemical linked to serious lung disease.
  • Volatile organic compounds that can cause health issues
  • Heavy metals, such as nickel, tin, and lead.

And let’s talk about nicotine for a moment. Nicotine in e-cigarettes may also have several negative health effects, including: 

  • Chronic nicotine exposure may lead to insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.
  • Inhaled nicotine increases heart rate and blood pressure
  • Nicotine is highly addictive in its own right, and it may lead to changes in the brain that increase the risk of addiction to other drugs, especially in young people.
  • Nicotine may also impair brain development, leading to attention deficit disorder and poor impulse control. 

All of these potential harms of nicotine are particularly worrisome in view of soaring rates of e-cigarette use in U.S. teenagers, which is really scary as e-cigarette companies continue to market to young people, their fastest growing market. So when it comes to e-cigarettes, we say skip them all together!

Top 5 All-natural Tips To Help You Quit Smoking

Avoid Your Triggers

Urges for tobacco are likely to be strongest in the situations where you smoked most often — remember, we talked about the deep-rooted habits and routines that smoking creates, like smoking while feeling stressed, drinking morning coffee, or after you eat. As you prepare to quit smoking, it’s important to identify your trigger situations and have a plan in place to avoid them entirely or get through them without using tobacco.  

Here are a few examples: if smoking after a meal is a trigger for you, one of the most effective ways to fight the craving is to brush your teeth. After a few days of not smoking, your senses of taste and smell will start to improve, and brushing your teeth is a sensory experience that can help to remove the craving for a cigarette. 

If your trigger is smoking while drinking your coffee, maybe make a standing date with a supportive friend to meet for coffee at a local coffee shop — you can’t smoke in the coffee shop and you have a supportive friend to lean during the tough times.

The point is to identify your triggers and have a plan to get through it. The worst-case scenario is to be unaware and caught off guard where you might give in — so plan ahead!

Buy Yourself Some Time

Cravings can seem unbearable, but if you can hold out for 20 minutes, most of the strongest urges will pass. So, when you feel like you need to smoke, talk yourself into giving it 20 minutes. Distract yourself, go for a brisk walk, call a friend, do some exercise, chew some gum, and do whatever you can to distract yourself as the craving comes and goes.

Keep Your Mouth Busy

One of the common side effects people often see when quitting smoking is weight-gain. Believe it or not, it’s also one of the most common reasons some don’t want to quit; they don’t want to gain weight. The reality is, gaining a few pounds — which can be lost — is a much better situation than smoking and dying 10 years earlier than you should.  

We do understand why many people gain weight when quitting smoking — they use food as a substitute for smoking and when they are stressed or feeling the urge to smoke, and food tastes better after quitting smoking. Plus, nicotine is an appetite suppressant, so after you quit, you may experience more frequent hunger.

If you’re trying to quit smoking, try to keep your mouth busy by chewing gum and always keeping carrot sticks, celery, almonds, or sunflower seeds on hand — something that’s crunchy, but also healthy. That seems to help when the urge hits. 

Relax and Destress: Practice Relaxation Techniques

For most smokers, smoking was THE way to deal with stress, and for many who are trying to quit, the process of quitting adds another level of serious stress! So what can you do? If you’ve watched Dr. Nancy’s shows before, you know she is a huge proponent of practicing a number of proven relaxation techniques. You might have to experiment with a number of different options before you find what works for you, but a few go-tos are:

  • Purposeful Deep-Breathing
  • Guided Imagery/Visualization
  • Muscle Relaxation Techniques
  • Calming Music
  • Using Essential Oils/Aromatherapy
  • Yoga

Get Moving

Sometimes, you just need to literally run away from your problems! Not really, but when cravings hit, one of the most effective ways to distract yourself is to get your body moving — exercise! This can be just a few quick push-ups or jumping jacks. Or maybe you are at work, in which case, go jog up and down the stairs a few times; if you can get outside, take a fast walk around the block. Do some yoga moves, if you are at home, or grab the vacuum or do some dishes — whatever you need to do to get moving and fend of the craving!

In addition, participating in a regular, sustained exercise program has also been shown to help relieve symptoms of withdrawal and reduce cravings for nicotine. In fact, research has shown that using a combination of yoga and aerobic exercise — to fight both the immediate need for a cigarette and to manage cravings — may be one of the most effective ways to support breaking the habit. One study demonstrated that the combination of cardiovascular exercise and yoga reduce cravings after just one hour of nicotine abstinence! 

Wrap-Up

Okay, so we talked a lot about quitting smoking today — we all know how dangerous smoking is, and the diseases that this deadly habit contributes to. We spent time looking at how quickly the body heals after quitting, and provided you with Dr. Nancy’s top tips to quit. These include: avoiding key triggers; specific ways to buy some time to help cravings pass; key snacks to keep on hand; exercises to help with cravings; and the importance of practicing effective relaxation techniques during the process of quitting smoking. These are all essential ways to help you fight through cravings and successfully quit smoking once and for all!  

We hope you found today’s show helpful. Please, take a moment to share this important information with your friends and loved ones!

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