Last week we talked about the many benefits of drinking water. This week, we will look at how certain food choices may help you KTQ by reducing cravings.
Smokers usually smoke the minute they feel anything. That can make it difficult for the newly quit to even know what they are craving! It takes practice to identify thirst, hunger, fatigue or boredom. Chances are a tall, cool glass of water and the right snack can have a quitter feeling back on track in no time. Selecting foods that may help kill craves can also help prevent overeating and weight gain. Eating small amounts throughout the day can manage blood sugar levels, reduce cravings, increase energy, kick up metabolic rate and stabilize moods. Sounds like a good plan, doesn't it? Here are some great food choices:
• Fruit For sugar cravings, reach for fresh fruit. Eating fresh fruit is a good way to increase your fiber and water intake, and to fill up without filling out. Most fruits are alkalizing, which may help reduce nicotine cravings in the beginning of your quit. Blueberries, apples, cherries, watermelon, grapes, plums, and oranges are a few of the many fresh fruit options.
• Vegetables For hand-to-mouth snacking options, try fresh, sliced vegetables. Vegetables are high in vitamins, antioxidants, and fiber, and are low in calories. You can eat enough to get full without affecting your waistline. Most vegetables are alkalizing, which may help reduce nicotine cravings in the beginning of your quit. Try sliced bell peppers, zucchini, cucumber, celery and carrots. Or, mix up a salad with lettuce or spinach greens.
• Mint To reduce sugar or nicotine cravings, try strong mint flavors. Peppermint, spearmint, and menthol-flavored cough drops, gum, sugar free hard candies and breath mints may help kill a crave.
• Sour/Tart To reduce sugar or nicotine cravings, you can also try sour or tart flavors such as lemon, lime, lemon drops, dill pickles or stuffed olives.
• Spicy Try spicy foods like hot salsa, Tabasco sauce, red or green chilies, and jalapenos to kill cravings. A generous sprinkling of black pepper may help take the edge off of cravings, as well.
• Warm Eating a warm meal is often more filling than a cold one. Oatmeal is a good choice. Add some cinnamon, applesauce or raisins to increase fiber and crave fighting properties.
• Hot Sipping hot tea is time consuming, and hot liquid may help satisfy cravings. Choose licorice, peppermint, lemon, cinnamon or other such flavored teas to help kill the crave. Green tea is high in antioxidants, and detox teas may offer added support for the newly quit.
• Crunchy The hand to mouth habit associated with smoking is hard to break. Eating crunchy foods like apples, almonds, seeds and raw vegetables can help to satisfy this trigger.
• Fat Foods that are high in healthy fats help you feel full longer and experience cravings less. Olive oil, coconut oil, nuts and avocados are some examples of healthy fats.
• Fiber Healthy foods that are high in fiber help you feel full longer and can counteract some of the constipation associated with quitting. Oatmeal, raisins, vegetables and legumes are some examples of high fiber foods.
To help yourself make good food choices, stock up ahead of time. Arrange your cabinets so the best food choices are front and center. Better yet, make a 'Quit Shelf' with all your go-to crave-killing foods and tape up a few motivational cards with images, mantras, or inspiring statements on them. You can even add your quit stats to your cards weekly. :) With preparation and commitment, you can make this quit your healthiest quit, your best quit - and your last quit!
Keep up the good work, keep going, and KTQ!
Master Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist
Quit with us!
Last week we talked about stress; this week we will talk about detox! QuitNet Q'sters often ask if there is anything they can do to help their body detox after so many years of smoking cigarettes. Quitting smoking is the best detox plan of all. However, the answer to the question is yes! Here are some options that may help support your body as you keep the quit:
Free radicals cause damage to your cells and can be formed by smoking, pesticides, pollution and daily metabolic processes. Antioxidants neutralize free radicals and as a result, can help protect your cells from damage. You will find antioxidants in many fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, vitamins, minerals and herbs.
By eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables, you can help your system heal, detox and flourish. Eating fresh foods high in cysteine, beta-carotene, vitamin B2, vitamin C and vitamin E will increase your antioxidant intake. Zinc and selenium will help stregthen your immune system.
Fruits and vegtables are very nutrient dense, high fiber, low calorie and as an added benefit - reduce both food and nicotine cravings. The majority of fruits and vegtables are alkaline which helps restore your system from it's highly acidic state brought on by smoking. Here are some food chioces that are very high in antioxidants:
- red, black, kidney and pinto beans
- blueberries, cranberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries,
- cherries, plums, prunes, apples
- russet potato
There are endless benefits to loading up your grocery basket with a wide variety of these colorful, wholesome, fresh foods!
Herbal remedies are not FDA approved and may interact with certain medications or medical conditions. Always ask your doctor before taking herbal remedies. Keep in mind that supplements 'add to' a healthy diet and do not work alone. Your healthy diet is the foundation, and herbal supplementation builds upon that foundation.
Many herbal teas, seasonings and medicinal herbs contain antioxidants. Aloe vera, bilburry, green tea, garlic, turmeric, ginkgo, ginger root, grape seed and milk thistle may help your body fight free radicals. Herbal teas are an easy way to support the detox process. Tea is also relaxing to prepare, steep and sip as you celebrate your quit! Here are just a few of the many herbs that may help support different areas of the body:
- Liver: Burdock, Milk Thistle, Artichoke, Dandelion, Licorice Root
- Lungs: Ginger Root, Garlic, Thyme Leaf
- Skin: Fennel, Aloe Vera, Ginger Root, Licorice Root
- Circulation: Ginger, Black Pepper, and Long Pepper
- Digestion: Anise Seed, Licorice, Fennel, Peppermint Leaf
Adding an herbal detox remedy in powder, pill or tea form may help your system detox. If herbal supplementation appeals to you (and your doctor has no objections), give it a try!
The human body is about 60% water! Drinking plenty of water will help you detox by increasing the amount of nutrients you absorb in food and eliminating waste from your body. Water also helps you feel full, reduces cravings and can have an alkalizing effect on your system. Smoking can be dehydrating and acidifying, so your entire system will thank you if you get in the habit of drinking plenty of fresh water.
By adding some nutritional support to your system, you can help your body detox and repair after many years of smoking. Today is a great day to move forward as a healthy nonsmoker!
Be healthy, and KTQ!
There are some misconceptions about quit support products, specifically surrounding the ‘support’ part! Take Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) for example. As tobacco treatment specialists, we sometimes hear "My NRT is not working". Let's look at the role NRT plays for a basic overview of what to expect. NRT does not make you quit smoking. It does not remove the habitual want to smoke, or the emotional need to smoke. NRT does not eliminate withdrawal symptoms, nor does it prevent the detox process from occurring.
So what does NRT do? It takes the edge off cravings so you can focus on breaking your lifelong habitual, behavioral and emotional attachment to the daily ritual of smoking. NRT supports your efforts by reducing the physical cravings and withdrawal symptoms so you are more likely to stick with the quit process long enough to succeed.
NRT is not designed to match your smoking habit nicotine consumption milligram for milligram, but rather to reduce cravings by delivering a slow, steady dose of nicotine in your system based on the average amount of cigarettes you smoked prior to your quit date. This slow, steady dosing avoids the rapid and addictive 'rush/crash/crave' cycle that smoking provides (and makes quitting so difficult). NRT helps by lessening the intensity of physical withdrawal symptoms. Physical withdrawals will still occur as your body detoxes, heals and adjusts after years of inhaling toxic, chemical filled smoke, tar and gasses into your lungs and throughout your entire system. Nicotine is just one of the many thousands of chemicals in cigarette smoke.
NRT is advised to be used for at least the first 8 weeks of your quit while stepping down gradually. Stepping down as directed ensures minimal cravings and maximum quit support. Why 8 weeks? Research shows it takes a good 8 weeks of practicing new behaviors, habits and coping tools to learn a new habit, such as being a nonsmoker! Doing so with overwhelming physical cravings often leads to relapse before any of the learning new behaviors or habit breaking part takes place. Nicotine and temporary cravings are a small part of the Big Picture. Long term quit success comes from having 8 weeks of practice and actively working to learn new behaviors and coping tools, not from 'using NRT'. The Quitter must actively work their quit process in order for NRT support to be most effective.
So, how do you work your quit process? Start by identifying your top 3 tobacco triggers. Then, come up with effective new coping tools that will work for You. This is where you want to put your time, energy and focus during the next 8 weeks you have NRT support. Practice getting through stress, boredom, relationships, disappointments and day to day life situations without using tobacco. Practicing new coping tools ensures your quit process gets easier as time goes by. No amount of NRT can do this particular part of the quit, which is a good thing! It forces the newly quit to start really thinking about living their day to day lives without a cigarette. In each of those moments where you choose to do something else instead of smoke, you will be laying the foundation for becoming a nonsmoker.
The key to success is to let NRT do it's job by using it correctly as directed, while you do your job - actively work your quit process! Along the way, you'll discover lots of new things to do as you enjoy your healthy, smoke free lifestyle.
Master Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist
Don't quit alone! We can help:
First, some points to clarify:
1) QuitNet is not anti-cold turkey quitting. In 18 years as the world's first and largest quit-smoking website, we've had a lot of experience with what works best for the most, and what the research indicates -- and that's what we speak to here. If you can quit cold turkey, you should -- the sooner the better.
2) QuitNet does not receive revenue from the sale or advertisement of NRT or other quit-aids (in fact, you won't find any ads at the Q).
3) This blog isn't a debate on whether or not you should quit cold turkey, nor a response to anti-NRT theorists. The author doesn't work for tobacco companies, or any tobacco product manufacturers or distributors.
4) The author himself quit a three pack a day addiction cold turkey, 21 years ago. He knows from experience that cold turkey quitting can work. Further notes at the end of the blog.
Twenty two years ago, before the patch and other quit-aids were available without prescription, I quit smoking cold turkey (CT). Three times, in fact, the third time being, as they say, a charm. And after many years of easy access to over-the-counter quit medicines like NRT, i.e., the patch, gum, lozenge, etc, most smokers still try to quit cold turkey. CT is defined as any treatment method which does not include medicinal control of withdrawal symptoms, i.e., the smoker stops smoking, either abruptly or with a plan, and doesn't employ any chemical interventions to minimize detoxification. Hypnosis, acupuncture, and other alternative treatments are also considered CT because they do not directly address physical withdrawal, or detoxification.
So you won't ever catch me saying cold turkey is a bad way to quit, or that it won't work work for you. I'm living proof that it can and does work. But it's also important to address the most common misconceptions about CT quitting, so you can make the best choices for your next quit.
Myth #1. Cold Turkey is the most effective way to quit.
Decades of research repeatedly demonstrate that only 3-6 CT quitters, out of every 100, will succeed during any given quit attempt. This makes cold turkey the least effective of all treatments, even less so than medication placebos. The primary reason for these low numbers is that the physical, mental and behavioral parts of withdrawal sometimes prove too much to handle, and can negatively impact everyday life even for the most determined quitter.
However, this doesn't necessarily mean that any single quitter won't be able to quit using CT, only that, statistically, other methods provide better odds overall.
Myth #2. Cold Turkey is the safest way to quit.
Quitting smoking is rarely dangerous, and almost never more dangerous than continuing to smoke, but a slower, measured withdrawal from nicotine usually provides an more comfortable path to tobacco freedom. The sudden onset of cold turkey detox among the heaviest smokers can trigger risky fluctuations in heart rate and blood pressure. Changes in metabolism can adversely affect prescription medication doses. CT quits can trigger acute depression and suicidal ideation among those with certain mental health issues, and/or massive chemical/hormonal rearrangements in the body.
Additionally, CT quitters are more likely to transfer smoking addiction to sugar, caffeine, or other addictive substances, causing acute or chronic difficulties with weight gain, depression and anxiety, and other mental and physical health issues -- all of which can generate higher rates of slips and relapses.
Myth #3. Cold Turkey is the fastest way through withdrawal.
The longest, most intense detoxifications are usually suffered by CT quitters (depending on the level of addiction). Three days is commonly referred to as the make-or-break timeline for CT withdrawal, but CT quitters can experience moderate-to-severe detox symptoms for weeks after quitting. Again, this is not to say you will suffer such withdrawal if you quit cold-turkey -- that's largely determined by your current addiction/smoking level and metabolism -- only that you're more likely to.
Myth #4. The intensity of a Cold Turkey quit inhibits relapse.
Though many CT quitters claim that their quit is/was so horrific that they never want to go through it again, there's no solid research demonstrating that past withdrawal experiences influence current quit-success, or that a bad past experience keeps one quit. What we often find instead is increased resistance to the idea of quitting because of past difficulties, and higher rates of slips and relapses during intense detoxes.
Myth #5. Most smokers quit Cold Turkey.
This one is not a myth. CT is still the most widely-used method, largely because it’s the easiest, and free. But most CT smokers will also relapse during any individual quit. This is why smokers are increasingly turning to quit-aids first, or after trying and failing with CT.
All that being said, cold turkey quitting may still best the way for you to quit. If you're a middle-aged man or post-menopausal woman, have successfully quit smoking before without medicinal intervention, and/or aren't being treated for depression or a bi-polar condition, your odds of quitting CT are better than average. If you're pregnant or breastfeeding, weigh less than 120 lbs., or smoke less than half a pack a day, you probably should quit smoking CT. In any event, a CT quitter is wise to beef up their support network--which increases the chances of any quit succeeding.
But if you know, or fear, that severe withdrawal will negatively impact your life, or haven't been able to get through the withdrawal process unaided in the past, don't worry. There are more effective treatment methods available to you!
Good luck, visit QuitNet for help, and KTQ.
Alan Peters, CTTS-M
Regarding public health perspectives on cold turkey quitting: This blog is about CT quitting for individual smokers. Public health officials often, and should, promote CT treatment to large populations, because that's more cost-effective than offering, distributing and supporting compliance with quit-medicines on a large scale.
No QuitNet authors or experts receive research funding or other renumeration from pharmaceutical companies. Some tobacco researchers do, however, sign onto funded studies at various points in their careers. This is an indication that the U.S. doesn't adequately fund such research in general, not necessarily that the resulting research is biased or fraudulent.
Congratulations! You’ve made the decision to quit smoking. After 30, 40, or more years of smoking you are finally ready to have ALL the chemicals from cigarettes out of your body. But you don’t just want all those chemicals out for good; you want them out IMMEDIATELY.
While nicotine—the primary addictive ingredient in cigarettes— is cleared from your body quickly (about 24 hours), the 4,000 other chemicals found in cigarette smoke can make the detoxification timeline more complicated.
Headaches, dizziness, coughing, constipation, mood swings—all very common with withdrawal—can make the detoxification process downright unpleasant. Finding ways to get through this process more effectively has many quitters looking for a quick fix. But is there really anything you can do to make your body heal faster?
Ultimately, the only effective antidote for detoxification is TIME. Your body has the amazing ability to heal. In fact, after that last cigarette, your body immediately begins healing from the chemicals in cigarettes. You can mainly thank your kidneys and liver for this, both of which work tirelessly 24/7, 365 days a year to filter your blood.
To support your body in its natural healing process, here are some things you can do:
- Eat a healthy diet. While there is no specific food to help with detoxification, certain foods—fruits and veggies, whole grains and other healthy foods—have been shown to help lessen cravings.
- Exercise. Being physically active is a natural metabolism booster and helps fight cravings and withdrawal symptoms by providing a distraction, helping improve mood, and staving off potential post-quit weight gain.
- Get enough sleep. While the “perfect” amount of sleep may be different for everyone, sleep is important because it’s a time when your body repairs itself. Aim for 6-8 hours a night.
- Drink water. Water is crucial to our survival. Staying well-hydrated while quitting can help your body stay healthy.
- Take a multivitamin. Smoking can deplete certain vitamins and minerals, particularly vitamin C. Taking a multivitamin replenishes those lost from smoking.
While these tips may not necessarily speed the detoxification process, they certainly can make the process more manageable!
Still wondering if there is anything else you can do? While there is no hard, scientific data to support use of herbal supplements in expediting the quitting process, lobelia, ginseng, and St. John’s Wort may have some potential. But beware: natural does not necessarily mean safe. Herbal supplement can potentially interact poorly with medications you may already be taking, plus carry their own risk for use. Consult your physician first before taking an herbal supplement!
Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist