Quitting smoking is difficult, especially in the first few days. Physical and psychological withdrawals hit hard at this time and cravings and urges to smoke are strong. When a craving to smoke occurs, action needs to be taken. The choices are endless, but here are three of the best tried and true crave busters.
Drinking water is a great crave buster. Hand-to-mouth is a habit that's hard to break and water is a good choice for an oral substitute. Not only does water give you something to do with your hands, it’s also filling, reduces your appetite and has zero calories. Water is not a beverage that is usually associated with smoking, so it will unlikely trigger the same response as a cup of coffee or a beer. Staying well-hydrated is important in keeping your body healthy. Water removes the toxins from your body and helps with the healing process after quitting smoking. Reaching for that glass of water to quell a craving will help prevent constipation, which at times accompanies quitting smoking. If you don’t like the taste of water, try jazzing it up with a slice of lemon, lime, fresh fruit. When a craving to smoke hits, drink up and enjoy the benefits water offers.
Cravings to smoke often pop up when feeling stressed. Life stressors run the gamut, from issues with family, finance and health to the daily annoyances of traffic jams and waiting in grocery store lines. In the past, smoking may have been how you handled the stress in your life. Deep breathing is one of the best ways to manage cravings to smoke and stress. Now you can take a deep breath without inhaling the poisons in cigarette smoke. As you deep breathe, visualize yourself in a peaceful, soothing place where you can totally relax, escaping for a few moments. Repeating a personal slogan to yourself ‘Smoking is not an option’ while taking the deep breaths will reaffirm your decision to quit.
Take some time to practice deep breathing exercises. Begin deep breathing from the diaphragm, rather than the chest, by getting comfortable lying on the bed, floor or reclining in a chair. Begin by placing a hand on your stomach and breathing in slowly, through the nose while mentally counting to five. When you are inhaling picture the air going down into your stomach until it’s totally inhaled (you should feel your stomach rise up where your hand is placed). Now slowly exhale through your mouth for the count of five and picture the air emptying out of your stomach until it’s totally expelled (you should feel your hand on your stomach go down). Repeat this ten times during practice and you should feel stress and anxiety symptoms decrease. Taking a deep breath to get you through a craving will get you to the other side more relaxed.
Getting physical and moving helps distract from the cravings to smoke and reduces the intensity of the cravings. Quick and easy exercises that you can do in spurts when a craving appears work well. Knee bends, lunges, going up and down the stairs, or sitting in a chair alternately relaxing and tensing your muscles are exercise that can be done at home or work when time and space is limited. Even just getting up and walking around for a few minutes will help. Choose an activity you will enjoy, whether it be yoga, dancing, biking or swimming -- any activity that has you moving will do. Both high and low impact exercises increase your endorphin levels, which makes you feel good, more alert and energized. Physical activity helps reduce stress and tension. Not only does exercise help you deal with the physical and psychological cravings of nicotine addiction, but it’s also a major player in managing the weight gain associated with quitting smoking. Consult your doctor before starting an exercise program if you have a sedentary lifestyle or any medical problems. Daily exercise will improve your mood, lung function and stamina. Using exercise to handle your cravings to smoke will keep you fit and healthy.
Keep Going and KTQ!
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!
When you can’t breathe, nothing else matters.
This powerful message--found on the American Lung Association website--couldn't be more truthful. If you suffer from asthma and/or other respiratory diseases, the heat, chemicals, and smoke from cigarettes is the last thing your lungs need.
“Asthma and smoking simply don’t mix,” a pulmonologist once told me.
Asthma affects both children and adults and can be life threatening. Deaths due to asthma number over 3300 every year, according to the Allergy and Asthma Foundation. Many deaths can be prevented by taking measures to treat symptoms before they worsen. Asthma symptoms include:
- Chest tightness
- Shortness of breath/difficulty breathing
Avoiding asthma triggers and regular use of a controller inhaler are key to preventing asthma exacerbations. One such trigger to avoid is tobacco smoke, including smoke from pipes, cigars or cigarettes. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 21% of U.S. adults smoke and have asthma. If you have asthma and smoke, quitting is one of the best things you can do for your lung’s health and for the health of your children’s lungs.
Children are particularly susceptible to lung irritants as their bodies are much smaller. Childhood asthma affects 7.1 million children under the age of 18. Smoking during pregnancy can potentially affect newborn lung development and increase risk of childhood asthma.
While, to date, there is insufficient data to show that smoking and secondhand smoke cause asthma, it does make asthma symptoms worse. Tobacco smoke, whether inhaled directly (mainstream smoke) or indirectly (passive smoke) irritates the airways and causes a chain reaction including inflammation of the airways, tightening of airway muscles, and increased mucus production, all of which contribute to the narrowing and obstruction of the airways.
When you quit smoking, you effectively remove a huge source of lung irritation and will notice better asthma control and fewer flare-ups. It is possible, however, that you may notice an initial worsening of asthma symptoms--increased chest tightness, difficulty breathing, coughing, and mucus production. But do not despair! What may appear to be an excacerbation of your asthma is the contrary: your body is healing. Think of it this way: it’s almost if you are not used to breathing without restriction (or if you haven’t breathed easily in the many years you probably smoked). These changes may act as a trigger to asthma symptoms (remember: people with asthma have "twitchy" lungs, meaning hyper-reactivity to anything that can potentially trigger a flare-up). But in the long run, your asthma should IMPROVE. Most folks notice a significant improvement in breathing after 90 days.
In the meantime, you may find yourself increasing your usage of a “rescue” inhaler, at least until symptoms improve. You might also try a warm bath or compress or breathing and relaxation exercises to help alleviate tight chest muscles.
The bottom line: keeping your house smoke-free will leave you and your family breathing easier.