On 1st October 2012, NHS Smokefree are beginning a new campaign called ‘Stoptober’ encouraging smokers to ditch the fags for 28 days (the idea that after 28 days you are five times more likely to quit for life). The Stoptober campaign is offering some amazing support for those wishing to take on the challenge but can nutrition have a role to play in helping you quit?
The urge to light up can be so powerful and be something that plagues your mind but by not giving into to the craving, you are one step closer to achieving your goal of not smoking. To help you through the 28 days below are some nutritional and lifestyle tips to get you through the challenge and help your body repair from smoke damage.
Blood Sugar Balancing
Controlling the level of sugar in your blood is important for two main reasons. First people who use cigarettes to curb appetites now have nothing to replace it with and plus the smoking hand has become redundant. Secondly by the blood sugar being out of balance and fluctuating quickly, it can increase the amount of stress hormones and therefore possibly increase risk of relapse.
Tips on keeping your blood sugar balanced include:
- Remove all refined sugar from your diet so opt for brown versions of pasta, bread, and rice. Choose xylitol or stevia for sweetening food.
- Increasing quality lean protein such as grilled chicken, poached eggs, oily fish.
- Increasing your vegetable intake, particularly your leafy greens and rainbow coloured vegetables
- Small but balanced regular meals. Make sure you have breakfast. As a rule of thumb half your plate should be vegetables, quarter protein and quarter carbohydrates.
- Include healthy fats in your diet such as olive oil, coconut oil & omega 3’s
- Have more fibre with your meals such as nuts and seeds, dark green leafy vegetables, oats and fruits such as apples and pears.
- Reduce caffeine and only have caffeinated drinks such as coffee with meals.
Research shows that smokers are at risk of knocking out the balance of essential fats in body therefore may contribute to a whole host of health problems including mood alterations. Consume fresh oily fish 3 times a week such as salmon, mackerel, sardines & walnuts and ground flaxseeds. Avoid processed foods and vegetable oils and spreads and use real butter or olive oil in cooking.
Vitamin D could be linked with addiction due to its potent effects on the brain. You can go to your GP for a free test to see if you are deficient in Vitamin D. Levels below optimum are 100nmol/l, supplementation with D3 should be considered or more exposure to sunshine.
N-acetylcysteine has been researched for its treatment in nicotine addiction to reduce cravings. Many foods contain NAC but not at a significant amounts. The richest sources are protein rich foods such as meat, fish, poultry and eggs. You may consider supplementing but liaise with a professional before so.
Keeping relaxed during the initial stages of quitting is paramount to success. As well as lowering stress, meditation can increase help promote a rewiring of brain circuitry that promote addiction. Practice for just 15 minutes per day on rising to feel the benefits.
Exercising for 30-60 minutes at a moderate intensity can have beneficial effects in keeping your mood balanced and also help you deal with cravings.
I wish you all the best of luck with Stoptober.
Daniel O’Shaughnessy is an Independent Qualified Nutritional Therapist and operates clinics in London. For more information please visit http://www.thenakednutritionist.co.uk.