Although the number of adult cigarette smokers in the United States has declined in recent years, smoking still causes more preventable disease and deaths than any other factor. Roughly one in five deaths are related to smoking (1). As the medical community searches for ways to help break the grip of tobacco addiction, more and more providers are recommending natural ways to quit smoking.
As anti-smoking education and awareness campaigns continue to chip away at this habit, the fact remains that tobacco is highly addictive. If you find yourself in its grip and want to quit, take heart. There are many successful methods available to you today, and not all of them require prescriptions. First, let’s look at the biology of tobacco use and addiction.
Nicotine to the Brain
The chemical nicotine is present in all tobacco, and it is the main component that makes tobacco such a highly addictive substance. Within eight seconds of inhaling a cigarette, nicotine reaches the brain. This speed contributes to tobacco’s addictiveness. Once nicotine arrives, the brain releases an excess of adrenaline that causes the following physical reactions:
- Rising blood pressure
- Quickening heart rate
- Constriction of veins
- Altered electrical activity in the brain
Moreover, the effects aren’t limited to physical responses. Nicotine also causes the brain to release dopamine, a neurotransmitter that brings on happy feelings. This rush of dopamine makes the person feel more relaxed temporarily, starting the addiction cycle. People have to smoke more cigarettes more frequently to regain those same levels of dopamine and the happy feelings that follow.
Although nicotine grabs the limelight for its addictive qualities, tobacco actually has thousands of chemicals in it. At least 70 of these are known to cause cancer. Some of the dangerous components of tobacco are:
Risks of Smoking Tobacco
It is no secret that smoking is harmful to your health. Medical education and public service announcements have made this clear for decades. Tobacco use damages every system in your body, leading to dozens of preventable illnesses. Here are some of the biggest dangers:
Smokers are at higher risk of strokes, aneurysms, COPD, emphysema, and heart disease–and you do not have to be a heavy smoker to be at risk. Even those who smoke fewer than five cigarettes a day can develop cardiovascular health problems.
Smoking is responsible for almost 90% of lung cancer deaths (2). In cancer-related deaths, this killer takes top billing for both men and women.
While most people know that smoking can lead to lung cancer, many don’t realize that smoking also is linked to at least a dozen different types of cancer, including stomach, mouth, kidney, liver, bladder, colon, cervical, and pancreatic cancer.
Smoking can lead to infertility for both men and women and is a leading cause of erectile dysfunction in men. Tobacco use also can lead to early menopause and more severe hot flashes for women. Skin problems. The skin is your body’s biggest organ, and it takes on significant damage from smoking. Wrinkles, varicose veins, staining of the skin, sagginess, and skin cancer are all likely effects from cigarette use. In addition, tobacco use inhibits your skin’s ability to recover from wounds and injuries.
Breaking the Habit
Traditionally, western medicine has attempted to help smokers break their habit through the use of nicotine replacement therapy and prescription medications. Pharmaceutical options such as varenicline and bupropion have been available for quite a while now, but they carry many side effects. Some of the most common are:
- Difficulty sleeping
In an attempt to avoid these side effects, more and more people are turning to alternative options for treating nicotine addiction.
Natural Ways to Quit Smoking
Since nicotine is one of the most addictive substances on the planet, it makes sense that smoking is one of the hardest habits to break. In spite of repeated attempts, many struggle with being cigarette-free (3). However, freedom from nicotine is possible. With support and a health plan, you can break the habit. Here are five natural ways to help you quit smoking.
Acupuncture and Acupressure
These ancient practices have many benefits for a host of medical concerns and are wonderful for those trying to quit smoking. Pressure points in the ears are particularly useful in treating cigarette cravings for those who are eager to stop (4).
The practice of mindfulness grounds you in being present and aware in your daily life. It is helpful for managing cravings and for handling the stressful situations that might trigger a desire for cigarettes. Research on the link between mindfulness and smoking cessation is very promising (5). There are groups, classes, and even apps that will help you get started on your mindfulness journey.
When a smoker is trying to quit, there are a lot of physical and mental hurdles to clear. Their body goes through withdrawals, they may feel fidgety and anxious, and they may even gain weight. Exercise can help alleviate all of these difficulties. When you are ready to stop smoking, make sure you include a plan for some exercise, which doesn’t have to mean joining a gym. Small changes like taking a brief walk after each meal can help you push through the times you might typically have cravings.
If the word “hypnosis” makes you think of men in funny hats, swinging pocket watches in front of your face, then you may want to revisit the topic. Many hypnotherapists hold advanced degrees and have well-established practices. They aim to change the smoker’s mindset through deep relaxation and suggestion. Hypnosis is proving to be an effective tool for stopping immediate cravings and for helping smokers maintain a lifelong smoke-free lifestyle (6).
You Can Be Tobacco-Free
If you are ready to take the plunge into whole-body wellness by breaking your smoking habit, Third River Health is here to help. This process does not have a one-size-fits-all solution, but we can offer guidance and support as we craft a plan that is right for you. CONTACT US today to get started today.