By Monique Richard MS, RDN, LDN
You’ve seen the commercials and social media efforts, healthcare literature and promotions prompting the importance of smoking cessation. The Truth Campaign at thetruth.com attempts to help curb smoking among youth, facts littered with various hashtags like #FinishIT and many free resources are splashed across buses, newspapers and websites. It’s a serious health concern. Whether you are a smoker or someone in your life is, there are no butt’s about it (pun intended): the research about the adverse effects of tobacco on health are undeniable. It’s 2017 and ending tobacco use for good can be in all of our wheelhouses. It is not only possible, but necessary, in supporting overall health.
According to the American Cancer Society about 36.5 million Americans smoke cigarettes. “Tobacco use remains the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the world.”1 Not a smoker, but live or work with someone who is? The American Lung Association states that secondhand smoke causes more than 41,000 deaths each year.2 November is the month of The Great American Smokeout, #GASO, a campaign by the American Cancer Society to support Americans in their effort to ditch those addictive tobacco products. November is also COPD Awareness Month. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, or COPD, is an overarching term for several lung diseases including emphysema, chronic bronchitis, refractory (non-reversible) asthma, and some forms of bronchiectasis, making breathing more difficult, decreasing quality of life and limiting many daily activities. About 90% of individuals that suffer from COPD smoke or have smoked (it can also be from other pollutants and causes).1,2
Smoking affects every systemic and cellular function in the body, making proper nutrition imperative. It increases the need for specific nutrients, such as vitamin C and E, as the body continually tries to defend itself from being bombarded by these harmful toxins.3
In addition, research shows smokers tend to eat less nutritious diets than nonsmokers—with extra calories, saturated fat, and less fiber and vitamins.3 Smokers should aim for an extra 35 milligrams (mg) of vitamin C per day than their nonsmoking counterparts.4
Smoking can also affect taste receptors and olfactory sensors (smell), which in turn can affect appetite, and also the pleasure and palatability of eating.3 Food may have to be more intensely flavored to get the same effect, which in terms of sugar and salt may alter energy intake in a negative way, such as too many calories from sugar (also could cause dental caries, or cavities), too much sodium, or even ulcers caused by too much spicy food. A variety of studies have suggested the lower intake of antioxidants is of concern in prevention of disease but also a decrease in enzymes that process the nutrients consumed may be an additional consequence.3
The lack of oxygen to the bloodstream and tissues from smoking and tobacco use can contribute to an increased level of plaque build-up and inhibition of healing, adversely affecting oral health. Gingivitis can lead to periodontal disease (gum disease) and the risk for a variety of mouth cancers can be increased from tobacco use.4
Smoking while pregnant can increase the risk for premature birth or low birthweight as well as increase the risk of feeding and breathing problems, learning difficulties and many other serious complications.5
Increase Vitamins C, E & A
By increasing the nutrients in the diet, the body is able to better defend itself from the toxins and chemicals ingested.
Foods that contain vitamin C and other anti-oxidants include: citrus fruit and brightly colored vegetables: orange, lemon, lime, pineapple, acerola cherries, acai berries, blueberries, blackberries, pomegranate seeds, tomato, melon, peppers, greens, raw cabbage, guava, strawberries, broccoli, and kiwi.
Vitamin E: Wheat germ, raisin bran, sunflower oil, green leafy vegetables, egg yolks, nuts, milk
Vitamin A: yellow and dark leafy greens, sweet potato, butternut squash, apricots, cantaloupe
There may be some appropriate supplements to explore, such as L-tryptophan, due to their activity as a precursor to the neurochemicals serotonin and melatonin, affecting mood and cognitive function.6 There are also some herbs and additional options that may be beneficial in supporting the system’s immune function and healing. Other alternative methods for smoking cessation with mixed results in research studies include acupuncture, acupressure, lobelia, St. john’s Wort, cannabidiol, hypnotherapy, meditation, black pepper, and auriculotherapy.7 Find out what is best for your needs and health goals by connecting with your integrative registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) and physician.
Every year, on the third Thursday of November, smokers across the nation take part in the American Cancer Society Great American Smokeout event. Encourage someone you know to use the date to make a plan to quit, or plan in advance and then quit smoking that day. By quitting – even for 1 day – smokers will be taking an important step toward a healthier life and reducing their cancer risk.
STATE OF FRANKLIN Healthcare Associates
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great-american-smokeout.html Accessed October 5, 2017.
2.) http://www.lung.org/stop-smoking/smoking-facts/health-effects.html Accessed October 10, 2017.
3.) Northrop-Clewes C, Thurman D. Monitoring micronutrients in smokers. Clin Chim Acta. 2007. 377; 14-38
4.) https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminC-HealthProfessional/ Accessed October 17, 2017
periodontal-gum-disease.html Accessed October 10, 2017.
6.) Cdc-preg: https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/campaign/tips/diseases/
pregnancy.html. Accessed October 4, 2017.
7.) Natural db: https://naturalmedicines.therapeuticresearch.com/databases/
comparativeeffectiveness/condition.aspx?condition=Smoking+cessation. Accessed October 4, 2017.