The Benefits Of Nutritional Supplements To Help You Quit Smoking
While I don’t recommend using nicotine replacement products, I am a big fan of using supplements to help with the process of becoming a non-smoker. I personally found that, even after I quit smoking, I was still having issues with addiction.
It wasn't until I stumbled across the research of neurotransmitter imbalances and how to use supplements to balance your brain chemistry and heal addictions, that I really overcame my addictive tendencies.
You know those people who never get addicted to anything, or who never overeat or feel the need to drink? It's not that they have more willpower than you, they just happen to have a balanced brain chemistry. I believe this is a big part of why some people struggle with addiction and others don't.
I have listed several supplements I find helpful in the process of quitting smoking. Obviously you don’t have to take supplements to quit. However, for many of us, the reason we relapse and start smoking again is because we feel so crap due to imbalances in the body.
You stop smoking, expecting to feel much better, only to find weeks or even months on, that you still have terrible cravings. You may also feel irritable and foggy headed. If you have experienced this, the odds are that you are suffering from a neurotransmitter imbalance or deficiency.
I personally give every client I see to help quit smoking a B-complex, Niacinamide and Chromium to take with them. I believe it makes a massive difference in easing the withdrawal process and successfully quitting smoking for good.
Vitamin B-3 (Niacin or Niacinamide)
I do believe that Vitamin B-3 (Niacin or Niacinamide) is one of the most important supplements you can take when it comes to treating addiction.
Nicotine and niacin occupy the same receptors in the brain, which is why it is so helpful in reducing nicotine cravings.
In 1960, Bill W., the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, was introduced to the benefits of B-3 by Dr. Abram Hofer who had lots of success treating alcohol addiction, depression, high cholesterol and schizophrenia with vitamin B-3.
Unsurprisingly, Bill W. was very interested in trying it and started to take 3,000 mg of vitamin B3 per day.
Within a few weeks, the depression and fatigue that troubled Bill for years was gone. Bill then gave 30 of his friends in Alcoholics Anonymous the same dosage and within months, he found vitamin B3 was very helpful for 70% of the people he gave it to.
Regrettably, many of his appointed 'medical experts' did not agree with his enthusiasm over a vitamin therapy to treat alcoholism, so he was censured by AA for promoting vitamin B-3 or niacin therapy on official AA letterhead. The Scientologists also recommend niacin to all new recruits to help detox and rid the body of addictive patterns.
Dosage: Vitamin B-3 - Niacinamide (the non-flushing form of niacin) 500 mg to 1000 mg with breakfast and lunch. You can take Niacin (the flushing form of Vitamin B-3) 50 mg with breakfast and lunch, however most people experience a red skin flushing that tingles for about 20 to 30 minutes after.
B Complex Vitamins
B vitamins help to calm and regulate the nervous system while decreasing fatigue and stress. B vitamins can also help relieve the anxiety and insomnia that commonly occur when you quit smoking.
B Vitamins are shown to lower the amino acid homocysteine, which increases brain shrinkage and may be a cause of developing Alzheimer’s. It even seems that B vitamins can decrease brain shrinkage by up to 53%, and when combined with Omega-3’s show a 70% decrease in the rate of brain shrinkage. And we all know that shrinkage isn’t good...
Your body uses more B vitamins when you are under stress. Smoking triggers the release of stress hormones in the body, while also depleting the body of B vitamins at the same time, so quitting smoking means an increased need for all the B vitamins. Ideally start taking B vitamins at least one week before you plan to quit.
Each B vitamin has distinct benefits for the body and mind. I have listed below each B vitamin individually with its functions that are most relevant for quitting smoking.
I highly recommend picking one or more of the individual B vitamins that you feel would benefit you the most, but always take a B-complex as well, because they work in conjunction with each other. Also, studies have shown that any long-term use of one B vitamin can cause a deficiency in another. So, I repeat: always take a B-Complex.
Vitamin B-1 (Thiamine): Helps to regulate the nervous system, heart and stabilize mood. Thiamine is helpful for adrenal fatigue, increasing focus, reducing stress, increasing energy and maintaining a positive attitude. A lack of B-1 can cause depression, fatigue, difficulty concentrating and irritability.
Vitamin B-2 (Riboflavin): Vital for the production of healthy red blood cells which transport oxygen throughout the body. More oxygen reaching the brain means a greater capacity to stay alert. It helps prevent anemia, high blood pressure, migraines and is the vitamin that causes your urine to turn bright yellow.
Vitamin B-3 (Niacin or Niacinamide (non-flushing niacin): Also called nicotinic acid, B-3 is chemically similar to nicotine and fills the nicotine receptors in your brain relieving nicotine cravings. It also helps to dilate blood vessels, improve circulation and lower cholesterol.
Vitamin B-3 also boosts the neurotransmitter GABA, which relieves anxiety and helps you to relax. It is excellent for alcohol cravings as well. I recommend taking niacinamide which is the form of niacin that doesn’t cause the red skin or flushing that niacin causes unless you have high cholesterol, in which case, I recommend taking niacin since it is so effective at lowering cholesterol.
Vitamin B-5 (Pantothenic Acid): Helps to lower the negative effects of stress and is vital for proper adrenal function. B-5 is helpful for adrenal fatigue and also necessary for a healthy metabolism.
Vitamin B-6 (Pyridoxine): Helps regulate the nervous system and produce the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin. B-6 is important for the control of anxiety, depression, fatigue, irritability and mood swings. B-6 helps to process fats and proteins and also helps to control cravings and weight gain that often arise when you stop smoking.
Vitamin B-7 (Biotin): Essential for the breaking down of nutritional carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Helps to stabilize blood sugar levels, strengthen hair and nails, as well as helping the body get rid of toxins.
Vitamin B-9 (Folic Acid): Folic Acid is essential for proper functioning of the nervous system and reducing the chances of birth defects. Folic acid supplements have been used to help treat depression and enhance antidepressant drugs. Studies show that people who are lacking in folic acid do not respond as well to antidepressants, and it also plays a part in mood regulation. It lowers the effects of nicotine on the lungs and protects from cell damage which may contribute to getting cancer.
B-12 (Cobalmin): Vital for sustaining energy levels in the body. B-12 also helps to decrease cellular damage. It helps maintain a healthy digestive system. B-12 also protects against heart disease by decreasing and improving unhealthy cholesterol levels, protecting against high blood pressure and strokes. It’s essential for healthy hair, skin, and nails. It helps in cell generation and the renewal of the skin. B-12 helps protect against cancers including breast, colon, lung, and prostate cancer. Heavy smokers, drinkers, and vegetarians tend to be deficient in B-12.
Choline: This crucial nutrient is used in our liver to avoid the build-up of fat, but its most important role is in supporting your brain. Choline is a precursor to the neurotransmitter acetylcholine which helps with focus, memory and mental clarity. Choline also reduces the stress hormone cortisol, which is raised by smoking. Elevated cortisol actually prunes the neurons of your brain’s memory center, which is part of why our memory tends to be worse when we are stressed.
Acetylcholine is released when you have a cigarette, so low acetylcholine is part of why you tend to feel foggy headed after quitting smoking. Eggs are an excellent source of choline.
Inositol: Helps with the metabolism of fats and cholesterol. Inositol is one of my favourite supplements for people who suffer from anxiety since it raises GABA levels which has a relaxing effect. It has also been shown to be beneficial for treating anxiety, depression, insomnia and panic disorders. Inositol has also been found to reverse cell damage in the airways of the lungs, turning precancerous cells back to healthy ones.
Dosage: B-50 Complex - 1 with breakfast and 1 with lunch, combined with any of the individual B Vitamins you feel would be beneficial for you personally.
Read my post on how to Stop Sabotaging your Weight Loss Success that includes Supplements for Weight Loss here.
Chromium Polynicotinate or Chromium GTF
When you quit smoking, your blood sugar can become lower than when you were a smoker, since you are not having that blood sugar boost when you smoke. Taking chromium is an excellent way to regulate your blood sugar, while keeping yourself feeling balanced and calm while quitting smoking.
Chromium is a mineral that is is often deficient in the soil and is essential for a healthy blood sugar balance. Studies have shown Chromium Polynicotinate is more effective than Chromium Picolinate (the more commonly known form of chromium, used to treat type 2 diabetes and promote weight loss) when it comes to blood sugar balance.
Chromium is essential for the absorption of sugar into the body’s cells via insulin. When sugar is not transferred into the cells to be used as energy then your body must move it away from the blood vessels to prevent damage to the vessels.
So, where does the body transfer the sugar to prevent it from causing harm? Initially, to the liver to be saved as glycogen for upcoming use. However, the liver can only store a limited amount so the surplus glucose is then moved to your body’s fat cells to be stockpiled as fat.
When your body has good levels of chromium, a healthy blood sugar balance is more easily acquired since your body is able to use greater amounts of sugar for energy rather than storing it as fat. Since it normalizes your blood sugar, it helps to control your appetite. Chromium will also help your body deal with stress as it reduces elevated cortisol levels.
Dosage: GTF Chromium Polynicotinate - 200mcg with food 2 x a day
L-Glutamine is an amino acid most often used for repairing the gut and muscle recovery after workouts, but it has many other amazing benefits. It's a helpful supplement to take when you are in the withdrawal process. L-Glutamine is very useful for reducing alcohol, cigarette, sugar and carb cravings and is often used in programs for drug and alcohol addiction. It also repairs the intestinal lining, calms you down and is an all-around wonder amino acid.
L-Glutamine helps to build muscle, as well as stabilizes blood sugar levels so it's also a great supplement to take to prevent weight gain after quitting smoking.
Taking L-Glutamine may also help decrease anxiety, as it increases levels of gamma- aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) is your brain’s natural valium. If you’re high in GABA-you feel relaxed and stress-free. If you are low in GABA-you feel anxious, irritable, overwhelmed, stressed and wired. Alcohol, marijuana, valium and heroin all boost GABA in the brain and body, which is a big part of why we get addicted to those substances.
L-Glutamine can also improve mental clarity. If you feel “foggy headed” and have trouble focusing once you quit, L-Glutamine can be very helpful. It's absorbed into the brain quickly and is then turned into glutamic acid, which is a sugar-like substance that acts as a fuel for the brain. The result is an increased ability to focus, better memory and increased alertness.
For the first 2 or 3 weeks after quitting, take 1000-2000 mgs of L-Glutamine every 5 to 6 hours to reduce your withdrawal symptoms. You can put L-glutamine powder under your tongue to stop intense cravings quickly.
Caution: Do not take L-Glutamine for extended periods of time unless you are also doing regular exercise, which will help to use up the L-Glutamine because there is some controversy whether L-Glutamine is beneficial or harmful for long-term use.
Dosage: L-Glutamine - 2000 mgs before breakfast, and before lunch and mid- afternoon as needed.
Smokers are found to have below average levels of Vitamin C – in a pack a day smoker as much as 40 percent. Cigarettes drain your body of Vitamin C by breaking down and excreting it much faster than normal. Smoking uses up around 25 milligrams of vitamin C per cigarette, so if you are a pack a day smoker, you are depleting your body of 500 mg a day.
Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin that works to sustain the health of the body’s connective tissue as well as performing as an antioxidant. Your body needs to ingest vitamin C or vitamin C containing foods, on a daily basis to maintain necessary levels. Your body does not make vitamin C on its own, and it doesn’t store it. So it is essential that you take supplemental vitamin C, as well as include fruits and veggies that contain vitamin C in your daily diet.
The benefits of vitamin C include boosting your immune system and neurotransmitters, balancing blood sugar, as well as giving you protection against cancer, heart disease, prenatal health issues, eye disease and premature aging. When it comes to hormones and neurotransmitters, Vitamin C is often overlooked. Vitamin C is needed for the conversion of several neurotransmitters that, in turn, make up our adrenal and thyroid hormones and neurotransmitters, like dopamine and melatonin.
These hormones help to regulate your metabolism, increase focus, and boost your ability to cope with stress and relax. Without Vitamin C, we cannot make collagen, the stuff that makes our skin elastic and helps it to appear radiant and youthful. It also protects our joints and helps wounds heal. Since smoking depletes Vitamin C, this is part of why smokers age faster and recover from surgery slower.
Vitamin C works on the immune system by helping to produce anti-virals and increasing the integrity of the mucous membranes, which help us to stop bacteria and viruses from entering the body. It’s found that smokers are sick more often, which is directly related to low vitamin C levels, and the damage smoking causes to the mucus membranes.
Are you starting to see how important Vitamin C is and why it’s important for you to make sure you are getting enough? This is true for all people but it’s essential when you are a smoker and in the process of stopping smoking.
Vitamin C for cigarette cravings
Suck on a chewable vitamin C tablet each time you want a cigarette or make your own vitamin C spray.
You can make vitamin C spray yourself. Vitamin C powder is inexpensive and easy to find. Just find a small empty spray bottle and make your own. Just take plain Vitamin C crystals (available from any health food store, and many online suppliers), dissolve as much as you can in a given amount of water.
Spray the back of your tongue and throat every time you want a cigarette or you can gargle with it. Other ways are to suck on a chewable vitamin C, drink the vitamin C solution, or just take vitamin C tablets in the usual way. Vitamin C will help you to stop smoking by reducing your desire to smoke, and also helps to control hunger cravings which in turn reduces weight gain after quitting.
All of these strategies mentioned above will help you to stop smoking, and reduce food cravings at the same time.
HINT: Because vitamin C is somewhat acidic, I recommend rinsing your mouth with water afterward. If you are sensitive to acidity, you can also buy buffered vitamin C powder, such as calcium ascorbate, or non-acidic sodium ascorbate, or use the non- acidic chewable form. All these types of vitamin C are available at grocery; health food stores or online.
Warning: If you are a woman and, especially if you are pregnant or trying to get pregnant, please take vitamin C with bioflavonoids and don’t take large doses for long. Vitamin C without bioflavonoids can prevent pregnancy and even induce a miscarriage, as it can interfere with hormone levels.
Dosage: Vitamin C - Up to 5000 mg of Vitamin C a day. Take a 250 mg chewable or Vitamin C spray every time you have a craving.
The deficiency of Vitamin D has substantial medical and psychological consequences. Every tissue in the body has vitamin D receptors, including the brain, heart, immune system and muscles, which means vitamin D is needed at every level for the body to function.
Vitamin D activates the genes that release dopamine and serotonin. So make sure you get at least 15 minutes of sun a day or take a vitamin D-3 supplement
Dosage: Vitamin D - 1,000 IU daily for every 11 kilos or 25 pounds of total body weight so if you weigh 150 pounds or 68 kgs, take 6000 ui a day. High potency Vitamin D - 5000IU
Supplements to help you relax, detox (and poop)...
When you quit smoking, you may temporarily turn into a seething, angry asshole. Or a weepy, emotional mess. This is partly due the chemical changes that occur within the brain and partly due to the fact you have used smoking as a way to deal with your emotions.
When your coping mechanism is taken away, your subconscious mind may overwhelm you and trigger a stress response in your nervous system and everything seems much more intense. This is annoying and incredibly frustrating for you, and the people around you.
Magnesium is an important mineral for proper nerve function. It calms the nervous system and helps relieve the stress of withdrawal symptoms. Magnesium is called ‘The Relaxing Mineral.” Magnesium is also essential for normal lung function. It acts as a bronchodilator, which allows for easier breathing.
One of the primary minerals that become deficient through smoking cigarettes is magnesium since it’s used in the body’s natural heavy metal detox process. When you take in heavy metal toxins from regular use of cigarettes, your magnesium reserves get used up very quickly. As a non-smoker, you will need to rebuild your magnesium levels, especially if you want to feel relaxed.
Greens are one of the best ways to add magnesium to your diet. Kelp is the highest food containing magnesium, weighing in at 760 milligrams of Magnesium per 3 1⁄2 ounces or 100 g serving. I recommend supplementing with kelp or Magnesium for an added magnesium boost.
Adding Epsom salts to a bath will also help you to relax and detox, as it floods your cells with magnesium. Take a 40-minute soak using 1 to 2 cups of Epsom salts. The first 20 minutes will help release toxins and the second 20 minutes you absorb magnesium. I also recommend adding 1 cup of baking soda and a few drops of lavender to your bath to help increase the therapeutic effects.
Dosage: Magnesium - 200 mg to 400 mg, 2 times a day, with or without food. I recommend one of the doses before bed to help with sleep.
NAC is an amino acid which is a precursor of glutathione, considered to be the most important antioxidant in the body. Glutathione plays a major role in detoxification and fighting oxidative stress. When someone gets sick or dies from a pain killer overdose, it is mostly due to the glutathione levels dropping.
NAC is commonly used in hospitals intravenously or orally for acute poisoning from pain-relieving drugs, liver failure, treatment of the flu, HIV infection and COPD. It’s extremely beneficial and protective of the liver and lungs.
If you take NAC before and after drinking alcohol, it significantly reduces hangovers or even stops you from having one. Trust me on this, I have tried this technique personally. 1200mgs before you drink and 1200 mgs before bed and you wake up feeling like you didn’t drink at all.
Studies have shown NAC to be helpful with reducing many different addictions like smoking, cocaine, marijuana, gambling as well as reducing habits like nail biting and hair pulling.
Warning: You do need to make sure you are taking Vitamin C with NAC, or you may have an increased risk of kidney stones.
Dosage: NAC (N-Acetyl-Cysteine) - 1200 mgs of NAC a day, with 2000 mgs of Vitamin C (to prevent kidney stones).
If you get ever constipated, my favorite supplement ever is MagO7, Oxygenating Digestive System Cleanser by Aerobic Life. When I quit smoking, I developed terrible constipation issues. I could go for up to a week without going. I wish I knew about MagO7 back then. I take it every night, and you just wake up in the morning and go to the toilet without needing coffee and a you-know-what.
Over time undigested food and waste can build up in the intestinal tract and colon, which can be a perfect breeding ground for harmful bacteria. Mag O7 Oxygen Cleanse works to break down and remove old debris out of your intestines and bowel. It also targets the harmful bacteria, while magnesium works to soften the intestinal build up and remove unwanted waste.
Dosage: Mag07 - Start with 3 pills at night, and if that doesn’t do trick, try 4 or 5 the next night. You can take it anytime if you are close to a toilet, I personally take 2 or 3 a night as a maintenance dose.
If constipation is a issue, try drinking 1 tablespoon of psyllium husks (the main ingredient in Metamucil) added to a large glass of water. Drink another glass of water straight afterward, to make sure the psyllium doesn’t absorb too much water as it passes through your digestive system.
You can build up to a dosage of 1 Tbsp three times a day. Make sure you down it quickly, otherwise it’s like trying to drink sludge.