Thanks to public messaging, we are all aware of the negative health consequences of smoking. Smoking introduces tar into your lungs, and toxins into the bloodstream, that cause a long list of serious illnesses. Cigarette smoke contains a number of poisons and toxins, such as carbon monoxide, cadmium, arsenic, cyanide, benzene, ammonia, formaldehyde, and much more. Even nicotine is a poison, used to kill insects.
When you inhale these toxins, your body has to work overtime to counteract all of the negative health effects of tobacco. These harmful chemicals cause damage to tissues and cells in your body. Increased cellular damage requires that your body uses up any reserves of vitamins and minerals to repair itself, leaving little leftover for normal health maintenance. This often leads to nutritional deficiencies and a decline in health. Here is some example of the specific ways smoking leads to vitamin deficiencies.
Vitamin E is an antioxidant and one of the main vitamins used in the cellular repair, building red blood cells, and boosting your immune system. Smoking depletes vitamin E levels because so much of the vitamin is required to rebuild damaged lung and artery tissues. Smoking also causes damage to the mouth, throat, and many other body tissues that also require vitamin E for repair. When your cell does not get repaired, it can lead to cancer. Researchers have shown low levels of vitamin E are correlated with higher rates of cancer.
Smoking introduces a significant number of free radical into the bloodstream. Vitamin C is one of the body’s main antioxidants. It is required for the repair of every tissue in your body, from your skin to your liver cells. Research has shown that due to the high level of free radicals from cigarette smoke, each cigarette depletes your body of 25 mg of Vitamin C. Since vitamin C is vital to your immune system, many smokers tend to be sicker on average than non-smokers.
Despite marking messages, smoking actually causes a lot of stress on your body. When there are too many free radicals and not enough antioxidants, your body goes through something called oxidative stress. Other ways smoking causes stress are the stimulant nicotine causing spikes in blood pressure, and the carbon monoxide in cigarette smoke actually stealing oxygen from your bloodstream.
All these stress causes your body to react and release stress hormones, such as cortisol. When this happens, your body needs to use available B vitamins for the production of energy, metabolizing of food, all to counteract the stress. Prolonged stress can lead to serious health risks, such as anxiety, depression, premature aging, and heart disease. Also, stressful situations are one of the major triggers to smoke again, and stress, in general, makes it more difficult to adhere to a smoking cessation plan.
Omega-3 fatty acids are considered important for heart and brain health. It has also been studied for smoking cessation. Smoking has been shown to reduce levels of fatty acids in the brain, while higher levels of Omega-3 help with mental health, cravings, and impulse control. A deficiency in omega-3 damages the cellular structure of nerve cells and interrupts neurotransmission in areas of the brain involved with feeling pleasure and satisfaction.
These areas are essential in reward and decision-making. An Omega-3 deficiency makes it harder for the smoker’s body to deal with its craving for another cigarette. Studies have proven that an imbalance in omega-3 is also related to mental health, depression and the ability to cope with pressure and stress. A recent study showed that smokers, when supplemented with high doses of fish oil, significantly cut down on smoking levels, and showed a significant reduction in nicotine cravings, compared to a control group that was not given the supplement.
Supplementing Your Diet
Thankfully, it is possible to at least neutralize some of the negative health effects through proper nutrition, and even reverse some of the damage. Healthy raw foods such as fruits and vegetables have enzymes that can bind with compounds left in the mouth after smoking and produce an unpleasant aftertaste that the brain may learn to associate with tobacco. Also, there are many excellent multivitamins and herbal supplements that can help smokers improve their health, and begin to feel better. Health supplements will also make it easier to quit smoking when you feel ready. They will also be part of a smoking cessation plan, and help improves health after quitting.
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