Run by Public Health England, Stoptober is a nationwide, 28 day, stop smoking challenge, which takes place during the month of October. Participants are encouraged to support one another in the challenge to quit and sign up to receive helpful free resources. By quitting for four weeks smokers are five times more likely to stay smoke free. So, to support this, we asked Nutritional Therapist Natasha Wilcock for some nutritional insight and advice to help smokers give up.
A healthy diet when trying to quit can be a great support as smokers are more likely to have multiple nutritional deficiencies that can contribute to smoking-related diseases and poor wellbeing. Here are some tips, to help you to keep healthy as you quit smoking:
1. Ensure you get plenty of Vitamin C!
Vitamin C depletion has been shown to occur in smokers(1), so ensuring adequate and regular fruit intake every day can help to address this. Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that plays a critical role in the immune system and is also necessary for collagen synthesis (the process of collagen creation in the body), which explains why smokers get more wrinkles. Vitamin C has also been shown to largely stop the serious depletion of Vitamin E that is prevalent in those who smoke, ensuring increased antioxidant protection and therefore decreased risk of cellular damage, including cancer(2).
2. Visit your doctor to get Vitamin D levels checked
It’s extremely important that smokers, and ex-smokers, are encouraged to speak to their doctor about getting their Vitamin D levels tested. Smoking is associated with low levels of Vitamin D in the blood and research shows that this is bad news for those at risk from smoking-related diseases. Vitamin D is classically recognised as working in conjunction with parathyroid hormone (regulates calcium levels in a person’s body) to maintain calcium and phosphate levels in the blood, and indeed studies have shown that smokers are at an increased risk of bone-related disease such as osteoporosis(3). But lesser known is its protective tole against the damaging effects of smoking on lung function(4), with lower lung function and more rapid lung function decline associated with the deficiency. Another study in Clinical Chemistry showed that tobacco-related cancers are more prevalent in those smokers with lower Vitamin D levels(5). Overall, Vitamin D seems to provide a protective effect from respiratory ailments and lung disease that smokers are more susceptible to.
3. Get plenty of B Vitamins
Other important nutrients that can be depleted through smoking include B12 and folate(6), part of the group of B Vitamins. B vitamins are real ‘multi-taskers’ and involved in everything from cognitive function and mood, to energy production, fertility and heart health. B12 naturally occurs in seafood, red and white meats, as well as other animal derived products such as butter, eggs and cheese. Folate (the naturally occurring form of synthetic folic acid) is found in good amounts in green leafy vegetables, broccoli, citrus and legumes.
4. Drink plenty of water
When smokers first quit they often find they suffer with a dry throat or persistent cough. This is usually a sign that the body is trying to get rid of the toxins accumulated from smoking, and drinking plenty of water will help this process.
5. Cut down on caffeine
Avoiding caffeine as much as possible can also be useful as not only is it dehydrating, but can also increase irritability and reduce quality of sleep, making anyone more likely to reach for the cigarettes.