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Nutritional Deficiencies, Toxicities and Risks Associated with Smoking
Many people don’t know that tobacco actually used to be used as a medicine back in the day. It had hundreds of healing purposes and was considered a cure-all by Native Americans. Despite this, tobacco has had a rocky journey through history. Some cultures revered it for its healing properties and others made it completely illegal once they learned its addictive qualities and its link to cancer. It was as early as 1826 that they learned about nicotine and how it can damage health, but cigarettes and cigars were a booming business by 1900 (because even then, all people cared about was money and profit). You can read more about the history of tobacco here.
Toxins and Risks
We all know about the risks of smoking- lung cancer, tooth decay, heart disease, COPD, toxic matter build-up, and more. Obviously the tobacco of today is different than it was over 100 years ago. Now there is about 7000 different chemicals in modern cigarettes, most of them toxic or carcinogenic. Some of these include formaldehyde, cadmium, lead, arsenic, ammonia, butane, and carbon dioxide. We are going to talk about a few of these toxins and what they do to the body.
This is a toxic heavy metal that builds up in the body. Smokers have at least twice the amount of cadmium in their bodies as non smokers. Hair tissue mineral analysis is a good way to determine this toxicity. Cadmium is better absorbed when inhaled, like with smoking. This heavy metal contributes to heart diseases, cancer, diabetes, and it interferes with a lot of essential nutrients in the body.
This is a chemical that is used to embalm dead bodies (um, gross!). It is one of the main chemicals that causes nose, eye and throat irritation while smoking.
This is another heavy metal that can build up with chronic exposure. HTMA does detect this metal as well. There is a long list of symptoms associated with arsenic toxicity that you can find in this article.
This is a chemical that was used in the gas chambers in Nazi Germany- it is now commonly found in cigarette smoke.
Nutritional Deficiencies associated with Smoking
There is a harsh cycle that happens with smoking. Starting it creates an addiction, which creates nutrient deficiencies, which in turn creates an even worse addiction. Trying to quit smoking can prove very problematic for people as the withdrawal process can be uncomfortable and unbearable. Perhaps a different approach is needed to help people stop poisoning themselves with cigarettes.
Magnesium, zinc, vitamin C, and B vitamins are the main deficiencies created by smoking. Toxins attack our nutrients to begin with, but since most people are also on a “Standard American Diet” smokers can become doubly deficient in crucial vitamins and minerals.
Magnesium and zinc especially have a huge relationship when it comes to the addictive aspect of smoking. This amazing study gets into much more detail about magnesium, zinc, and tobacco addiction. Low magnesium actually can CAUSE someone to because addicted to nicotine. Zinc has a relationship with the nicotine receptors in the brain. Both zinc and magnesium were low in the hair tests of smokers, plus urinary zinc was increased. This loss of zinc also can create a copper imbalance which further perpetuates the addiction. A hair tissue mineral analysis is a great place to start to find out your zinc and magnesium levels. There are also blood tests that can help- Magnesium RBC, zinc plasma, ceruloplasmin and copper serum.
Vitamin C is an important antioxidant that smokers burn through. The toxins in the cigarettes made the body use more vitamin C in order to neutralize the damage caused. Vitamin C is a VERY important nutrient for health and a deficiency can create a lot of symptoms like poor wound healing, increased instance of colds and flu, plus adrenal fatigue. We do NOT want ascorbic acid though when it comes to vitamin C. Read more here.
B Vitamins are so crucial for the nervous system and for managing stress in the body. The toxins in cigarettes burn through B vitamins like crazy, creating several more deficiencies. Smoking triggers stress hormones to release, which also depletes B vitamin, vitamin C, magnesium and zinc.
Ways to help people to quit smoking
Obviously the first course of action would be to assess your mineral levels with the HTMA and blood tests I mentioned above. Restoring vitamins and minerals could eliminate your addiction with minimal discomfort.
There are many other natural ways to help cessation of smoking:
- Fresh Lime
- Rhodiola (an adaptogen)
- Oatstraw infusions and overall nervous system healing
- Homeopathy– Finding a homeopath to go over your specific issues is best but some common remedies for smoking cessation include arnica, tabacum, and caladium. Homeopathy will help address the emotional reasons that might keep you smoking as well.
No matter which way you chose, always try to have a friend in your life to support you and to help you through it when times get tough. You don’t have to go through anything alone!
Quitting smoking can be hard but it is worth it because not only will your health improve, but you will be protecting your family and friends from second and third hand smoke. Because when you smoke, it not only harms you- it harms your loved ones as well. Whether it is from the side effects of second hand smoke or if it is because you become ill from smoking- your loved ones do not want to see you suffer!
Have you quit smoking successfully? What has helped you?
Read more about smoking and nutritional depletion: