How Smoking Impacts Nutrition

Not so long ago, smoking was seen as a glamorous, sexy activity. Sure, it might appear harmless especially when resting on soft, pillowy lips surrounded by a youthful, smooth complexion. However, by today’s social standards, smoking is not nearly revered in the same favorable light of past! Aside from the fact that smoking is growing more and more socially unacceptable, did you know that smoking interferes with your body’s ability to use nutrients, which is likely the reason why so many preventable diseases are otherwise linked to regular use of cigarettes? A recent study conducted by professors at Berkeley shows that smoking influences nutrition in ways that cannot be accounted for in diet alone. So, is it the nicotine or other toxic substances found in cigarettes which impact nutritional health?

Nicotine acts as a stimulant on the central nervous system and also has a number of metabolic effects. It increases overall metabolism, raises blood pressure, changes muscle tension and affects certain brain chemicals and hormones. These and other chemical changes create a pleasurable sensation in the smoker that is felt as relaxation. This “pleasure sensation” is one of the elements that makes cigarettes so addictive. However, as pleasurable as the initial sensation of smoking a cigarette may be, it is outweighed by the numerous means in which cigarettes cause systemic devastation. Not only do both nicotine and the toxic chemicals contained in cigarettes, drain the body of vitamins and minerals, but they block absorption of vital nutrients, as well. Here are a few considerations:

  • Smoking just one cigarette robs the body of 25 mg of vitamin C (the amount of vitamin C in an orange). Vitamin C is an important disease-prevention antioxidant. Smoking accelerates the production of free radicals (the body’s version of “exhaust fumes”) which causes tissue and organ damage. The body fights back with antioxidants like Vitamin C but because smoking depletes Vitamin C levels, the body may be unable to fight these free radicals. Free radical build-up is directly related to a number of bodily maladies and diseases, everything from cancer to skin wrinkles.
  • Smoking affects the metabolization of vitamin D, which aids in and improves the absorption of calcium. This contributes to smokers’ higher risk of osteoporosis. Additionally, Vitamin D is now known to be one the strongest means of boosting immunity against a number of preventable diseases. Most Americans do not get enough vitamin D as it is and smoking depletes blood levels even further.
  • Smoking has been related to hardened arteries, otherwise known as atherosclerosis. Although vitamin E is believed to help inhibit fatty deposits on the inner walls of the arteries, smoking further deters the absorption of vitamin E and limits the effectiveness of this powerful antioxidant.
  • Iron is a key component to red blood cell production and Vitamin C is necessary for  iron absorption.  Since most smokers have limited Vitamin C sources, most also have decreased red blood cell counts. The decrease in the numbers of healthy blood cells leads to a condition called Vitamin Deficiency Anemia for which symptoms include fatigue, diarrhea, muscle weakness, irritability, confusion and forgetfulness.
  • Smoking has also been found to impact the absorption of Vitamin A, which can result in eyesight decline and the development of serious eye conditions. Vitamin A deficiency is also associated with respiratory impairment, including airway hyperactivity or spasms.
  • SIDE NOTE: According to the American Council on Science and Health, smoking alters bodily concentrations of a number of hormones, specifically reproductive and sex hormones, thereby impacting libido and fertility. Women who smoke cigarettes are three times likelier than non-smoking women to have difficulty conceiving as well as carrying to full-term, particularly after the age of 30. Men who smoke moderately may experience a type of erectile dysfunction termed “vascular impotence”, occurring as a result of restricted blood flow. To further, heavy smoking has been connected to a high risk of impotence.

Obviously, if you smoke, you need to quit. Not only are you compromising your system with  so many unnecessary and harmful toxins, smoking further disables the natural detoxification process that occurs in the body…it’s a double-whammy! I beg you, please STOP!

But, if you can’t quit  or aren’t interested in quitting, then I highly suggest supplementation in combination with an anti-inflammatory diet:

  • Vitamin D3 (and daily sunshine exposure)
  • Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid)
  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)
  • Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)
  • Vitamin B3 (Niacin)
  • Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid)
  • Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)
  • Calcium
  • Zinc
  • Coenzyme Q10
  • Vitamin A (naturally occurring Beta-carotene)
  • Additional Considerations? Ginkgo Biloba Leaf Powder, Inositol, Rutin, Citrus Bioflavonoid Complex and Choline Bitartrate

Quit the smokes for good in 2012 and welcome in a long life of health and happiness!

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