Smoking is an addiction that is very difficult to change.  It involves more than breaking firm habits and strengthening willpower.  Studies show that 90 per cent of smokers who quit relapse within six months.  Many different techniques are available to help smokers quit, from nicotine patches to acupuncture.  Studies have shown that a combination of therapies is by far the most effective approach to smoking cessation.

Quitting smoking is paramount to achieving good health.  Even 20 minutes after smoking, blood pressure, pulse rate and body temperature return to normal.  Within 24 hours of quitting, chances of a heart attack decrease.  After one month, circulation improves, walking becomes easier, and lung function increases by 30 per cent.  However, it takes 15 years before the risk of heart disease becomes comparable to that of a non-smoker.  This means the sooner a smoker quits, the better!

Long-term smoking has been associated with increased lung cancer as well as various other cancers.  Smoking decreases physical endurance and lung function.  Nicotine specifically causes a decreased ability to smell and taste.  It also causes increased cholesterol and clotting.  Smoking during pregnancy causes damage to the developing fetus.

There are usually many withdrawal symptoms present when smokers quit.  Physical withdrawal is at its height within the first 2 weeks of quitting and this is usually when most quitters relapse.  Some common symptoms people can experience are increased appetite and weight gain.  Other withdrawal symptoms include irritability, impatience, anxiety, fatigue, difficulty concentrating and restlessness.

Naturopathic doctors utilize many modalities to help smokers quit.  Most commonly, they use botanical medicine, acupuncture, nutrition, and counselling.  For example, a herb called Lobelia inflata is used to decrease tobacco addiction.  Naturopathic doctors will often combine many herbs that work well together.  If Lobelia is used to help decrease cravings, then a herb such as Avena sativa may be used to help decrease symptoms of withdrawal.

Acupuncture, especially ear acupuncture, has been shown to be beneficial in helping decrease addictions and promote relaxation.  From a nutritional perspective, naturopathic doctors promote a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables.  Dietary habits, such as eating regularly and not skipping meals are also very important.  When quitting, it’s useful to have healthy snacks available so that your hands don’t feel empty.

Everyone smokes for different reasons and develops unique habits.  For this reason, counselling is done on an individual basis tailored to each person.  Research shows that quitting cold turkey is the most effective approach to prevent relapse.  Naturopathic doctors can help quitters avoid situations where there is the temptation to smoke, praise success for achieving goals, encourage healthy alternatives and be available for when quitters need someone to talk to.

Quitting smoking is a daunting task.  So many factors are involved in the process, from the decision to quit all the way to avoiding the temptation to relapse.  It is important to have help from someone who can provide support.  Naturopathic medicine utilizes several techniques to help you through this challenging transformation.