According to the Centers for Disease Control, tobacco use is the number one preventable cause of disability, disease and death in the United States. Every year 480,000 Americans die premature deaths from smoking. Despite these grim statistics, most smokers find it difficult to quit. However, if you’re looking for some natural ways to quit smoking, you’re in luck. New research out of Israel shows consumption of omega-3 fatty acids could significantly reduce cravings and provide a safe and natural way to help smokers kick the habit.
Moth to the Flame
Why is it so hard to quit smoking? Tobacco use is a chronic disease and smokers quickly become addicted due the nicotine in cigarettes and other tobacco products. When they inhale or ingest the nicotine, in some way it causes the adrenal glands to release adrenaline, which stimulates the body’s central nervous system. Just like cocaine and heroin, nicotine increases levels of dopamine, the neurotransmitter that controls the pathways to the reward and pleasure centers in the brain.
Many smokers long to quit permanently, but most fail after repeated attempts. The withdrawal symptoms are terrible and are often a combination of the following:
Intense cravings for nicotine
An inability to focus or concentrate
Those who seek treatment to stop smoking may have some initial success, but often relapse after a stressful event, or they dislike the side effects of anti-smoking medications and stop using them.
In a strictly controlled study conducted in Israel, the test subjects were 48 smokers between the ages of 18 and 45 who smoked a daily average of 14 cigarettes. All the participants had been smoking an average of 11 years and were diagnosed with a moderate dependency on nicotine. The test participants were divided into two groups: one that received omega-3 capsules and one that received a placebo.
The study was conducted as a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled research project, meaning neither the participants nor the researchers knew who received the omega-3 capsules and who received a placebo. None of the participants were asked to change their smoking habits in any way.
Throughout the 30-day study, levels of nicotine cravings and the number of cigarettes smoked per day were recorded by the participants. At the beginning of the study neither group showed any difference in smoking habits. However, after 30 days the omega-3 supplement takers had reduced their average cigarettes smoked per day by two. They also recorded greatly reduced nicotine cravings. Even another 30 days after they stopped taking the omega-3 supplements, those participants reported less intense cravings.
The group taking the placebo showed no measurable decrease in nicotine cravings nor did they reduce the average number of cigarettes smoked per day.
How Omega-3 Fatty Acids Can Help
Levels of essential fatty acids like omega-3s are reduced in the brain by smoking. Being deficient in these levels appears to cause damage to the nerve cells, interrupting the transmission of feelings of pleasure and satisfaction in the brain. Smokers often having difficulty making decisions and experience reduced feelings of satisfaction by their accomplishments or efforts because of a lack of this vital nutrient.
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What’s worse, not only is tobacco oppressing good feelings in the brain, it also interferes with your flight-or-fight response. Just one stressful event can lead to a relapse for smokers trying to quit because of their reduced ability to handle stress.
Omega-3 fatty acids seem to reduce cravings for nicotine and help the brain cope better with pressure and stress. Smoking has already been linked to depression and other mental disorders, so it’s not surprising that regular tobacco users experience less satisfaction and have more difficulty dealing with pressure, rejection or stress.
Safe, Natural and Healthy
Using omega-3 fatty acid supplements is one of the best natural ways to quit smoking because it is inexpensive and easy to obtain. Plus, omega-3s have a long list of other health benefits besides helping you to quit smoking, such as reducing your risk of developing heart disease, stroke and some cancers. It also helps keep your skin clear and supple and your hair shiny and strong; two things that also are greatly damaged by smoking.
Great food sources of omega-3 fatty acids are:
Fish (especially salmon and trout)
Flax, Olive, Canola, Coconut and Hemp Seed Oils
Since the study participants were taking larger doses than is generally recommended, it would be virtually impossible to get enough omega-3 fatty acids through food alone to help with smoking cessation. A supplement combined with adding foods rich in the essential acid is the best way to keep those levels high in the brain and help stave off nicotine cravings.