Everyone knows that smoking is bad for your health. If you’re a smoker, you’ve probably heard it from your loved ones, ads on TV, and the warnings on cigarette boxes. The best-known risk from smoking is for lung conditions, such as asthma, emphysema, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and lung cancer. What many people don’t know is that the negative impact of smoking is much broader than lung and respiratory problems. Other health issues related to smoking include:
- Smoking harms your circulation and can cause damage to your heart. It increases your risk of heart disease, blood vessel damage, blood clots, and heart attacks.
- Impaired circulation from smoking increases your risk for a stroke and damage to the arteries that transport blood to your brain.
- Smoking can affect your fertility. In men, smoking increases the risk of impotence, lower sperm count, damaged sperm, and testicular cancer. In women, smoking can increase the time it takes to conceive and elevate your risk for cervical cancer. In pregnant women, it increases your chance of miscarriage, premature birth, and stillbirth.
- Smoking and chewing tobacco cause all kinds of damage to your throat and mouth, including a higher risk of cancer of the throat, esophagus, voice box, tongue, and lips. Also, tobacco stains your teeth, gives you bad breath, causes gum disease, and weakens your sense of taste and smell.
- In addition to lung cancer, smoking increases your risk of stomach cancer, head and neck cancers, and cancer of the kidney or pancreas.
- Your skin takes a hit from smoking, too. Impaired circulation decreases the amount of oxygen to your skin, speeds up aging, and gives you a dull complexion. It also promotes wrinkles, especially around your eyes and mouth.
Knowing how hard smoking is on your body, most people who smoke would like to quit or smoke less. However, tobacco is incredibly addictive because nicotine causes dopamine to be released in the pleasure and motivation regions of your brain—it feels good to smoke.
In fact, if you’ve ever tried to quit, you may have found that nicotine withdrawal symptoms began within a few hours of having your last cigarette. Those symptoms include irritability, sleep problems, cravings, increased appetite, and poor concentration. Nicotine withdrawal symptoms tend to peak within the first few days after quitting, and slowly subside within the next few weeks. That said, for some people, the symptoms can last for much longer, due to psychological dependence, which is a considerable part of nicotine addiction.
How Acupuncture Can Help You Quit Smoking
There’s no question; quitting smoking is hard, but there’s help in the form of acupuncture. Researchers have found that acupuncture can help smokers quit and remain tobacco-free for up to the five years that participants were followed. Study participants who had acupuncture to help them quit reported that cigarettes tasted worse and their desire to smoke was reduced.
There are a number of theories as to why acupuncture is so helpful in quitting, but a significant benefit of acupuncture is that it helps to stimulate your central nervous system. This in turn helps your body regulate the release of neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and endogenous opioids—both of which exert calming effects. This neurotransmitter action explains why acupuncture is so effective in treating anxiety, insomnia, addictions, and depression.
Ear acupuncture is used for a variety of conditions, but it’s especially helpful in treating addictions. A set of points in the ear, which was developed by the National Acupuncture Detoxification Association (NADA), has been used in countries around the world to help people overcome various kinds of addictions. Many patients undergoing ear acupuncture to help them quit smoking report a decrease in the frequency and intensity of nicotine cravings.
An additional benefit of acupuncture is that it helps to reduce chronic inflammation. It stimulates your body’s natural ability to heal the damage caused by smoking and help to break down and expel toxins, such as tar and nicotine in your lungs, and reduce phlegm.
What to Expect
At BodaHealth, acupuncture treatments for smoking cessation will include some body points to treat your specific needs and health concerns, along with the NADA ear acupuncture protocol. You may also leave the clinic with small “ear seeds”, which are tiny beads left on the ear points to prolong your treatment and allow you to stimulate the points to reduce cravings.
During the first two weeks after quitting, treatments should be three times per week, followed by twice a week for the following two weeks. After the fourth week, treatments are on an as-needed basis. This course of ten treatments is what we have found to be an ideal plan to help you get through the acute withdrawal stage. Cravings should decrease significantly during this time, and most patients find that their overall feelings of well-being have improved. You may feel very relaxed during your acupuncture treatment, and may even fall asleep. In addition to your acupuncture treatments, we will also make diet and lifestyle suggestions tailored to your overall health and personal needs.
The good news is that your body is programmed to heal and that healing begins as soon as you’ve had your last cigarette. Your heart rate and blood pressure begin to drop in as little as 20 minutes. A few days after quitting, the next positive effect is the carbon monoxide from smoking has been metabolized out of your body and your oxygen levels are back to normal. In the first three months, your lung function increases, and your circulation improves. After one to two years, your risk of having a heart attack is dramatically decreased. During the first year after quitting, shortness of breath and coughing decreases, and your lungs are able to move mucus out. The risk of infection at this point is greatly reduced. After ten years of not smoking, your overall risk of developing certain cancers is reduced, and your lung cancer risk is reduced by half. After 15 years of being a non-smoker, your risk for coronary heart disease is similar to that of non-smokers.
At BodaHealth, our goal is to help you get to that healthier place. We’ll support you through the acute phase of withdrawal and improve your chances of successfully kicking the nicotine habit. With regular treatments, you can expect to have reduced cravings and fewer withdrawal symptoms, such as feeling irritable, poor quality sleep, and restlessness. The bottom line is that quitting nicotine is hard. However, millions of people have done it, and at BodaHealth, we are committed to helping you quit, too. If you’re ready to become a non-smoker, book an appointment today with one of our acupuncturists and get started.
Dr. Jeda Boughton is a Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Registered Acupuncturist in Vancouver. She is also a Registered Herbologist and the founder of BodaHealth.