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  • Writer's pictureCrabtree Nutrition

Eat to Quit

Good Nutrition can be really helpful in supporting you when you quit smoking. A healthy, nutrient dense diet can help support your body whilst you give up the physiological addiction by reducing cravings, helping you deal better with stress and stabilising your mood, as well as replacing the nutrients that smoking depletes and supporting efficient elimination of nicotine and other toxins from the body.

Balancing your blood sugar levels

Imbalanced blood sugar levels can be responsible for cravings, weight gain, tiredness, irritability, mood swings, headaches and anxiety of all which may be associated with quitting smoking. The body needs a steady supply of fuel in order to function optimally. The preferred source of fuel is sugar (glucose) which is released from carbohydrates during digestion. Too much glucose in the blood is dangerous for the body so the body controls glucose levels within a tight range. Refined carbohydrates cause our blood sugar level to rise rapidly, resulting in a blood sugar high. In response, the body stores the sugar away quickly, causing an inevitable blood sugar low. It is these peaks and troughs in our blood sugar levels are responsible for the symptoms of imbalanced blood sugar levels. Other factors such as stimulants (nicotine, alcohol, caffeine) and stress cause a similar rush of glucose into the bloodstream and thus also contribute to blood sugar imbalance. Making changes to your diet can really help to balance blood sugar levels and reduce the symptoms experienced. Eating small regular meals and snacks throughout the day, choosing complex carbohydrates rather instead of refined carbohydrates, including protein with each meal and snack and avoiding stimulants will all help to stabilise blood sugar levels.

Improving your response to stress

The adrenal glands are responsible for your body’s response to stress. A stressful lifestyle can increase the levels of stress hormones and increasing blood sugar levels. Whilst many smokers believe that smoking helps to alleviate stress this is actually an illusion. This is because nicotine triggers the release of a brain chemical called dopamine that causes an initial sense of calm and well-being, and causes your body to crave that sensation again and again. In reality, nicotine is a powerful adrenal stimulant, greatly increasing stress on the body – it causes a rush of glucose into the blood, increased blood pressure and heart rate, muscles to tense, blood vessels to constrict and less oxygen is available to the brain and body to facilitate healthy coping. When you give up smoking it is common to feel tired and stressed as your stress hormones adjust and rebalance. Choosing foods that are rich in vitamin C, vitamin B5, magnesium and essential fats should help you deal better with stress. Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables, nuts and seeds, oily fish, lean meat and eggs.

Alkalising your diet

A diet rich in acid-forming foods can deplete your body of minerals, which are used by to buffer the acidity and keep its pH balanced. Minerals such as magnesium are essential for blood sugar balance, supporting the stress response and preventing cravings. Choosing alkalising foods should help reduce cravings and help you to deal better with stress. Eat a diet rich in vegetables and wholegrains such as buckwheat and millet and minimise meat and dairy products.

Boosting your mood

In addition to balancing blood sugar levels and dealing better with stress, supporting the production of the brain chemical, serotonin, and including plenty of essential fats in your diet should help boost your mood.

Nicotine increases the level of the ‘happy hormone’ serotonin, so quitting smoking tends to lower serotonin levels which may lead to symptoms such as depression and irritability. Supporting the production of serotonin, by eating foods rich in tryptophan should improve your mood. Eat tryptophan rich foods such as turkey, almonds, tofu and eggs.

Supporting healthy elimination of nicotine

The liver is responsible for detoxification of toxins and chemicals, including nicotine. Regular bowel movements will ensure that these toxins are efficiently eliminated. Providing nutrients that help the liver to work optimally will help the liver to work efficiently. Exercise, sweating, and drinking plenty of water will further support the liver. Choosing organic foods will reduce the number of toxins the liver has to deal with. A diet high in fibre, magnesium alongside regular exercise and plenty of water will support regular bowel movements. Eat wholegrains, plenty of fruit and vegetables and drink around 2L of water per day to support your liver.

Hannah Crabtree is a Registered Nutritional Therapist. Her aim is to empower others to achieve optimum health and wellbeing. Recognising that everybody is unique she works together with each individual, focussing on their unique symptoms, diet and lifestyle to design individualised nutrition and lifestyle programmes that meet their values and preferences in a way that is achievable for them. If you are interested in a consultation or finding out how nutritional therapy may be able to support you, please email or call Hannah on 07865 049 237


Nicolle L, Bailey C (2013) The Functional Medicine Cookbook. London, Singing Dragon. Institute for Optimum Nutrition (1999) Quit Smoking. Accessed:, 1st June 2015. Singer S, Rossi S, Verzosa S, Hashim A, Lonow R, Cooper T, Sershen H, Lajtha A (2004) Nicotine-induced changes in neurotransmitter levels in brain areas associated with cognitive function. Neurochemical Research, 29: 1779-1792. Murray M, Pizzorno J, Pizzorno L (2010) The encyclopaedia of healing foods. London, Piatkus. Stokes C (2008) Eat yourself happy – nutritional therapy in practice. In Watts M, ed. Nutrition and Mental Health: a handbook. Brighton, Pavilion Publishing, p143-149.

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