Kick your butts to the curb
Now is always the best time to quit smoking. Chinese medicine can help kick your butts to the curb and mitigate the oxidative damage that smoking causes. With the five pillars of Chinese Medicine, your acupuncture physician can help guide you through your journey to wean off nicotine. There are many supportive lifestyle changes you can make to help ease the journey.
In Chinese medicine, the theory goes that smoking creates a dry type of heat in the lungs, which is not good for health. For current smokers and new quitters, I recommend they consume organic pears and apples, which replenishes the moisture the lungs need to function properly.
Some studies have found quitters who ate more servings of salads or fruits and vegetables in general had better quit rates. Either way, that’s not a bad diet recommendation. Smoking depletes antioxidants, so current and former smokers need more than the average person.
When the jitters hit, have cough drops or hard candies handy to distract you and give your mouth something to do.
Staying hydrated also plays a big role in the quitting process. Lemon and lime water can help flush the body of the toxins inhaled during smoking, and it’s important to rid your body of that nicotine “taste” as soon as possible.
Remember, quitting smoking is a detox process. A good diet and plenty of fluids will help make that easier.
Many patients worry that quitting smoking will lead to weight gain. It happens a lot, so talk with your health care team and develop a plan that will work for you.
Exercise is also a good distraction for when the cravings hit. Tai chi and yoga, which are meditative exercises, can help still the jittery mind. Aerobic exercise helps you sweat, which is another way to excrete the chemicals from smoking.
Remember to check with your health care team before starting any new program and stay hydrated before, during and after exercise.
Quitting smoking is stressful, and there’s no sense denying that. Massage is a great way to reduce emotional and physical stress, plus it also helps improve circulation. Self-massage is also effective, according to a study published in 1999 that taught patients how to massage their hand or ear to help reduce cravings. (1) I’ll talk more about that in the acupuncture section.
Chiropractic focuses on maximizing the function of your nervous system, so it’s a great adjunct during the detox process while your nervous system adjusts to your new nicotine-free reality. Remember, your body has not only become accustomed to having nicotine, but now believes nicotine is necessary to function well, and it will take time to re-educate your nervous system.
There are quitting smoking teas you can get from Chinese import stores or your acupuncture physician. Personally, my patients report so-so results with the tea, so I just steer them in the direction of a good green tea, which has been shown to reduce oxidative damage in smoke-exposed rats. (2) Most stop smoking teas have a base of green tea anyway, so just pick one you like and learn to brew it correctly. You can drink it hot or iced, and it pairs nicely with honey and lemon. (Check out my previous article on green tea for tips).
If you are interested in herbal medicine, your acupuncture physician will most likely prescribe a formula that improves your constitution or addresses specific health problems, along with guiding you in the right direction for any nutritional supplements you may need.
Acupuncture can help your body adjust to your new, smoke-free reality. There are several options to help you navigate this new reality: full-body acupuncture, NADA and ear seeds.
A full-body acupuncture session addresses constitutional complaints and acute problems. It takes longer because your acupuncture physician will talk to you before each session, check your tongue and/or pulse, and come up with a Chinese medicine differential diagnosis, before needling you. Needles are typically placed in the head, torso, arms and legs while you lay down on a treatment table. A full session typically takes around an hour.
NADA is a specific set of protocols for needling points in the ear based on whatever addictions need to be addressed — eating, smoking, alcohol, etc. Needles are placed in the ears only, based on the protocol needed, and there is no diagnosis involved, so it takes less time, too. You can read or sit in a chair during this type of treatment, to help distract you. This is a good treatment to get on your lunch break, for example.
Remember that bit about self-massage on the ear for reducing cravings? A treatment with ear seeds is a lot like a NADA protocol treatment, except you keep the seeds on your ears for about five days, and you press them and massage your ear during the day when you have cravings. You can do this treatment by itself, or with acupuncture or NADA treatments.
Last but not least, do not underestimate the power of personal support. It may not have its own pillar in Chinese medicine, but having your own cheer squad of family, friends and health care professionals is vital for your success. A study released this month found that a combination of counseling and exercise encouraged people to try quitting more often and also reduced the amount smoked, although it was the counseling that had the most effect. (3) So before you quit, ask for help and set up a reward system for yourself for every day you resist smoking. Every day you don’t smoke is a victory for your health, even if it takes you multiple tries. So don’t give up if it takes you a few tries to get it right.
You weren’t born a smoker, and with the help of Chinese medicine, you can kick those butts to the curbs — for good.
Nicole Noles Collins is a licensed acupuncture physician and massage therapist in Florida. Nicole has two bachelor's degrees - Alternative Medicine and Professional Health Sciences - as well as a master's degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine. She has a passion for both writing and natural health. Please visit her website at www.vitalichiacupuncture.com and like her Facebook page at Vitalichi Acupuncture. For more information, call 941-979-9793.
1.) Smoking cravings are reduced by self-massage. Prev Med. 1999 Jan. 2.) Chinese green tea consumption reduces oxidative stress, inflammation and tissues damage in smoke exposed rats. Iran J Basic Med Sci. 2014 Oct. 3.) An exploratory analysis of the smoking and physical activity outcomes from a pilot randomized controlled trial of an exercise assisted reduction to stop (EARS) smoking intervention in disadvantaged groups. Nicotine Tob Res. 2015 May 11