The Damaging Effects of Smoking

Behaviour, Asthma, Immune | March 31, 2017 | Author: Naturopath

reflux, smoking, cancer

The Damaging Effects of Smoking

Long before the Europeans made their way to North America from England, Spain, France and Italy, Tobacco was cultivated by American Indians. The Native Americans smoked tobacco using pipes for religious and medicinal purposes and was not to be smoked everyday.  Tobacco’s genus, Nicotiana, covers over 70 species with the most famous of these being the widely used Nicotiana Tabacum. This herb was consumed in many different ways, including chewing, smoking, eating, sniffing, juicing, smearing over bodies and was even used as an enema.

It was only later in the 1800s when tobacco was packaged and commercialized as ready-rolled that the use of tobacco became somewhat adulterated.

Today, cigarettes are smoked by over 1 billion people worldwide. While smoking rates have declined to some extent, it is a fact that the addiction is responsible for around 6 million deaths each year. More than 5 million of these deaths are the result of direct tobacco use whereas over 600 000 of those deaths are the result of exposure to second-hand smoke by non-smokers.

According to the American Lung Association, tobacco cigarettes contain more than 600 ingredients and generate more than 7000 chemicals when burned. Most of these chemicals are highly poisonous while at least 69 of those chemicals can cause cancers.

The active compound in tobacco, nicotine, is a potent stimulant and depressant drug that stimulates one or more systems in the body while relaxing the musculoskeletal system. Upon inhalation, nicotine promotes the release of the adrenaline hormone, epinephrine. Needless to say, smoking does insurmountable damage to health and well-being, ravaging through the various organic systems of the body.

The respiratory system

The substances contained in cigarettes, especially tar, build up onto the lungs. This can cause the lungs to become clogged, preventing efficient breathing.

In the short term, the effect of inefficient breathing is that the lungs are unable to receive a healthy amount of oxygen and leads to an increased susceptibility to lung infections, colds and flu.

In the long term, the harmful chemicals build up and compromise the ability of the lungs to filter harmful toxins, the air sacs are destroyed and the lining of the bronchial tubes become inflamed. These effects may lead to forms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and lung cancer.. 

The cardiovascular system

Nicotine stimulates the release of adrenaline; the hormone that in turn stimulates the heart to pump blood faster. Adrenaline is the hormone that is necessary during emergency situations, when the body’s internal sympathetic system is activated for “flight or fight” responses. This increase in cardiovascular activity is desirable to maintain good heart health and promotes optimal circulation when applied appropriately such as during exercise. The increase in cardiovascular activity through smoking, however, is rather undesirable as the effects of smoking are such that the musculoskeletal system is depressed, both by the nicotine as well as the state of relaxation and/or inactivity that is usually assumed while smoking. The paradoxical combination of the increased cardiovascular activity and musculoskeletal inactivity leads to a variety of unhealthy cardiovascular complexes, including increased blood pressure, increased heart rate, increased potential for blood clotting, damage to blood vessels and/or arteries, among many other problems that may lead to further complications such as heart attacks and stroke.

The central nervous system

The central nervous system, as the term suggests, is essentially the central location from which and to which all the nerves in the body are connected. When particular nerves in the brain are stimulated, the relevant nervous pathways will be proportionately influenced.

The nicotine drug contained in tobacco is a nervous system stimulant that tends to make the smoker feel somewhat energized.

The side effect of nicotine, however, is that as soon as the drug’s level drops in the bloodstream, it causes the withdrawal syndrome that includes lethargy and other nervous symptoms such as anxiety, irritability or depression. The brain then sends the demand for more nicotine in order to relieve these uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms; an effect that is interpreted as a “craving” for cigarettes. This is the reason that nicotine is habit forming.

The digestive system

The digestive tract refers to and includes the body’s gastrointestinal tract, as well as the liver, pancreas, and gallbladder. The highly poisonous chemicals contained in cigarettes such as cyanide, for example, whose mechanism of toxicity occurs because the poison prevents the cells from their natural ability to use oxygen, are the causes of many common digestive problems among smokers.

Some of the most common digestive problems experienced by smokers include mouth ulcers, gum inflammation (gingivitis) or infection (periodontitis), to more serious and debilitating digestive problems such as heartburn, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), peptic ulcers, Crohn’s disease, pancreatitis, liver disease and even increases the risk of developing gallstones.

 

Smoking is also responsible for the loss of as well as inadequate intake of vital nutrients due to such factors such as appetite suppression and nutrient depletion.

The reproductive system

With more than 7000 chemicals circulating the entire body with each cigarette that is smoked, it may not be surprising to find that smoking tobacco has detrimental effects on reproductive system health. Due to numerous factors, such as the restriction of blood flow as an effect of smoking, both the male and female sexual vitality and fertility is affected. Men who smoke may be plagued with sexual and reproductive problems such as weak erection, premature ejaculation, low sperm count and low sperm mortality. It is also believed that women who smoke tobacco products are at a higher risk for polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), ovarian cancer, problems with ovulation, difficulty falling pregnant, higher risk of complications during pregnancy such as preeclampsia, as well as the elevated risk of having babies with birth defects.

Skin, Hair and Nails

The skin, as the body’s largest organ, first line of defense and reflection of the body’s internal state of health, is probably the best evidence of damaging effects of smoking.

The harmful chemicals in tobacco systematically change the actual structure of the skin. Smokers are prone to blemishes, skin discoloration, acne, wrinkles and premature aging.

The teeth and nails are also stained to a yellowish tinge by the chemicals contained in tobacco, especially tar, as the substance comes into contact with these.

Besides harboring the smell of tobacco, the hair of smokers also tends to thin out and lose color, volume and body. The effects of smoking on the appearances may be a very big contributor to the loss of self-esteem and confidence in smokers, which in turn can lead to an array of social and psychological problems.

Help with Quitting

What makes people want to stop smoking is usually a desire for better health.

The first step is to establish a "Motivation Plan" that makes healthy eating and exercise the focus. Making a plan can keep you motivated on the end goal - a healthy, happy you!

Diet

The diet should contain wholesome "close to nature" foods to help replenish and repair the damage that has been done to the cells.

Enjoy a wide variety of vegetables and fruits - the more colourfull the more protective antioxidants. The fibre found in fruit and vegetables will also help removal of damaging toxins from the body.

Include regular amounts of lean protein from fish, chicken, lean meats, legumes, eggs, nuts, seeds and grains - protein is the building block of the body and will help with sugar cravings. 

Drink plenty of Water 

Water helps remove toxins through and out of the body. Drinking a glass of water every time you experience a craving may help and also bring your focus back to health.

Focus on Fitness

Exercise helps to rebuild the strength of the body as a whole, especially the cardiovascular system and the immune system.

Add in Yoga and Tai chi to help with focus, calm the nerves and help relax the body.

By establishing a good excercise routine, you will keep focused on health and the reward is a strong, fit body with renewed energy and vigour. 

Nutrients To Help

Multivitamins                

Smoking causes deficiency of a number of vital nutrients in our body. Vitamin B  is needed for many and various actions in the body. When quitting smoking nourishing the nervous system and supporting energy needs is very important. Vitamin A is beneficial for repairing damaged mucus linings while Vitamin E repairs and reverses cell damage. Sometimes it is hard to get all your nutrients from food and this is where taking a multivitamin can help

Magnesium

Magnesium helps regulate the nervous system which is absolutely essential in times of stress. Giving up smoking is stressful! Irritability, anxiety and depression can be experienced from the lack of nicotine. Magneium can bring back the balance of this important system.

Herbs to help

Herbal medicine aims to support the body by reducing the effect of withdrawel symptoms. Nervine herbs and herbal tonics help relax the body, to balance mood, support sleep and reduce feelings of anxiety and depression.

Useful herbs include panax gingseng, rhodiola, withania, german chamomile, passionflower, st johns wort and astragalus.

Tonic herbs are usually considered adaptagenic meaning they will address all areas of the body needing support - the nervous system, immune system and adrenal system for energy and vitality. 

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References

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.The Health Consequences of Smoking—50 Years of Progress: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2014 [accessed 2015 Oct 5].

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. How Tobacco Smoke Causes Disease: What It Means to You. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2010 [accessed 2015 Oct 5].

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. QuickStats: Number of Deaths from 10 Leading Causes—National Vital Statistics System, United States, 2010. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 2013:62(08);155. [accessed 2015 Oct 5].

Mokdad AH, Marks JS, Stroup DF, Gerberding JL. Actual Causes of Death in the United States. JAMA: Journal of the American Medical Association 2004;291(10):1238–45 [cited 2015 Oct 5].

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Women and Smoking: A Report of the Surgeon General. Rockville (MD): U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Office of the Surgeon General, 2001 [accessed 2015 Oct 5].

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Reducing the Health Consequences of Smoking: 25 Years of Progress. A Report of the Surgeon General. Rockville (MD): U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 1989 [accessed 2015 Oct 5].

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