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Quit Smoking? Here's How Diet Can Help You Rebuild Your Health

So you have decided to kick the butt. Congratulations! While this may be good news for your body in general, the next logical step is to reverse the damage that smoking would have done to your body. On World No Tobacco Day, We bring tips on how you can begin to heal.

Tobacco accounts for about 7 million deaths every year across the globe according to the World Health Organisation and is one of the leading causes for lung cancer. Nicotine and the toxic substances found in cigarette smoke have a huge impact on the detoxification process of the body. Nicotine as such does not damage a person's health - it is the tar and carbon monoxide from the cigarettes that can cause cancer, lung disease and coronary heart disease.

Up In Smoke

But the ill effects of smoking go beyond just the senses. According to Dr Yashpal Sharma from PGI Chandigarh's Cardiology Department,

Smoking causes cell damage, which leads to diseases such as cancer, high cholesterol levels, coronary and circulatory problems, respiratory disorders and an increased risk of osteoporosis.

This is not just theoretical science. Bollywood superstar Hrithik Roshan, who gave up smoking after years of struggling with the habit, says,

Hrithik Roshan Working out after quitting smoking was tough initially. But it was a small price to pay for how my body felt. Before I quit, I had no idea that however much nutrition I may put into my body, I was literally just blowing it up in smoke!

Avni Kaul, nutritionist and wellness coach, founder of Nutri Activania, certified diabetes educator from Project Hope and International Diabetes Federation, Delhi says,

Smoking drains the body of many essential vitamins and minerals, affecting your ability to absorb these vital nutrients.

Smoking affects the body's ability to absorb a variety of vitamins and minerals including calcium and vitamins C and D. Smokers seem to have lower amounts of vitamins A, E, and C, the B-vitamin group and minerals such as selenium, zinc, copper, and iron. These deficiencies are caused by both decreased intake of nutrients, increased need of nutrients and other effects of smoking on the body. Smoking affects the way the body absorbs and uses nutrient because it narrows the blood vessels and can affect circulation.

Assessing the Damage

First things first.

Smoking irritates the nasal passage which can cause inflammation and impair your sense of smell. While this may not directly affect diet and nutrition but will undoubtedly influence your enjoyment of food by dulling taste, making food less palatable and therefore causing a lower intake of a variety of food, which results in eating less and not reaching proper nutrition levels.

Nicotine can rob the individual's body of essential vitamins and minerals.Avni Kaul, Nutritionist and Wellness CoachSmoking accelerates the production of free radicals and their presence can lead to organ and tissue damage. Smoking also results in poor absorption of Vitamin D. And this makes smokers at a high risk of osteoporosis. Nicotine can rob the individual's body of essential vitamins and minerals.

"The reduced oxygen supply from inhaling tobacco smoke also contributes to the dulling of flavour recognition in the mouth. When smokers stop they regain the sense of taste they had before they smoked and food really does taste better," says Kanishk Bhatia, a former smoker and present wellness consultant based in Florida.

A perpetual smoker, Saif Ali Khan wouldn't have even dreamt of giving up on this habit, had it not been for a heart-attack. The incident changed his life, and not only has he quit for good, but he also abstains from consuming alcohol.

Saif Ali KhanI think I also must thank Kareena for this - the kind of clean lifestyle she has introduced me to. I am eating cleaner and it is showing in how I feel and hopefully look.

If actor Arjun Rampal, who also successfully kicked the butt, is to be believed, "I had no idea my lacklustre skin was because of really low levels of Vitamin C that happened because of smoking! I could never really taste the proper tart taste of citrus fruits until after I quit smoking."

Avni Kaul explains the reason behind this and says,

Smoking causes most problems for vitamin C. Vitamin C is one of the body's main antioxidants. Antioxidants are linked to the prevention of a number of diseases. Vitamin C also helps you to absorb iron.

Rebuilding the Body After Quitting

Your body begins to repair itself almost immediately after you quit smoking. According to a report in WebMD, your heart rate drops within 20 minutes of smoking your last cigarette, and lung function begins to improve within 3 months of quitting.

Stopping smoking has a hugely positive impact on a person's health, energy and fitness. However, the rebuilding does not come easy.

Rishi Khanna, a former smoker-turned-bodybuilder The first two or three weeks of quitting can feel very difficult to get through for many smokers due to experiencing withdrawal symptoms and learning to cope with strong urges to smoke. However, after 48 hours the lungs are clear of carbon monoxide and by the end of day three breathing should become easier, bronchial tubes begin to relax and energy levels increase. After stopping smoking your circulation will also improve.

Adding to this, Dr Yashpal Sharma says, "Compared to smokers, ex-smokers have fewer days of illness, have better fitness and energy fitness levels, and are healthier and happier."

There aren't any foods that can prevent or undo the effects of smoking, but research indicates that some are better than others for former smokers. As your body undergoes the process of repairing themselves, you can enhance this transformation by eating healthy foods.

Many smokers consider stopping smoking but often are concerned by the myth that they will gain weight if they do. Avni Kaul suggests the following steps to manage weight:

Any former smoker needs to increase their vitamin C intake to around 2000mg a day. This can't be achieved by diet alone, so a supplement is needed," advises Rishi Khanna

Avni KaulSmokers tend to have vitamin depletion specifically of Vitamin C and Vitamin E. Vitamin C is needed for immunity and is present in amla, guava, strawberry, lemon, tomatoes and broccoli.

"Vitamin E helps to scavenge free radicals and protects us from ageing and heart disease. It is present in nuts, seeds, vegetable oils like sunflower oil, safflower oil and so on. Wheat germ and wheat germ oil are also good sources. Make sure you consume at least three of these foods on a daily basis," adds Avni.

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