One hour after a person quits smoking the concentration of nicotine in their bloodstream declines by about 25%. After 24 hours, nicotine drops to about 2% of a smoker’s normal daily level. After three days without a cigarette, most people are virtually nicotine-free. If you’ve given up the habit and want to accelerate the process of removing nicotine from your system, here are some foods that can help.
Grapefruit juice has been clinically proven to increase the rate at which the kidneys remove nicotine from the blood. In a study published in Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics volunteers were given an oral dose of nicotine together with one liter of water, full-strength grapefruit juice, or half-strength grapefruit juice. Concentrations of nicotine in the blood and urine were analyzed for eight hours. When participants drank grapefruit juice, their kidneys cleared nicotine from the blood 88% faster than when they drank water. Diluted grapefruit juice increased the nicotine clearance rate by 78%. Renal clearance is affected by the pH level of the urine. This implies that other acidic fruit juices such as cranberry or lemon could have a similar effect.
Chilies contain a chemical called capsaicin which provides their spicy kick. Capsaicin speeds up your metabolism and could help you to release more nicotine through your sweat. Chilis stimulate nerve receptors in your mouth and trick your nervous system into thinking you’re hot. Your brain’s hypothalamus then sends out a signal to activate your sweat glands. Sweat reaches your skin and evaporates, taking nicotine and other toxins with it. Capsaicin also helps the kidneys to function better as they clean the blood. Another benefit of capsaicin is that it dilates arterial walls for better circulation. This helps to lower the high blood pressure commonly caused by smoking.
Garlic promotes bile production in the liver which could help it to process nicotine and other toxins more efficiently. It also contains an organosulfur compound called allicin which acts to clear the lungs. Garlic can even help to protect you from lung cancer. A Chinese study found that adults who consumed raw garlic at least twice a week reduced their risk of lung cancer by 44%. Even among people who smoked, eating garlic reduced lung cancer risk by 30%. Allicin guards against cancer by acting as an antioxidant and reducing inflammation in the body. It is released when the garlic clove is crushed or chopped and degrades when garlic is cooked. To get the most benefit, cook your meal first and sprinkle on freshly chopped garlic just before serving.
Drinking plenty of water boosts kidney activity. The more water consumed, the more nicotine is released from the body through the urine. Adding lemon juice to water makes it more palatable and enhances it with vitamin C. The more you smoke, the more vitamin C you lose from your tissues and blood. But your body needs the antioxidant effect of vitamin C to help counteract the damage that smoking causes to your cells. One glass of water with the juice of half a lemon contains about 32% of your RDA for the vitamin. If you drink 8-12 glasses of lemon water a day, you’ll flush nicotine from your system and restore your vitamin C to healthy levels.
The high water content in fruits and vegetables can help your body to metabolize nicotine. What’s more, a diet rich in plant foods could reduce your nicotine dependence, making it easier to cut down on cigarettes and stop smoking for good. A study published in the journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research investigated the relationship between fruit and vegetable consumption and smoking cessation. Researchers surveyed 1,000 randomly chosen smokers. They followed up the respondents fourteen months later, asking them if they had abstained from tobacco use during the previous month. The study found that smokers who consumed the most fruit and vegetables were three times more likely to be tobacco-free for at least thirty days at follow-up than those consuming the lowest amount of fruits and vegetables. Participants with higher fruit and vegetable consumption also smoked fewer cigarettes per day, waited longer to smoke their first cigarette of the day and scored lower on a test for nicotine dependence.
Fruits and vegetables have several benefits for people who want to quit the habit. Research has shown that, for most smokers, they worsen the taste of cigarettes, making them less appealing. Foods like carrots or bananas can serve as a replacement strategy for ex-smokers who feel the urge to hold something and put it in their mouths. The fiber in fruits and vegetables keeps you feel fuller for longer. This is helpful because people sometimes confuse hunger with an urge to smoke. Finally, the antioxidants and nutrients in plant foods can act to repair some of the damage caused by smoking.
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