Minerals and Vitamins essential for Smokers
By Armin Ghojehvand| Founder of Vitamin Buddy and Nutritional Therapist
Smoking has a profound effect on your body, and can have a huge impact on the minerals and vitamins that you are able to ingest.
Smoking also causes free radicals to occur. Free radicals are atoms or molecules that have an odd number of electrons. Molecules do not like to be in this state which makes them unstable. These unhappy free radicals travel around the body looking for an electron to grab from other molecules so that they can stabilize their energy. Depending on where they find the electron they need, they can wreak havoc on healthy tissue.
When they interfere with collagen, they cause the notorious “smoker’s wrinkles.” When they encounter blood vessels, they can damage the blood vessel lining setting the stage for a heart attack. And when the source becomes DNA in the cells of our bodies, damage (gene mutations) may occur. It is this accumulation of gene mutations which is responsible for the formation of a cancer cell.
It’s crucial to ensure you get the right intake of vitamins and minerals to minimise the damage caused by smoking. In some cases, some vitamins can even help with quitting, particularly when it comes to the prevention of anxiety and weight gain that often goes hand in hand with the quitting process.
Here are some supplements that can help.
A non-smoker needs an average of about 1,000 mg of Vit C per day, while an average smoker may require about 3,000 mg. Smoking reduces up to 40% the body’s supply of vitamin C, thus creating a deficiency that can cause major health problems over time. Taking an extra amount of vitamin C for short periods of time can help reduce nicotine cravings, adhering to nicotine and allowing it to filter easily and sent to the liver and kidneys to be eliminated.
Vitamin C is needed to make collagen, a protein responsible for growing and repairing cells in our bodies that produce everything from skin to muscle, and from ligaments to blood vessels. It helps keep our immune system strong and reduces blood sugar. It also has the unique quality of being able to help with the regeneration of other antioxidants such as vitamin E.
Smoking causes scars to form on the arterial walls, which take the place of normal cells in the body and they don’t replace their function. This replacement happens in the process called oxidation. Vitamin E can stop that damage from occurring as it is an antioxidant. Vitamin E is an important nutrient that helps us build red blood cells and bolsters the immune system to fight off viruses and bacteria.
Researchers also suspect that vitamin E plays a role in protecting us from cancer, heart disease and aging. It is one of the first lines of defense against the free radical damage to the lungs when we breathe in air pollution and cigarette smoke.
Due to increased stress experienced by the heart during smoking, such prevention provided by Vit E is especially important for smokers. In addition to helping prevent heart attacks in people who smoke, the antioxidant properties of vitamin E may also help reduce damages to the respiratory system.
Like vitamin C, smoking appears to increase vitamin E requirements.
Beta carotene provides a boost to the immune system, helping to keep it healthy during the abstinence of nicotine. It can also provide some level of protection against cancer, although studiessuggest that smoking can cause that beta carotene produce an opposite effect over time. Because of this, it’s only recommended to take beta carotene supplement if you’re already in the process of quitting.
In addition to the damages that nicotine and tobacco cause to the heart and lungs, studies suggest that smoking can increase the rate of bone loss that happens naturally with the age. Calcium, which is a important mineral for health and bones, is removed from our body by nicotine. Taking a calcium supplement or increased natural calcium intake, you can counteract this effect while maintaining your bones healthy to prevent breakage and other damages.
The Bottom Line on Smoking and Vitamin Depletion
Cigarette smoking increases the generation of free radicals in the body which can predispose to tissue damage resulting in conditions from heart disease to cancer. Antioxidants such as vitamin C and vitamin E are part of our body’s defense system, acting to neutralize free radicals before they can do their damage. Sadly, these vitamins are also depleted in people who smoke yielding a bad combination; more free radicals with fewer antioxidants to fight them. Taking supplements is crucial to protecting your body from the impact of smoking.