Smoking is arguably the most unhealthy habit a person can have.
Everyone knows this, but it can be almost impossible to be quit. That’s because nicotine causes intense physical cravings that are almost impossible to ignore.
When a person smokes, the nicotine enters their bloodstream and stimulates the adrenal gland. This leads to the production of epinephrine. When the nicotine hits the brain, the brain produces dopamine, which is our brain’s reward and pleasure neurotransmitter.
When someone quits smoking, they lose that dopamine in the brain that they’ve become so accustomed to. This leads to irritability, anxiety, and depression. It’s also why many people gain weight when they quit smoking — they replace the rewards and pleasures of smoking with the rewards and pleasures of snack foods.
Researchers have found that sugar can reduce nicotine cravings, but sugar isn’t exactly a healthy alternative.
That’s because sugar and nicotine work in similar ways in the body, it’s just that a cigarette works much faster than a candy bar can. As noted, however, this leads to weight gain and other health problems as people seek out anything that produces dopamine.
Instead of food, some people use electronic cigarettes to combat nicotine cravings, but the long term effects of those are unknown. They are currently marketed as a safe alternative to smoking, but there haven’t been any studies that have proven them to be safe for long-term use. In fact, some of the substances found in e-cigarette juice are known carcinogens.
While these electronic cigarettes may be good for a short term fix, they also haven’t been shown to truly aid in quitting. There are anecdotes of people using them to quit, but large studies have not been done to prove their efficacy.
Researchers have, however, identified a substance that may help reduce nicotine cravings by mimicking in the effects of sugar. Unlike sugar, however, this substance has no negative side effects on the body.
To use this, all a person has to do is put a drop or two on their tongue as soon as they feel a craving coming on. As this sugar substitute hits the bloodstream, dopamine is produced in the same way as with a cigarette. Some people have reported feeling immediate relief from their cravings.
The substance being touted as a miracle smoking cure is stevia.
While most of us just think of this as a sweetener for our coffee or tea, some people are promoting it as the anti-smoking aid that may finally help millions kick the habit.
While either powder or liquid stevia works, the liquid option in slightly healthier. It contains no calories or carbohydrates, while power stevia contains five calories and one gram of carbohydrates. It’s still much healthier than sugar, which contains 30 calories and eight grams of carbohydrates in just one packet.
While some people swear that stevia helped them quit smoking, the science is still out on its effectiveness. Critics say that this is nothing more than a placebo effect. Still, if you are someone trying to quit and haven’t found success, stevia is a healthy alternative that may finally be what you need to kick the habit.