Smoking is an addictive behavior; we all know this – it’s not breaking news. But with the knowledge should come a deeper understanding of how the addiction works. Why does nicotine make you a slave to cigarettes and how can you use this information to reclaim your power and your health? Here’s what to know about nicotine dependence.
While cigarettes are estimated to have about 4,000 chemicals inside, with at least 51 of them to be known carcinogens (cancer-causing agents), nicotine is the one that pulls you in and causes your addiction. This chemical doesn’t just enter the body and cause cancer, it enters the brain and alters your chemistry, changing how you think and feel. How does it do this? By playing with something called dopamine.
Nicotine Dependence: Negatively Altering Dopamine – The Feel-Good Chemical
Dopamine is the body’s feel-good chemical. It’s the one that the brain produces and results in feelings of intense pleasure and relaxation. If you feel good after smoking a cigarette, this is part of the reason why. Your cigarettes increase available dopamine in the brain exponentially. This means, when you smoke, you can become awash with those pleasurable feelings. But, they aren’t natural, and are chemically created. So, before you think, “dopamine is good, cigarettes raise dopamine, therefore cigarettes are good”, check this out: nicotine damages your brain’s ability to naturally regulate dopamine production.
When you flood your brain with dopamine, as with the nicotine in a cigarette, your brain thinks, “Hey! I don’t have to produce as much dopamine—look at all this dopamine floating around.” So, it doesn’t. And in between cigarettes, it still doesn’t. Nicotine damages the brain’s natural dopamine levels.
One of the biggest side effects of quitting smoking is moodiness or crankiness, and this dopamine connection can explain why. So, combating this side effect by encouraging a healthy brain can help you tackle your addiction.
You can help yourself to quit smoking naturally by eating healthy foods like fruit and vegetables and exercising regularly. Really, it’s that simple. A bad diet and sedentary lifestyle can cause much more disease and moodiness than nicotine addiction. Increase your general health, foster a healthy body and brain, and you can begin to avoid all of the nasty effects of smoking.
And wouldn’t you rather know how to increase dopamine levels through foods and healthy activity? Foods like sunflower seeds, bananas, and even caffeine (found in natural green tea or moderate amounts of coffee) can boost dopamine production, along with exercise. As you quit smoking, your brain will take some time to recover from the false sense of pleasure you’ve been feeding it. Be prepared for this and fight back naturally.