Within 10 seconds of entering your body, nicotine affects your brain and causes a release of feel-good chemicals to create a buzz. As the buzz wears away, you want another and subsequently reach for a repeat hit. Your body easily builds up a resistance to nicotine, meaning you'll need more and more to get the effects you crave. When you're trying to quit, you want to expel the harmful, addictive chemical from your body as you kick the habit. While no food can eliminate nicotine altogether, certain foods can help support the liver, which is the primary place for the metabolism of nicotine.
Liver enzymes metabolize, or process, nicotine in your body. How quickly you process nicotine through your system depends partly on genetics but also on diet, age, sex, pregnancy, other medications and kidney disease. Older adults have a harder time metabolizing nicotine. Smoking mentholated cigarettes or drinking grapefruit juice also hinders clearance of nicotine from your system. A meal eaten while smoking actually decreases nicotine absorption.
Tests can detect nicotine in the blood for one to three days after you've chewed, smoked or dipped. Nicotine shows up in the urine for three to four days and in the saliva, two to four days. Tests that measure cotinine, the substance nicotine becomes when metabolized, can show a presence for up to 10 days.
Detox Step One
When detoxing to remove nicotine, clean up your entire toxic load. This means abstaining from tobacco products, of course, along with alcohol, caffeine and processed foods with lots of added sugar and saturated fats. Expect to experience irritability, anxiety, headaches, insomnia and depression as you eliminate nicotine and the other toxins. Don't skip meals, which could spur you to reach for a cigarette to suppress your appetite. Keep your mouth busy between meals with vegetable sticks, gum, sugar-free hard candy or breath mints.
Foods to Include
Eat lots of cruciferous vegetables, which are high in fiber and take time to chew. Cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli and brussels sprouts fall into this category. Apples, ground flax seeds and berries are other good sources of fiber. Green leafy vegetables, such as kale, spinach and beet greens, along with the green herbs of parsley and cilantro, have nutrients that help strengthen the liver. Citrus foods, including oranges, lemons and limes -- but not grapefruit -- facilitate liver cleansing, too. Foods such as artichoke, asparagus, beets, celery and dandelion-root tea also contain large amounts of fiber and help heal a liver overloaded with nicotine.
Whey protein powder and nutritional yeast flakes provide protein, vitamin B-12 and other nutrients to support good liver health. Olive oil, flaxseed oil and cold-water fish are sources of healthy fats. Drink ample amounts of water, too. Lean protein from skinless poultry, lamb, lean cuts of beef or white fish should also be consumed in small portions. Keep up this clean diet for at least a week, or longer, as it is nutritionally complete.
Restore Good Gut Functioning
Probiotics may not remove nicotine from your liver and blood, but such products can help facilitate digestive processes that can be wrecked by poor eating habits and nicotine addiction. Smoking can increase your risk of cancer in the mouth, esophagus, stomach and pancreas. It can also prompt heartburn, gastroesophageal reflux disease, peptic ulcers and some liver diseases. Gallstones, Crohn's disease, colon polyps and pancreatitis are other possible side effects. Organic, raw sauerkraut and pickles, kombucha, kimchi and plain yogurt are fermented foods with natural bacteria that support gut health.
- Huffington Post: 11 Ways to Manage Nicotine Withdrawal
- BeTobaccoFree.gov: Nicotine Addiction and Your Health
- Handbook of Experimental Pharmacology: Nicotine Chemistry, Metabolism, Kinetics and Biomarkers
- Gaiam Life: 10 Ways to Detoxify Your Body
- FastMed Urgent Care: How Long Does Nicotine Stay in Your Blood?
- American Heart Association: Food and Quitting Smoking
- Experience Life: Fast Track Liver Detox
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive Diseases: Smoking and the Digestive System