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Blood sugar plummets in many people when they first quit smoking. The most common side effects felt during the first three days can often be traced back to blood sugar issues. Symptoms such as headache, inability to concentrate, dizziness, time perception distortions, and the ubiquitous sweet tooth encountered by many, are often associated with this blood sugar drop.

The symptoms of low blood sugar are basically the same symptoms as not having enough oxygen, similar to reactions experienced at high altitudes. The reason being the inadequate supply of sugar and/or oxygen means the brain is getting an incomplete fuel. If you have plenty of one and not enough of the other, your brain cannot function at any form of optimal level. When you quit smoking, oxygen levels are often better than they have been in years, but with a limited supply of sugar it can't properly fuel your brain.

It is not that cigarettes put sugar into your blood stream; it is more of a drug interaction of the stimulant effect of nicotine that affects blood sugar levels. Cigarettes cause the body to release its own stores of sugar and fat by a drug type of interaction. That is how it basically operated as an appetite suppressant, affecting the satiety centers of your hypothalamus. As far as for the sugar levels, nicotine in fact works much more efficiently than food.

    • If you use food to elevate blood sugar levels, it literally takes up to 20 minutes from the time you chew and swallow the food before it is released to the blood, and thus the brain, for its desired effect of fueling your brain. Cigarettes, by working through a drug interaction cause the body to release its own stores of sugar, but not in 20 minutes but usually in a matter of seconds. In a sense, your body has not had to release sugar on its own in years, you have done it by using nicotine's drug effect!

      This is why many people really gorge themselves on food upon cessation. They start to experience a drop in blood sugar and instinctively reach for something sweet. Upon finishing the food, they still feel symptomatic. Of course they do, it takes them a minute or two to eat, but the blood sugar isn't boosted for another 18 minutes. Since they are not feeling immediately better, they eat a little more.

    • They continue to consume more and more food, minute after minute until finally they start to feel better. Again if they are waiting for the blood sugar to go up we are talking about 20 minutes after the first swallow. People can eat a lot of food in 20 minutes. But they begin to believe that this was the amount needed before feeling better. This can be repeated numerous times throughout the day thus causing a lot of calories to be consumed and causing weight gain to become a real risk.

      When you abruptly quit smoking, the body is in kind of a state of loss, not knowing how to work normally since it has not worked normally in such a long time. Usually by the third day, though, your body will readjust and release sugar as it is needed. Without eating any more your body will just figure out how to regulate blood sugar more efficiently.

      You may find though that you do have to change dietary patterns to one that is more normal for you. Normal is not what it was as a smoker, but more what it was before you took up smoking with aging thrown in. Some people go until evening without eating while they are smokers. If they try the same routine as ex-smokers they will suffer side effects of low blood sugar.

    • It is not that there is something wrong with them now, they were abnormal before for all practical purposes. This doesn't mean they should eat more food, but it may mean they need to redistribute the food eaten to a more spread out pattern so they are getting blood sugar doses throughout the day as nature really had always intended.

      To minimize some of the real low blood sugar effects of the first few days it really can help to keep drinking juice throughout the day. After the fourth day though, this should no longer be necessary as your body should be able to release sugar stores if your diet is normalized.

      If you are having problems that are indicative of blood sugar issues beyond day three, it wouldn't hurt talking to your doctor and maybe getting some nutritional counseling. In order to eliminate all future blood sugar complications caused by chronic nicotine ingestion just make and stick to a personal commitment to Never Take Another Puff!

      © Joel Spitzer 1986, 2014 - All Rights Reserved

    • Are you an author, Ginger, because you SURE ARE GOOD AT IT!

      I can relate to some of that. Listen to this woman when it comes to quitting, folks. She knows some STUFF! smile

      Don't mess with Texas!

    • That certainly was interesting. Thank you

    • Thank you for taking the time to write this down

    • This is an article: Minimizing Common Quit Smoking Side Effects
      by Joel Spitzer from the site.

      I thought it answers a lot of questions about those pesky side effects experienced when we first quit.

    • So interesting , so true but didn't understand why!! Thanks!!

    • And yes... Please don't mess with Texas. I'd hate to have to come up there with my can of whup-a$$. wink

    • This article reminded me that it takes 20 minutes after eating for the food to effect your blood sugar levels and for you to feel satisfied.

      Info I can use... Aha!

    • Haha. You'd have written it just as well. And yes, Ohio (7th largest state population) really doesn't want to battle the 2nd largest state population. smile

    • In defense of my humble Ohio, your land mass is ALSO 2nd of all the states, whereas mine is 34th. So...7th in population isn't so bad! smile

    • This is really good information. Especially for those of us who might be Diabetic. I am diabetic and now that I am armed with this information, I have a better idea of what to watch out for. I realize now how important it will be for me to monitor my Glucose levels closely for the first few days after I finally quit (I'm on day 9 of 28 and down from 35 cigs a day to 23, which I have yet to smoke my limit yet). One thing I feel like I must say and pass on to the other diabetics out there is to try to stay away from juice unless your sugar is too low. Instead (and this will work for non-diabetics) you should drink a small amount of Milk. It will raise your sugar levels slowly and evenly so you can avoid the horrible headaches that come with raising your sugar levels too high and especially too fast.

    • Good to know Jennie. I always felt like small snacks with protein throughout the day were probably better than juice.

    • Very good to know. My weight has always been an issue for me to quit. This helps to be aware of food triggers so I don't over indulge, thanx!