Kicking the smoking habit is a challenge for many people – but one that’s well worth the effort. After only five years away from cigarettes, a smoker’s lung cancer risk drops by half. Quitting smoking also reduces the risk of other diseases including heart disease, cancer of the oral cavity, cancer of the bladder or kidney, pancreatic cancer, and stroke.
One unpleasant side effect of smoking cessation that most smokers have to contend with is nicotine withdrawal. Could flavored chewing gum help with this problem? A new study shows that chewing gum not only helps nicotine withdrawal symptoms, but certain chewing gum flavors work better than others.
What are the Symptoms of Nicotine Withdrawal?
Withdrawal from nicotine causes symptoms similar to a mild case of the flu. Fortunately, these symptoms are only temporary and usually subside once the body adjusts to no longer having a steady supply of nicotine.
The symptoms of nicotine withdrawal include headache, difficulty focusing, problems sleeping, fatigue, sore throat, cough, sweating, nausea, nasal stuffiness, and anxiety. Usually these symptoms start to peak after two days and then slowly subside, although it can take several months to feel completely normal again.
A Way to Calm the Symptoms of Nicotine Withdrawal?
In a study published in the journal Addictive Behaviors, researchers gave 49 smokers one of several flavors of gum to chew on for four weeks. The smokers were asked not to light up for two days during each week of the study – and to chew one of various flavors of gum to see how it would affect their symptoms of nicotine withdrawal.
Were some chewing gum flavors better than others for easing nicotine withdrawal symptoms? The smokers who chewed vanilla and apple cardamom flavored gum had the fewest symptoms of nicotine withdrawal during their period of abstinence. They experienced less anxiety, tension, and fatigue compared to those who chewed no gum – and relative to smokers who chewed the other flavor tested – peppermint. This is surprising since mint is among the most popular nicotine gum flavors.
Chewing Gum for Withdrawal from Nicotine: The Bottom Line?
It’s difficult to draw solid conclusions from this study since the smokers weren’t quitting smoking permanently, just taking two day breaks from smoking each week. On the other hand, if you’re chewing gum to ease the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal, chomping on vanilla flavored gum may offer some additional benefits. Apple cardamom gum seems to work too, but it could be more difficult to find.
Would chewing on vanilla mints, candies, or sniffing vanilla oil also help the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal? Maybe this will be the focus of a future study.
Confectionary News. “Vanilla flavoured gum may cut nicotine withdrawal effects, study”
Addictive Behaviors. Volume 35, Issue 11, November 2010, Pages 955-960