The Important Keys to Successfully Quit Smoking with Diabetes

The Important Keys to Successfully Quit Smoking with Diabetes

Posted by Lori Shemek; October 11, 2015

Smoking is unhealthy for anyone, but for people with diabetes, it is especially perilous.

Diabetes and smoking combined, creates low-level inflammation throughout the body that affects the most important functions in the body such as the eyes resulting in blindness, painful nerve damage, kidney failure and can double the damaging effects as in heart problems.

Stopping smoking reduces the risk of developing all major diabetes-related complications.

Physicians have clear knowledge that smoking and diabetes are a treacherous couple, but now we know why: It’s the nicotine. Nicotine raises A1c levels which means a very high circulating sugar level within the body.

An addiction to cigarettes is so hard to overcome. Even in my own family, my mother smoked 1.5 packs of cigarettes a day. My grandparents both smoked as well and my grandfather died of lung cancer. My grandfather desperately tried to quit smoking multiple times throughout his life but could not do it permanently as he so desired.

Every smoker, especially if they have smoked a long time, will entertain the idea of quitting. But it can be confusing, if not scary, when one does not know the path to success to finally stop smoking. It’s challenging enough to give up smoking, not to mention the added annoying thought that you might fail at it.

breaking cigarette

So what is best?  To slowly taper off cigarettes or quit cold turkey?  Going ‘cold turkey’ means to abruptly quit cigarettes altogether whereas ‘tapering off’ means to gradually reduce cigarette smoking over a period of time

Many smokers do not realize that their addiction to cigarettes, in most cases, needs to be slowly tapered off of the addictive substance. Quitting cold turkey can backfire and lead you right back to lighting up. Most cigarette smokers report the most intense withdrawal symptoms within the first 10 days of quitting cold turkey, and this gradually eases over days and weeks if they are not using added support in the form of a nicotine replacement therapy.

Here is a link to an article from Costco about how one of their pharmacists stopped smoking, and more information about their products to help quit. Read Quitting Smoking: A Costco Pharmacist’s Story

However, with a gradual reduction in smoking cigarettes each day, in the amount and frequency and an added NRT support, the end result is you no longer need it.

To ensure success with quitting smoking and managing diabetes, it is also paramount that your nutrition and lifestyle are in order. Stabilizing your blood sugar with the right foods and with exercise will help mitigate the nicotine cravings and kick hunger and cravings to the curb.

Many smokers are fearful that they will gain weight when smoking stops. By focusing on a healthy diet (just do not try to diet right now) with foods that reduce low-level inflammation, balance blood sugar and create optimal health, you will prevent weight gain. Foods such as: Green tea and pomegranates are loaded with strong antioxidants that help reduce inflammation. Foods like turkey, chicken, beef, black beans and red kidney beans, nuts and seeds (such as sunflower seeds that will occupy your hands). Salmon and sardines are excellent choices in this case, as they are rich in tryptophan, an amino acid necessary for serotonin synthesis. Serotonin is your ‘happy transmitter’ a neurotransmitter that promotes feelings of well-being and calm. Cold water fish are also high in omega 3 fat that promotes weight loss, better mood, balances blood sugar and reduces inflammation.


Interesting to note that healthy foods such as veggies, fruits and dairy products have been shown via research to make cigarettes taste terrible.

The spice such as Turmeric, most commonly used in South Asian dishes, such as curry reduces the activity of inflammatory effects. Cinnamon should be another spice staple to balance blood sugar and reduce inflammation.

Eat regular meals to avoid blood sugar crashes and kick junk foods, sugar, and white flour to the curb as these foods create imbalanced blood sugar, promote cravings and wreak havoc with diabetes.

Exercise is another key component to a life without cigarettes and diabetes. Research shows that those who exercise while quitting have a much higher quit-smoking success rate. In fact, the more active, the more success. The good news about exercise is that simply walking will improve blood sugar levels dramatically. Moving your body is key to creating insulin sensitivity and that is your goal with diabetes.

To further enhance your success, sign-up for a free customized stop smoking plan, support tools to aid your efforts, product tracking tools and more go to

As additional information, please join me and other diabetes experts in a Twitter chat hosted by Costco Diabetes Magazine 8-9 PM EDT on October 13, 2015 here:

Lori Shemek, PhD

© 2015 DLS HealthWorks, LLC.  Lori Shemek, PhD health and weight loss expert and author of How To Fight FATflammation!