Smoking Cessation and Low Blood Sugar: 3 Facts You Should Know

by Dr Antonio Howell, MD

in quit smoking

Dr. Howell

Along with headache, nausea, and nicotine craving, a sudden drop in blood sugar is also a common side effect of quitting smoking. Basically, smoking affects a variety of vital processes in the body, particularly metabolism. It also inhibits the production of insulin, a hormone that is important for metabolism and utilization of energy.

Here are three important things you should know about low blood sugar and smoking cessation:

Low blood sugar causes hunger pangs.


It is not that cigarettes supply sugar into the smoker’s bloodstream. It is more of the drug interaction that significantly affects blood sugar levels. Smoking triggers the body to release stored fats and sugar, which results to a decrease in appetite. In fact, nicotine works faster than food in raising blood sugar levels. When you eat to increase your blood sugar, it may take around 20 minutes from the time you chew and swallow the food for it to be absorbed by the blood and supplied to the brain to fuel its activities. On the other hand, the nicotine from cigarettes causes the blood to release its own stores of fats and sugar within seconds. So during nicotine withdrawal, blood sugar level drops.

This is why smokers gorge themselves into food during smoking cessation.  Due to the sudden drop in blood sugar, people who quit often reach for something sweet and fatty, increasing their odds of weight gain.

A drop in blood sugar also causes headache and dizziness.

Basically, the body needs a certain amount of blood sugar to supply energy to the brain and muscles. When these are deprived with glucose, a person may experience undesirable physical symptoms like headache and dizziness,. The good news is that they don’t last long. Most of the blood sugar regulators in the brain return to functioning normally again within three days from quitting.

It also promotes undesirable mental and behavioral issues.

Along with the physical symptoms, smokers who quit experience psychological symptoms such as anxiety, irritability, difficulty concentrating and confusion. The deprivation of nicotine in the smoker’s body does not only lead to a rapid drop in blood sugar, but also to an increase in the levels of oxygen. While extra amount of oxygen is a good thing, it takes time for the body to adjust to it (Remember, smoking reduces oxygen in the blood). Because of these dramatic changes, the brain tends to get starved, confused and overwhelmed, leading to temporary cognitive processing issues.

There are some ways to deal with low blood sugar during smoking cessation.

To minimize the effects of nicotine withdrawal in the blood sugar levels, it is really helpful to drink plenty of fruit juice as it contains healthy sugar, along with antioxidants that help repair the damage caused by cigarette smoking. It is also advised to eat small amounts of food several times a day to keep the blood sugar as stable as possible and reduce hunger. Physical exercise is also a great strategy to balance the blood sugar levels. It helps ward off nicotine cravings as well.



If the symptoms of low blood sugar persist within a few weeks after quitting smoking, consult your physician. It could be an indication of a more serious health problem, such as hypoglycemia.


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