Minimizing the Most Common Side Effects to Quitting Chewing

Blood sugar plummets in many people when first quitting. 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 chewing, 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 chewing tobacco put sugar into your blood stream; it is more of a drug interaction of the stimulant effect of nicotine that affects the blood sugar levels. Chewing tobacco 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. Chewing tobacco, 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 they 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 being consumed and causing weight gain to become a real risk.

When you abruptly quit dipping, 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 dipper, but more what it was before you took up chewing with aging thrown in. Some people go until evening without eating while they are chewers. If they try the same routine as ex-chewers 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.

© Joel Spitzer 2001
The original article has been modified to be more relevant for dippers and chewers.

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  1. I chewed for 36 heads and am now on day 4 of quitting, I. Having short hair SS of breath and I am coughing a lot but do t have a cold are these symptoms anybody else has had?

  2. I dipped Copenhagen long cut for 12yrs. Decided to quit Oct 2013. Rough few months but after 3-5 boxes of nicotine gum and cases of gum and candy I beat it. Sadly 8 months ago I started back. This time Copenhagen natural xtra long cut. I decided 4 days ago to quit. The withdrawals are worse this time. Can’t get enough to drink, my desire/ability to have sex has diminished considerably, the dizziness, the disconnected fog feeling and being irritable is worse this go round. But I know there is light at the end of the tunnel. I had a feeling my glucose levels were low but didn’t check. But that’s how I found this site. Good luck to all. If anyone needs help or needs encouragement just ask!

    • You hang in there I’m gonna hold you to it,,, I’m on day 2 after 33 years on cope snuff, the strongest of em all but it can be beat

  3. I am wrapping up day two and other than the diarrhea I have had I’m doing ok. Chewed Copenhagen Snuff for 20 years while playing baseball. Keep up the good work everyone.

  4. I am getting married soon and in the process of moving in with my soon to be wife. I want to quit badly but when I go for 10-12 hour streaks without Copenhagen long cut Wintergreen (9 years after dropping smoking) I fall asleep randomly. She gets mad and thinks I’m being disrespectful by falling asleep. If I dip I perk right up. Does this ever end? Do I just need to drop it and see it through? Are there any good replacement behaviors I can use? Thanks!

  5. At 12:43 today, it will be my first week without chew since 8th grade. I’m 30. While I haven’t been at it as long as some of you, Im feeling many of the same side effects. The worst for me, by far, has been the headaches and neck aches. I can barely move my head left to right and when I do it feels like my head is going to explode. Sleeping hasn’t been the hottest either but with a 17 month old at home that’s nothing new. Just wondering if there is any advice for the headaches? Motrin and Advil do absolutely nothing to help.

    • HYDRATE. Drinks lots of water. Drink until you don’t think you can drink anymore… then drink some more. That’s what worked for me.

  6. When it gets really bad, smokey mountain snuff and trident mixed together ain’t half bad

  7. I chewed redman for over 50 years and finally quit because my dr said it is too bad for my blood sugar. It has been almost a solid month since my last chew and I feel worse and worse every day. The only time I’m not sick and feel happy is when I sleep and dream that I’m a kid fishing on the riverbank with my old hound dog Red and a big ol chew. Sigh, I don’t like this life much anymore.

  8. I am on day 10 from dipping scoal classic mint, but the dizziness is really bad, Especially when I get up in the morning. I have been injesting nicotine into my body for over 40 years in one form or another . It seemed easier in the first few says than it does now.

    • I feel your pain. I am on day 8 and the cravings seem to get worse. I am using the nicotine gum to help but the brain fog and lack of concentration is killing me

  9. Day 8 for me. After about 14 years of almost a can per day. Lot of gum chewing, seeds…
    Anyone else having arthritis like symptoms. My fingers and knuckles are really sore

    • I also had these symptoms. My knuckles and feet were very sore for several months but like the other withdrawal symptoms they eventually subsided.
      The knuckle soreness was very pronounced and I assumed not related to quitting nicotine because as much as I’d read, no where did anyone comment on having those symptoms. Now, after reading that you did, I am convinced it was nicotine related. Good luck with your quit.

      • It’s better now Steve. Still have a bit of achiness in my knuckles. I did read that nicotine is good for arthritis. Haven’t had a chew since Jan.31st!

  10. Very difficult But willpower will make it positive. Me 1 week completed.

  11. Finding difficult to stop the habit

  12. I’m on day 3 of my quit not getting much sleep having weird dreams

  13. Hwy Ron
    Wow. Over a month good job!
    My fog lasted almost 30-40 days: I was lucky on anxiety. Mine was mild

    The headache, damn I had them off and on for maybe 60 days;

    I can tell you when the fog lifts, and you get to feel more in control, you have it made!

    Hang in there, keep up the fight, as we all had the same battle

    Day 122

    • I’m on day 104 after dipping for 36 years. I’ve quit twice for a year at a time. Same symptoms as most of you…weight gain, headaches, crazy dreams. However, my acid reflux is much better and it’s nice to not have to hide it from my wife. One day at a time.

  14. I chewed RedMan for 40+ years, went cold turkey Nov. 4, I still have anxiety at times,dizziness and headaches on the right side of my head. I crave choc candy several times a day and if relieves the tired lethargic feeling. How long does this last?

    • I’ve chewed Copenhagen for 42 years. I’ve just completed day 3 without it. It’s 1:15am and I have to work tomorrow. If I drink any more water I’ll piss myself.
      any suggestions?

    • I had severe anxiety for six months after quitting chewing tobacco. I believe that my coping mechanism to handle stress for years was nicotine. When i quit cold turkey my mind and body went a little haywire. I have been headstrong in getting better and now two years later i am feeling like my old self again.

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