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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39 Comments

  1. Brandee Goodness

    The reason for the dizzy and weird stuff going on might be in the substitutions for chew we all use. Check out wheatbelly.com and you will be better informed on the stuff we put in our bodies that affect our lives. Trying to quit chew after 35 years I came to this site to start the process. Wish me luck, and pray we all make it through this man made scourge we chose to ingest. Smart bunch aint we?

  2. Hey Chris! I’m on day 124 without a chew. Much of my fog has lifted but I still have some anxiety… Like I just don’t feel right and get worried at times for no damn reason. You think this is normal? How bad was yours?? It was comforting to read that you had anxiety for 6 months. I won’t turn back… Just hoping this shit passes.
    Thanks

  3. If you think you’re gonna give in to the evil that is chewing snuff, and take a dip again, try this to stop your urge to start back; go to google or yahoo images, type in the search box “mouth cancer” look at the pictures, you won’t dip I promise! Seriously it works.

    • I endorse this…that’s what I did. Whenever I wanted to chew tobacco after quitting I went to google image “oral cancer”. Enough reason not to chew any more.

  4. I’m currently on day 4 of stopping cold turkey. Been dipping grizzly wintergreen pouches for 4 years about 3-4 cans a week. I had swollen lymph node and freaked out but fortunately it has gone down. I feel very light headed especially when getting up and haven’t had rare bowel movements since I stopped. Any tips on how to deal with light headedness?

  5. The effects of quitting nicotine are usually much more devastating living with low blood sugar daily. In some people it never corrects. You are better off risking cancer then killing starving your brain cells of sugar. The second oldest woman in the world is from Nepal and has smoked for 95 years she is 112.

  6. I started dipping in 2006… MCT, Camp Pendleton, right after boot camp.. I still remember the taste of Apple Blend Skoal and how sick it made me.. should have known right then that it wasn’t the road to travel.. My father has been dipping since well before I was born so I’ve always been exposed to it.. as of Jan. 2, 2016, i quit cold turkey.. smoking and dipping all in the same stroke.. I’ve had a can a day habit since forever, and the cigarettes were usually reserved for drinking alcohol or coffee.. the first two days were hell.. like I had the flu, and was damn sure I did accidentally come down with something at the same time I quit.. on top of that I work in the oilfield on a drilling rig and just about everybody either dips or smokes or both.. but I challenged myself for that two week hitch, and I exposed myself to other folks tobacco use in close proximity, and I essentially forced myself into a mindset where even the thought of dipping or smoking disgusted me.. I had a two weeks supply of snuff and smokes that I gave away.. I kept one opened can on my desk to look at, and that little guy was what fueled my hate fire.. I had almost no other symptoms other than feeling like I had the flu (and the shits) so I got really lucky to that end.. I pounded water and Motrin, and stayed busy.. chewed seeds and whatnot.. I went home for days off and by that point I didn’t need any kind of gum or seeds… my mouth has mostly healed up, I feel a lot better, (still got wierd bowel movements) and for the most part have good nights sleep.. I know some of you are going through hell and I know I damn sure did.. but once you get the nicotine flushed out of your system, it’s all a mind game.. if you can break yourself of the feeling of “needing” a dip or smoke, then you can break the habit… and trust me folks it’s not a one hitter quitter.. you’ve gotta be mean and nasty about it.. stand next to someone smoking, watch a guy throw in a fresh pinch.. and then convince yourself that it’s absolutely repulsive.. it’s worked for me so far… I haven’t even thought about relapsing because the thought just about makes me physically ill..

  7. It’s been a month and 5 days since my last dip of Grizzly long cut. I used those nicotine lozenges for 3 days and then threw them out and went cold turkey. Dipped 3 cans a week for years. It has not been easy since quitting. Had many sleepless nights. Heck I could swear to you that I could smell dip in my dreams a few times. I even smelled my fingers after waking up just to make sure. This stuff is hardcore and no joke. Glad I’ve made it this far. This website has helped a lot. I have been chewing on spicy beef jerky and cinnamon altoids. Been drinking lots of coffee in long car rides as well. I find having a substitute nearby has helped. Even hot tea. Thanks again.

  8. I’m in the same boat you are friend. I’m also 45 and started when I was 16. I am calling it quits tonight! Was worried about that white patch that most chewers have inside thier check or lip that could become the nasty C word! Went to dentist a few days ago. Luckily things look good except for a few cavities. I just feel it’s time. My gums are not in great shape and for some reason I’ve been worrying about my health lately. I guess it my little girls that have given me a change of heart. I wish everyone the best of luck in giving this darn addictive habit up. I’ll try to keep all posted on my progress.

  9. My quit starts this afternoon. I’m hoping I can sleep part of any side effects off tonight. I refuse to allow this to make me feel like shit forever. I’m off/working from home for the remainder of the week. I’ve bought some sugar free candy, bottled water, and told the wife to leave me alone upstairs in my cave room for the remainder of the week. Can someone point me in the direction of getting hooked up with some people for support? Oh yea, lastly, I’m 45, been dipping a can or more a day since I was 18.

    • Hi Dan – if you’re looking for support, check out our forums at http://forum.killthecan.org where there are over 25,000 members. It’s the best place available to get support and questions answered from folks who know what you’re going through.

    • I’ve been doing 2 cans a day since I was a teenager. I quit Saturday night at 8 00 pm . the reason I chose to quit was because when I would put a dip in I would git dizzy and nautious and a headache within a couple hours.

      • Couple minutes not hours lol

      • I’ve been having the same effect last couple of weeks. I’ve been getting light headed and dizzy. I Chewed grizzly and skoal for 18 years and redman last 2. I’ve used redman to quit once before but not working this time.

  10. Been chewing Copenhagen for 44 years. This is the second time, I have quite. On the way to work last Thursday, I threw a 1/2 can out the window!!!! Hope I can do it for ever.

  11. 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?

  12. 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

  13. 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.

  14. 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!

  15. 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.

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

  17. 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.

  18. 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

  19. 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!

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

  21. Finding difficult to stop the habit

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

  23. 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

    Jeff
    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.

  24. 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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