Well, I did smoke for 10 years, ages 15 to 25, almost 2 packs a day.
But I have not had even one hit off a cigarette since that time…mostly because I am have been terrified I would start smoking again, plus it was part of my success to finally quit smoking after trying 97 times. You can read more about this in my article, Hope for the Hopeless Smoker.
So why would I start chewing nicotine gum now?
The reason may not be what you would think.
I came down with COVID-19 on May 12, 2022. Three weeks ago I was still experiencing some debilitating symptoms, mostly neurological in the form of severe brain fog, fatigue, numbness and tingling in my lower arms, and in my face and in the back of my head, as well head pain and pressure that sometimes came on suddenly.
So, I mentioned this to my doctor and he brushed it off that it was from having COVID. I finally admitted to myself 6 weeks after contracting the virus that I must have long COVID or long haul COVID, and started doing some research on how I could further heal.
A few weeks ago, I heard on a podcast or a YouTube video by a doctor, that nicotine gum can help with neurological long COVID. I think it might have been a certain naturopathic doctor, but I am not sure (COVID brain), although I have spent some time searching for the source. Anyway, this nicotine gum tip lead me to do a little research on it, and it sounded like it might be an effective treatment. But I didn’t take any action. I was thinking…
Really? Nicotine gum for long COVID?
However, shortly after that, I had a scary incident driving home from having coffee with a friend. I got lost temporarily on the 7-minute drive home on a road I have been on hundreds of times. When I tearfully told my husband about this, and that possibly nicotine gum might help, he ordered some that night.
It was delivered at 8 pm the next night. I wanted to start right away. I remembered that the dose advised by that doctor was to chew a piece of gum in the morning and again later in the day. So I chewed a piece without thinking to read the directions on the box. Mistake #1. I chewed it way too long. Mistake #2. I chewed it wrongly. I should have “chewed and parked”. #3. I chewed it way too late at night, and couldn’t go to sleep for a few hours.
Other than that, my experience with nicotine gum has been great, and I would say that within 36 hours I noticed a big improvement in all of my troubling neuro symptoms.
Just to give you a point of reference, you might be interested to know that one piece of gum contains 2 mg. of nicotine. In comparison, a cigarette is, on average, has 12 mg. So the gum I have is a pretty low dose, although it does come in 4 mgs. too.
Most days I only chew one piece of the nicotine gum, a few days none at all. I plan on discontinuing it soon.
Caution is needed however.
Disclaimer: Please check with your physician to discuss if using nicotine gum is a good option for you. He can help you determine the risk-benefit.
Nicotine is an addictive substance and it could increase the risk for oral cancer, so it needs to be used with caution.
It also may interact with other medications you take, raise your blood pressure or heart rate, or cause an allergic reaction.(2) In addition, long term use is associated with insulin resistance and hyperinsulinemia.(3)
Why would nicotine gum work for neurological long COVID symptoms?
Here are some ideas I was able to gather.
Although smoking is considered to put people at a higher risk for respiratory infections, interestingly, it was found that it apparently offered protection for patients hospitalized for severe COVID-19. (1) But why? It appears that nicotine reduces inflammation and the immune response by the central nervous system through the vagus nerve.
Why would it help neuro problems related to COVID? “Nicotine is a cholinergic agonist, which makes it an inhibitor of proinflammatory cytokines”, and “Neuroinvasion is a common feature of coronavirus”, Farsilinos, et al, 2020. (1)
That is about as deep as I want to get into the science with this article. Read this article in PubMeb to further explore it.
Anyway, my best nutshell summation is that long COVID neurological symptoms are related to inflammation, that it affects the nicotinic cholinergic pathway, and that nicotine can calm down the inflammation.
My experience with nicotine gum is anecdotal, backed up by very thin scientific information. Much of it is speculative. However, I would love to see research done in the near future to determine the pros and cons of implementing it for medicinal purposes.
Note: Because of all of the other detrimental effects associated with cigarettes, I do not advocate that anyone takes up smoking even though it may have some protective effects against COVID-19 related cytokine storms. (1)
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