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How to quit smoking by tracking your period

The newest method to quit smoking may not involve nicotine gum (or as it did in my case, a cold and a subsequent candy overdose). Your period may actually be able to help.

According to a new study out of the University of Montreal, your menstrual cycle impacts your cravings.

Adrianna Mendrek, a researcher at the university, said that urges to smoke are stronger right after your period. “Hormonal decreases of estrogen and progesterone possibly deepen the withdrawal syndrome and increase activity of neural circuits associated with craving,” she added.

Mendrek thinks it could be easier for women to quit after ovulation when those hormone levels are elevated.

“Taking the menstrual cycle into consideration could help women to stop smoking,” Mendrek said about her study, which was published in Psychiatry Journal.

Her team worked with 34 men and women who smoke at least 15 cigarettes a day. Participants underwent MRI scans while they viewed photos that were designed to be neutral or increase their cravings. They also filled out questionnaires.

The women were scanned twice: The first time beginning the follicular phase of their cycle (after menstruation and before ovulation), and then again at mid-luteal phase (after ovulation, but before bleeding). The researchers measured their estrogen and progesterone levels.

While Mendrek said that stress and depression are important factors to determine if women become addicted more quickly, she said her findings could explain how we become addicted — and offer hope for those who want to kick the habit.

Her team had two objectives when they began their study: to see if there were differences in the neuronal circuits affiliated with cravings, and to see if the electrocortical changes linked to nicotine withdrawal fluctuate in tandem with hormone variations. Between men and women, there weren’t any differences in the neural circuits, but the females’ activation patterns varied throughout their cycles.

Certain areas of their frontal, temporal and parietal cortex revealed greater activation during the phase before ovulation, while limited activation was documented in the hippocampus after ovulation.

Mendrek is hopeful that her research will enable others to pay greater attention to biology when investigating similar matters.

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