Can vaping cause anxiety?
'Mango blood', 'Ice Grape', and 'Mint Melon' are just some of the thousands of vape flavours available to purchase easily online or in high-street stores. Increasingly popular as an alternative to traditional cigarette smoking, vaping and e-cigarette use is on the rise. In fact, 2023 statistics from the US show that 1 in 20 Americans vape, with teenage e-cigarette consumption having increased annually by 1,800%. However, just because vaping is an alternative to smoking does not necessarily mean vaping is safe, and certainly does not mean it is good for the mind and body.
With the latest research, we explore the impact of vaping and e-cigarettes on stress and anxiety. We also recommend reading our Stress and Sleep Research and ‘How adrenal glands affect stress’ written by the DR.VEGAN® team of expert nutritionists.
What is vaping and what are e-cigarettes made from?
Vaping is the action of using an electronic device to heat a liquid, which turns the liquid into vapour that the user inhales through the mouth.
The vaping liquid, known as 'e-liquid', typically contains propylene glycol, vegetable glycerine, plus flavours and the option of nicotine. THC, the psychoactive component in marijuana, may also be used in e-liquids.
Most e-cigarettes contain nicotine, the addictive substance also found in cigarettes. Research shows 99% of the e-cigarettes sold in assessed venues in the United States contained nicotine. If you’re not sure about why nicotine is harmful, we recommend reading ‘How Smoking and Nicotine Damage Your Body’.
Does vaping make anxiety worse?
Whilst people may decide to vape as a stress-relieving action, in the same way they may have previously decided to smoke cigarettes, research does not support vaping as an effective reliever of stress.
In the US alone, where research into vaping is among the most extensive, every day, over 3,500 youths start to vape. A study of over 2,500 people aged 13-24 showed that those who vaped nicotine and/or THC were more likely to report symptoms of anxiety than those who do not vape or smoke e-cigarettes. In another large study of teenagers who had never previously smoked cigarettes or used e-cigarettes, a bi-directional association was found between symptoms of depression and e-cigarette use.
Looking further into the effects of vaping among teenagers, a study was conducted on 2,505 teenagers, and the results show 70% of the THC-only vapers, and 60% of the nicotine-only vapers and dual vapers, reported experiencing anxiety symptoms. Symptoms of anxiety included worries, flashbacks, panic attacks and situational anxieties, within the previous week, compared to only 40% of participants who had never vaped. That's a 50-75% increase in likelihood to suffer anxiety as a result of vaping.
For adults, according to a 2019 JAMA study of nearly 30,000 current e-cigarette users above age 18 in the US, those who frequently vape were 2.4x more likely to have a diagnosis of depression compared to those who have never vaped. Nicotine addiction is linked with many health conditions, such as higher levels of ADHD. A 2014 meta-analysis showed quitting smoking is linked with lower levels of anxiety, depression, and stress, as well as improved positive mood and quality of life when compared with continuing to smoke.
Healthy methods of anxiety and stress relief
Nutrition for helping anxiety
The foods and drinks that you consume are very important in managing your body and mind’s response to stress. Too many people focus on external stresses and forget how they are fuelling their bodies through their diet to cope better with stress.
Probiotics for reducing anxiety
The gut and the brain are linked through the Gut-Brain Axis. This gut-brain connection is vitally important to your physical and mental health because many of the chemicals in your brain are first synthesised in your gut. Therefore, prebiotic and probiotic foods and supplements are important in helping to relieve anxiety. Foods containing pre and probiotics that can help relieve anxiety include kiwis, sauerkraut, kombucha, yoghurt, and many more.
Probiotic supplements can also help relieve anxiety, including the award-winning, Gut Works®, a prebiotic and probiotic with 50 billion gut-friendly bacteria cultures to support the gut, brain and mental health. Learn more about prebiotics and probiotics.
Adaptogens for reducing anxiety
Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb, which means it helps to balance the stress response, lower cortisol levels (your stress hormone) which in turn helps your body to deal with stressful situations. It is one of the powerful ingredients in Stay Calm™, the acclaimed formula for providing daily relief from anxiety and stress which is shown in research to be effective for 81% of people who take it.
Stay Calm™ is a unique blend of botanicals, adaptogens and minerals to relieve anxiety, helping you cope calmly with stress and rise to the demands of each day, with clinically-studied ingredients including Ashwagandha KSM-66®, Rhodiola, Cordyceps, Schisandra, L-Theanine, and L-Tyrosine.
Exercise for reducing anxiety
The science of how exercise significantly enhances the positive chemicals in the brain and reduces the stress hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline, is extensive. Regular aerobic exercise “has a unique capacity to exhilarate and relax, to provide stimulation and calm, to counter depression and dissipate stress” - Harvard Medical School. Our top tip is finding exercise that you enjoy!
Mindfulness for helping anxiety
It is highly individual how one finds and experiences calm. For some that may be relaxing the mind through meditation and rhythmic breathing exercises. For others it may be zoning out through colouring in for mindfulness or something as simple as listening to a playlist. It is all about finding what works for you and delivers calm joy to your life, muting the stress of life and preventing anxious thoughts creeping in.
What are the dangers of vaping?
As e-cigarette and vaping usage is newer, this has led some people to believe it is safer and even healthier than smoking cigarettes, which has led to an increase in people being introduced to nicotine at a younger age. There are in fact many scientific studies on the health dangers of vaping in both adults and teenagers.
Vaping and cardiovascular damage
There is scientific evidence to support the argument that vaping does cause cardiovascular damage to the body in teenagers.
“Long-term e-cigarette use elevates pro-inflammatory white blood cell and oxidative stress levels in young adults… the use of e-cigarettes alone is likely to increase cardiovascular risk in adolescents.” - American Heart Association Council on Basic Cardiovascular Sciences, 2022.
Is vaping linked with Asthma?
There are an increasing amount of clinical studies showing that vaping can increase inflammation in the body’s airways. Results from a longitudinal study conducted in 2020 showed e-cigarette users were about 30% more likely to develop a chronic lung conditions, and tobacco smokers increased their risk by 160%. There is also ongoing research into secondhand exposure to vaping being linked with Asthma in teenagers.
To learn more about managing stress we recommend reading ‘Adaptogens that can change your life’ and ‘Foods and vitamins to help relieve anxiety’.
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