In the US, almost 34 million adults reportedly smoke, with 16 million Americans afflicted by a disease attributed to smoking. Smoking is ranked high among the hardest habits to quit, despite that fact that the high from smoking is not mild. Habitual smokers find that the first month after quitting is the toughest, while the fight to stay off the butt could typically last a lifetime. Individuals are likely to experience certain side effects of quitting smoking and it is necessary to handle the effects, to ensure a smooth transition to better health. Here is a detailed look at the effects and tips to handle the same.
Benefits of quitting smoking
Before we look at the side effects of quitting smoking here is a look at some of the benefits of kicking the habit. Smokers who quit are likely to almost immediately experience certain changes. For instance, twenty minutes after the last cigarette, the heart rate and blood pressure level of smokers drop. In less than half a day, the carbon monoxide levels in the blood dip to nearly normal levels. In the period between two weeks to twelve weeks after the last cigarette, blood circulation improves, helping lungs to function better. One of the most common adverse effects of smoking is shortness of breath and coughing, which reduces considerably by nine months after quitting.
After a year, the risk of coronary heart ailments reduces by 50%, and in five years the risk of stroke is reduced to a level of a non-smoker. The risk of lung cancer, cancer of the mouth, cervix, pancreas, esophagus and bladder reduces in 10 years after quitting smoking. Additionally, individuals who quit smoking experience an enhanced quality of life – improved sense of smell and taste. Results of exercises improve considerably, while sparing the smoker the embarrassment of stale cigarette smoke smell. Fertility levels improve, in addition to reducing health risk of family members. For instance, second hand some is known to expose family members to risk of bronchitis, pneumonia, asthma, ear infections and meningitis.
Commonly experienced of side effects of quitting smoking
Individuals are likely to experience easily discernible symptoms of side effects of quitting smoking. For instance, the craving for smoking is likely to be strong initially, abut will gradually lessen over a period of time. Most individuals make he mistake of giving in to the carving with an intention of making it the last smoke. However, this effectively results in extending the craving, as the urge to smoke will be strong from the last cigarette. Every time an individual fights back the urge to smoke, the craving to smoke will eventually be less powerful.
Other commonly experienced symptoms side effects of quitting smoking include the inability to sleep easily. Smokers who quit may find it difficult to fall asleep, or experience a feeling of restlessness. There could also be difficulty in focussing on work or concentrating on tasks. A swing in mood and behavior are other side effects of quitting smoking, and this emotional state is common to a large number of individuals during the early stages of quitting. The increase in appetite and weight gain is likely to last for a longer time and individuals need to adopt suitable routines and measures to manage weight. Coughing, sore throat, sneezing and cold are other possible symptoms that will manifest after quitting smoking. Depending on the individual’s habits, there is also the possibility of constipation due to quitting smoking. Many individuals have the habit of smoking prior to ablutions and constipation is more likely to be felt by individuals with this habit. Ulcers in the mouth and a dizzy feeling could also be experienced by smoker who leave the habit.
Sequence of withdrawal symptoms by time
After the last cigarette has been stubbed out, smokers may experience the following sequence of withdrawals. Depending on the frequency with which an individual smoked, the urge to light the next cigarette could start from in half an hour or four hours. This urge will be strong, and similar to the daily urge that resulted in the next cigarette. Within ten hours of having the last smoke, the individual is likely to experience a degree of restlessness that may be tough to handle. In one day of quitting, the individual is most likely to show signs of irritability along with an increase in appetite.
Two days after quitting, the nicotine levels in the body reduce considerably and this results in the individual experiencing a headache. In seventy-two hours, most of the nicotine in the body may have been cleared, resulting in lesser craving to smoke. However, during this period, the individual is likely to experience anxiety. Between the period of one week to four weeks, the individual is most likely to have lesser energy levels that is mainly attributed to the psychological impact of quitting smoking and the high associated with cigarettes. However, during this period, other symptoms are likely to reduce, and it is entirely up to the mental strength of the individual to stay off the butt.
Six common side effects of quitting smoking and nicotine withdrawal
The following six effects of nicotine withdrawal are the most common and a large section of smokers are likely to experience these side effects of quitting smoking. There are effective methods by which these side effects could be handled easily to mitigate and lessen the intensity of the symptoms.
#1 Increase in weight and appetite
Probably the most common side effect of smoking is an increase in weight and appetite. This is attributed to various reasons, including the fact that smoking suppresses appetite. As a result of this, smokers have poor diets. When the smoking stops, this results in an increased desire to snack and this contributes to weight gain. Sugar is released from the muscles when an individual smokes and consequently, the insulin response is altered. When smoking stops for sufficiently long periods, the lowered blood sugar levels trigger the urge to consume sweeter and carbs. As a result of this urge, individuals who quit smoking end up gaining weight with an increased appetite.
#2 Inability to sleep peacefully or easily
Among nicotine withdrawal symptoms and side effects of quitting smoking, sleep disturbances are known to rank high. The range of sleep related symptoms are typically high. For instance, the individual can experience sleeplessness or could also end up feeling sleeping through the day. This is primarily attributed to the change in dopamine levels. Smokers enjoy high dopamine levels during smoking and when the smoking stops this causes wat is commonly known as dysregulation of dopamine. Dopamine has multiple effects on the body and functions and one of the effects is sleep regulation. When this is affected, the individual is likely to end up with disturbed sleep. A large number of individuals are known to remain tired throughout the day as a result of this lack of required sleep.
#3 Cough that does not go away
Smokers are known to have bouts of coughing. This is typically expected and accepted as an effect of smoking. However, when this occurs even after smoking, this could sometimes be a cause for concern or alarm among smokers. Surprisingly, contrary to the alarm among smokers about coughing after quitting, the signs are actually positive. It is an indication that the lungs are fighting and turning healthy, by ridding itself of the effects of smoking. The cilia in the lungs – the superfine projections in the airway end up flattened at the time of smoking. When an individual smokes, the cilia is effectively immobilized. When the individual quits smoking, the cilia begin to return to normal and this causes coughing. The cilia attempt to function normally and as a result the toxic contents are flushed out when the cilia retake their original shape. Smokers can help manage this condition more effectively by consuming more liquids, and by ensuring that the premises have good air-humidifiers. Other possible actions could include the use of OTC formulations to lessen the effects of throat irritation through drops or products with honey.
#4 Conditions similar to flu
Other conditions and side effects of quitting smoking are flu like symptoms. These are symptoms that are collectively known as quitters’ flu. Frequently experienced symptoms include sinusitis, slight fever, frequent coughing and body pain. Individuals are typically likely to experience an overall feeling of discomfort or illness that is not attributed to any particular cause or reason. This is primarily as the body has been taken off nicotine and is not accustomed to being in the particular state, and this triggers the unfavourable symptoms. Additionally, the body’s immune response system is also known to trigger a response to a new condition and this is the reason for the fever and discomfort. For instance, the body’s immune response system reacts to bacteria or virus in a particular way. When the body is used to the effects of smoking over a certain period, it becomes used to that state and considers it as normal. When the individual ceases smoking, the body finds itself in a new state and responds to this condition in different manners. This is the reason for fever and malaise. This can be handled effectively with pain killers, wherever required and a tapered down nicotine replacement therapy that will help the body adapt to progressively lesser levels of nicotine.
#5 Sudden swings in mood
Side effects of quitting smoking that occur in individuals range from the physical to the emotional. This includes irritation and stress that is linked to nicotine withdrawal symptoms. As a consequence of the sudden dysregulation of various hormones and the central nervous system, individuals experience side effects that include mood swings. While this is not as severe as the withdrawal effects of drug addicts, it requires some kind of adjustments and measures to lessen the impact of the behavior. For instance, individuals who quit smoking are known to have sudden irrational outbursts that are not attributed to any specific or valid reason. These physiological changes include other effects such as an increase in heart rate or a sudden spike in blood pressure levels. Additionally, there is also the possibility of the individual experiencing dizziness apart from difficulties in concentrating or having issues with memory retention. When this is accompanied by sleep deprivation, the effects are aggravated and the individual is likely to exhibit more mood swings. It may be necessary to treat certain conditions or behavior with appropriate medical attention.
#6 Onset of constipation
Apart from the various conditions that impact the brain and the lungs attributed to nicotine withdrawal, there are side effects of quitting smoking on the digestive tract. This is mainly because the body undergoes certain changes as a result is smoking over a long period. When the smoking stops, the body reacts with changes. As a result, individuals experience side effects after quitting smoking. The first change typically experienced is the motility and contraction of the intestines. Motility is reduced and the altered rate of contraction of the intestines ends up with a reduction in the speed of digestion of food. Consequently, individuals who smoke are likely to have constipation that is short term in nature. In other words, there is a possibility of the condition resolving naturally after a certain period of time. This could be a fortnight in most cases. This condition is generally aggravated as a result of dietary preferences of smokers upon quitting. The carvings for sweet food products and fast food ends up increasing the intake of foods that promote constipation. This condition can be managed effectively by ensuring that dietary intake is modified with the right kind of food. For instance, smokers who intend to quit are advised to drink more water to promote motility. Additionally, an increased intake of dietary fiber will also help to restore bowel movements and increase motility.
How to manage the urge to smoke again
It is possible to effectively manage the side effects of quitting smoking with simple methods that need to be practiced for a long time. It is necessary to adjust routines in a manner that help mitigate the effects of quitting and to ensure that the individual does not end up smoking again. The urge to smoke is often tagged to some activity, and individuals are advised to ensure that there is a clear change in routines to avoid the activity.
There are simple proven techniques that help avoid the activities. For instance, experts advise individuals to take a shower in the morning. This refreshes the body and helps the individual to think of other actions, instead of enjoying the customary morning puff. Smoking is invariably linked to drinking coffee and tea. Counsellors often advice smokers to change the beverage or the place where the beverage is consumed. This will prevent the associated activity or reduce the chances of the associated activity. Similarly, individuals are known to prefer certain locations or rooms inside the house for smoking. For instance, browsing on the desktop may be a favorite activity with a conveniently placed ashtray beside. Getting rid of the ashtray and moving the desktop to a different location could help resist the urge to smoke. Other triggers for smoking include a heavy meal. The best method o fighting this is to take a nice refreshing walk after a meal to resist the urge to light up a cigarette.
Other recommended actions include a change in timings so as to bring in a different way of performing routine activities. Involving oneself in a new hobby or activity is a great way to kick the habit and prevent side effects of quitting smoking. The key to success is to be engrossed in an interesting activity. For instance, listening to music is considered as a great way to unwind and relax, which will help forget the urge or resist the urge to smoke. The most important aspect of managing the urge is to remember that every time an individual is successful in staying away from a cigarette, the shorter will be the time to completely come out of the habit. A single cigarette after weeks of control is all that it takes for the habit to start again. Alternatively, if the individual is determined to kick the habit, the cycle of resisting the urge will only extend.
It is necessary to handle the side effects of quitting smoking in an effective manner. For instance, smokers who have kicked the habit need to manage the stress and emotional withdrawal symptoms. This needs to be achieved alongside the physical side effects associated with smoking. The best, time-tested method is to spend more time in routine activities, and reduce the probability of boredom or free time that could trigger the urge. It could also help to have a plan in place to manage the possible weight gain as a result of quitting. This will not only keep the individual involved, it will also help transition to improved health.