Quitting smoking is possibly the best thing you can do for your body. Now that you have embarked on this journey, you need to be stubborn about not reaching out for that pack of cigarettes due to the withdrawal symptoms of smoking. Interpret these symptoms as the signs that your body is recovering.
What are the withdrawal symptoms of smoking?
The nicotine found in cigarettes is what makes smoking so addictive. Though it does not give a high as experienced with drugs like cocaine or heroin, the addictiveness of nicotine is similar. This substance binds itself to specific receptors in the brain and stimulates the release of dopamine, which is a “feel good” hormone. When the body stops receiving doses of nicotine, the dopamine levels decrease, making you feel low and irritable. With nicotine levels dropping in the body, withdrawal symptoms start becoming apparent. These can be physical, mental, as well as emotional. The severity and duration of smoking withdrawal symptoms depend upon how long you have smoked and in what quantity. These symptoms can last from some days to a few weeks. The most common smoking withdrawal symptoms are:
Physical Withdrawal Symptoms of smoking:
- Increased appetite.
Mental and Emotional Symptoms of smoking:
- Difficulty concentrating.
How does smoking affect your body?
Smoking affects almost all the body’s organs, including lungs, heart, blood vessels, brain, metabolism, hormonal changes, etc. Smoking increases the risk of cancer, coronary heart disease, strokes, bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), tuberculosis, diabetes, certain eye diseases, dental diseases, rheumatoid arthritis, etc. Nicotine changes the hormonal balance by triggering the brain to release more serotonin and dopamine, making you feel happy, energetic, and more alert and making you crave tobacco. These hormones also suppress hunger, thus reducing your appetite. Smoking during pregnancy can lead to abnormalities in the foetus and other pregnancy-related complications. Smoking decreases life expectancy, and studies show that smokers live ten years less than nonsmokers on average.
This article further highlights how smoking affects your body and why you should quit immediately.
How does smoke affect the heart?
Smoking is the leading cause of cardiovascular diseases (CVD). Moreover, cigarette smoke also has several deteriorating heart and blood vessels effects.
Smoking increases heart rate, causes irregular heart rhythm (arrhythmia), and stiffens blood vessels. Nicotine thickens the blood, which tends to form clots inside the arteries. Cigarette smoke also causes inflammation and swelling of the cells lining the walls of the blood vessels. The lumps and the swelling reduce the circumference of the arteries, which causes an increase in blood pressure, forcing the heart to work harder to push blood through the narrowed vessels. This narrowing also results in peripheral arterial disease (PAD), as less blood reaches the extremities (hands and feet). High blood pressure further increases the risk of a stroke.
The good news is that one can reverse these detrimental effects on heart and blood vessels to a great extent once you stop smoking.
How does smoke affect the lungs?
The lungs and the airways are the most affected organs of your body when you smoke. Cigarette smoke increases the size and number of mucus-producing cells in the lungs, resulting in excess mucus production that the lungs cannot effectively clear out. It causes coughing and an increased risk of lung infections. Smoke damages the lung tissue, which results in decreased oxygenation to different organs. It also causes faster ageing of the lungs.
Smoke slows down the movement of cilia (hair-like projections on the lining of airways), which results in inadequate cleaning of the organ. Even a single cigarette irritates the lungs and airways, triggering a cough. Smoke is even more hazardous for asthmatics, as it can worsen asthma attacks and increase their frequency.
Aside from a simple cough, smoking is the leading cause of life-threatening diseases like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and lung cancers. Smokers are at 12 times more risk of dying from COPD than nonsmokers.
How does smoke affect the bones and teeth?
Though all of us are aware that smoking is harmful to the lungs and heart, we may not know that nicotine has very detrimental effects on bones and teeth.
Smokers are at a much higher risk of osteoporosis and fractures as compared to nonsmokers due to the following reasons:
Smoking reduces the blood supply to the bones. It impairs the absorption of calcium. Also, nicotine damages the osteoclast’s bone-forming cells, decreasing bone density. It also diminishes the production of calcitonin, a hormone that helps build bones. It increases the levels of cortisol, the hormone that causes bone breakdown.
The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons reports that the likelihood of a hip fracture is 30% to 40% more in smokers. Smokers also require a longer healing time in case of musculoskeletal injuries.
Smokers also face many oral health issues such as the increased risk of tooth decay, tooth loss, bad breath, gum diseases, jawbone loss, yellowing of teeth, and increased plaque formation.
How does smoke affect your skin?
Nicotine smoke brings about very noticeable changes to the skin. It narrows the skin’s blood vessels, which results in impaired oxygen supply and nutrition to the skin. Such oxidative damage causes premature skin ageing. There are more than 4000 chemicals in tobacco smoke, many of which damage collagen and elastin, responsible for the skin’s elasticity. It results in the development of wrinkles. Smoking also causes uneven skin pigmentation and dry skin. Smokers have baggy eyes, saggy jawlines, and the formation of lines around the mouth and eyes due to frequent squinting and lip pursuing. Smokers typically have darkening of the skin of fingers and nails.
Smokers have a greater tendency of scar formation, even with minor skin injuries. They are at higher risk of skin diseases like eczema, psoriasis, and squamous cell carcinoma.
“Smoking is injurious to health” is a tagline that we all know by heart. Yet that does not deter people from smoking. Interestingly, almost every smoker has tried quitting at least a couple of times. But what makes leaving so difficult? It is the body’s addiction and the withdrawal symptoms of smoking. Studies suggest that the first two weeks of quitting are the toughest, after which the withdrawal symptoms start fading. So, just hang in there this long and win this battle!