Quitting smoking is not an easy process, but it is well worth the effort and discipline required. You’ll feel healthier and fitter, and reduce your risk of developing many serious health conditions, including cancer and heart disease.
Withdrawal from nicotine (which is the addictive substance in tobacco) causes discomfort and physical side-effects in most people, and may last up to six months. Withdrawal symptoms can manifest as:
- Cigarette cravings
- Nausea and stomach upsets such as constipation and diarrhoea
- Falling heart rate and blood pressure
- Fatigue, drowsiness, or insomnia
- Irritability, depression, anxiety and nervousness
- Difficulty concentrating
- Increased hunger (weight gain)
It is the nicotine in cigarettes that makes it hard to quit smoking. Nicotine is a stimulant, it elevates mood and is responsible for the confident attitude of smokers who say they can give up at any time. It is also responsible for many of the negative effects of smoking.
In association with carbon monoxide, which is produced in the burning process, nicotine causes the nervous system to increase the heart rate. Together, they also cause constriction of the arteries and tend to increase blood thickness. Over time, these processes place a constant strain on the cardiovascular system, increasing the risk of a blocked artery. The risk to the smoker is multiplied by being overweight, not exercising and having a high cholesterol level.
Nicotine creates a chemical dependency, so that the body develops a need for a certain level of nicotine at all times.
- Vitamin B complex is important to support your nervous system through the stressful time of giving up smoking
- Relaxant herbs such as hypericum, passionflower and valerian provide relief from nervous tension and stress
- Smokers require extra vitamin C to compensate for its destruction by cigarette smoke; aim to take 500-1000 mg per day
Your body will thank you for giving up smoking and so will the people around you. The health advantages of stopping smoking are numerous and range from increased energy to a decreased risk of cancer and heart attack.
It can be helpful to analyse your smoking habit – common triggers for cigarette cravings are emotional (“I always need a cigarette when I am stressed”) or environmental (“I only smoke when I’m at the pub”). By understanding how your addiction affects you, it will be easier to develop successful strategies for quitting.
It is also a good idea to pick a specific day to stop smoking – at least a couple of weeks in advance and tell all your friends and family of your intention. They will be invaluable support and you will also feel a sense of commitment once you have spoken of your intentions.
Your success depends upon your motivation and will to quit. Talk to yourself positively and remind yourself how good you will eventually feel with a healthy body and mind.
Avoid smoky environments and situations where you habitually smoke a lot.
Don’t smoke around children, and be sure they understand the dangers of smoking.
Smoking is a risk factor for many serious health conditions including lung cancer, emphysema, heart disease, chronic bronchitis and blood clots. If you are a smoker, ensure you have regular check-ups with your healthcare professional.
Women should also make sure they have regular pap smears, as smoking increases the risk of cervical cancer.