So, you’ve decided to quit smoking. Congratulations! Quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do for your body, your mind, and your bank account.
The quitting process is different for everyone.
While some may go cold turkey, others may use nicotine replacement therapies such as vapes, patches, or gum to get them through.
Unless you keep using nicotine replacements forever, your body will suffer nicotine withdrawal.
These symptoms can be unpleasant, but thankfully, they’re short-lived.
Even if you’re still using nicotine, quitting smoking can wreak havoc on the body.
Constipation is one of the most frustrating and most widely documented symptoms of quitting.
So, what causes it, and how can you get things moving again? Keep reading to find out.
What Is Constipation?
If you’re constipated, your bowel movements will be hard, less frequent, and difficult to pass.
There are many causes of constipation, and almost everyone will experience it at some point.
If you’re straining, have hard stools, feel bloated, or like your bowels are never completely empty, you may be constipated.
In severe cases, cramping, bloating, pain in the rectum and abdomen, and nausea may also be symptoms of constipation.
Does Quitting Smoking Cause Constipation?
The benefits of quitting smoking are endless.
From improved lung function and more years on the clock to more money in your bank account and cleaner smelling breath, putting down the cigarettes for good is one of the best decisions you can make for your health.
Before you get there, though, you may experience a range of uncomfortable symptoms – one of which is constipation.
In fact, constipation is one of the most common symptoms of quitting smoking.
If you’re feeling back up when you quit smoking, this could be due to stress levels, nicotine withdrawal, dietary changes, or changes in your activity level.
There’s no doubt about it – quitting smoking is stressful. It isn’t just hard on the mind, but it can be tough on the body in the short term, too.
Smoking cessation can cause increased levels of emotional stress.
Emotional stress can cause physical symptoms in the body, such as headaches or dizziness, sexual problems, chest pains, muscle tension and pain, and digestive issues such as constipation.
If you’re struggling to keep your head above water when you quit smoking, you’re not alone. Emotional stress is an unfortunate (but common) part of the process.
To keep your stress levels at bay, take some time to look after yourself.
Whether that’s running a warm bath, meditating, reading that book that’s been sitting on your bedside table for six months… Do something that makes you feel relaxed.
This will reduce your stress levels and ease any physical symptoms caused by emotional stress.
Nicotine withdrawal is one of the most common causes of constipation in people quitting smoking.
Nicotine is a stimulant drug found in cigarettes.
Nicotine reaches the brain within seconds of ingestion, and it’s the addictive substance that keeps us hooked on smoking cigarettes.
Nicotine stimulates the adrenal glands and increases heart rate and blood pressure, etc.
Once it reaches the bloodstream, it makes its way to your heart, where it’s then transferred to your arteries and your brain.
You may experience trouble concentrating, insomnia, depression, and anxiety when you go through nicotine withdrawal.
You may also experience a decreased appetite, mouth ulcers, a cough, and constipation.
Nicotine directly affects the colon and small bowel, so while your body adjusts to the disappearance of this substance, it’s normal to experience a change in your bowel movements.
Thankfully, constipation is a short-term side effect of nicotine withdrawal, and it usually resolves on its own.
If constipation persists for more than a few weeks after you quit, there may be other factors at play, such as changes in diet or medication side effects.
When you quit smoking, your diet may change dramatically.
As we lose that hand-to-mouth activity we become so dependent on, it’s common to use eating as a comfort or coping mechanism.
Unfortunately, when we quit smoking, we often lean towards high-fat, high-sugar diets.
So if you’re relying on mountains of processed food to get you through the cravings, you may lack fiber, which could be the main cause of your constipation.
Take a close look at your diet, and see where you can make healthier choices.
This could include swapping sugary snacks for fruits and veggies and incorporating more whole grains into your diet.
Changes In Activity Levels
When you quit smoking, your life will change drastically.
These changes are almost always for the better, but they can still wreak havoc on your body.
If you’ve been experiencing a low mood, you may be less physically active than you were when you were smoking.
Being less active than normal when you quit smoking is common.
However, a lack of exercise can be a leading cause of constipation. Our colons respond to activity – exercise can stimulate the nervous system and kick the muscles and nerves in our gut into gear.
So, if you’ve been more of a couch potato since you quit, it may be time to get moving again.
Quitting Smoking: Relieving Constipation
Constipation is more than just an inconvenience. It can be painful and embarrassing, and if it persists for long enough, it can have effects on our physical health.
Although constipation is usually just a short-term side effect for quitters, this doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do to relieve your symptoms.
Here are some of the best ways to relieve your symptoms and get your bowel moving like clockwork again.
- Drink Water – Staying hydrated keeps waste moving efficiently through the body. Drink plenty of water throughout the day to keep your stools soft.
- Eat Fruit – Fruits are high in dietary fiber, which is exactly what you need to get your body moving. Apples, plums, and pears are popular choices.
- Exercise – If you’ve been less physically active since you quit smoking, make an effort to get moving again. Even if you start off with a short walk around the block and build up every little helps.
- Coffee – This isn’t the healthiest of recommendations, but it’s a great option if you need to get things moving without laxatives. Caffeine stimulates the muscles in your digestive system to contract, which causes bowel movements. However, coffee can also be dehydrating. So, make sure to drink plenty of water, too. Skip this suggestion if you’re steering clear of caffeine and other stimulants.
- Laxatives – If your constipation continues to persist, it may be time to try a laxative. We’d recommend talking to your doctor first before taking laxatives. Ideally, a prescription or over-the-counter laxative should be a last resort. However, if your constipation persists for more than three weeks, it may be time to try them.
The Bottom Line
If you’ve decided to quit smoking, remember: no matter how unpleasant the short-term side effects may be, the long-term benefits are worth their weight in gold.
Constipation is an unfortunate part of the quitting process; however, it usually resolves on its own, and there’s plenty you can do to alleviate your symptoms.
Keep pushing through your quit journey, and if you’re struggling to stay afloat, seek support from a medical professional or smoking cessation specialist.