I quit smoking and now I’m constipated

Quitting smoking is tough but it is just about the best thing you could ever do for your health and wellbeing. But in the first few weeks after you stop smoking, you may experience a few issues including intense cravings, coughing, breathing difficulties and even constipation.

woman with constipationYes, I did say constipation!

Many reformed smokers report that they have suffered from constipation in the early days after quitting. It might seem unlikely that smoking cessation would impact your bowels but it does and here’s why.

Nicotine withdrawal

Nicotine impacts your entire body including your small bowel and colon. When you stop absorbing nicotine, your body will have to adjust to the new situation. This could mean that you experience a variety of digestive issues including nausea, excess gas and constipation. These problems should resolve themselves naturally after a few weeks.

In addition to nicotine withdrawal, the process of quitting smoking can trouble your digestive system for a variety of reasons.

The impact of quitting aids

You may have chosen to support your attempts to stop smoking by using quitting aids. Nicotine replacement therapies can cause digestive issues. You could also have been prescribed Varenicline (brand name Champix). This medication reduces cravings for nicotine and also blocks the rewarding and reinforcing effects of smoking. Nausea and constipation are listed as side effects of Champix.

Dietary changes and constipation

When you quit, it’s hard to resist turning to food to replace the hand-to-mouth aspect of smoking. You may also find yourself eating for comfort. Your choices are unlikely to healthy ones! Snacking on sweets, crisps and other guilty pleasures will disrupt the balance of your diet and lead to digestive problems. Increasing the proportion of veggies, fibre and lean protein in your diet should help.

Quitting smoking is stressful

Stress will have a negative effect on every aspect of your life, including your health. Giving up smoking is very stressful! You will feel anxious and your stress will manifest itself in physical symptoms that include constipation. You can relieve stress by practising mindfulness and meditation. Alternatively, spend more time doing something that you really enjoy or simply relax in a hot bath.

Lack of exercise

Every smoker is an individual and so quitting the habit effects people in different ways. Some quitters quickly embrace the improvement in their lung function and start to get active. Others feel so depressed that they can’t be bothered to get off the sofa and so become less active. A sedentary lifestyle could leave you prone to constipation and so it is important to engage in physical activity daily. Even a brisk 30 minute walk could make all the difference.

Constipation is just one of the many issues you may experience when you stop smoking. If you do suffer from constipation, don’t panic! Your body is reacting to drastic changes in your lifetsyle and may refuse to cooperate for a while. You will soon start feeling better and you can help yourself along the way by keeping fit, eating well and trying not to get too stressed.

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