You cannot argue with the fact that smoking severely affects your body and your overall health. Fortunately, these harmful effects are not completely irreversible. Over time, organ functions regenerate, and your overall well-being improves.
Usually, it takes approximately a year to recover from most of the damage caused by nicotine to your body. However, it is essential to understand that every smoker’s recovery process is an individual matter, and in some cases, complete recovery may take up to fifteen years.
Quitting smoking is always a challenge, for some smokers – even a struggle. Thus, many opt for alternatives, such as vaping devices like Vype or tobacco heating systems like iQOS, believed to be less harmful. But, if you come prepared, you have a higher chance to succeed in your recovery. Below, you will find more information about how your body readjusts after you quit smoking.
Factors That Affect the Recovery Process in Your Body
Getting rid of nicotine addiction significantly increases the chances of a longer and more comfortable life. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the recovery process begins just 20-30 minutes after smoking the last cigarette. However, the duration of a full recovery after smoking cessation depends on the following factors:
- the age of smoking initiation
- the duration of addiction
- age and sex of a smoker
- the average number of cigarettes consumed per day
- the initial and current state of health
- degree of damage to internal organs, including those not related to tobacco smoking
- existing chronic diseases, especially in the stage of decompensation
- concomitant use of alcohol, drugs as well as taking medications
It is also necessary to take into account environmental factors. Readjustment is more successful if a person is in a comfortable psychoemotional environment. Recovery largely depends on the lifestyle, working conditions, social circle, and family. However, the key element to success is a conscious desire to quit smoking.
Stages of the Recovery Process
The body’s reaction to quitting smoking is most intense in the first two weeks after you stop smoking. All the symptoms that appear during this time frame are a consequence of the so-called nicotine withdrawal – the body is being cleansed of nicotine. Still, the processes in which nicotine participated have not yet been rebuilt. Let’s take a closer look at the processes that occur in your body after you quit smoking:
Already in the first hours without nicotine, your body starts readjusting and experiencing the first benefits. In the first 20 minutes, the heart rate and blood pressure are returning to normal. As a result, internal organs, the brain, and limbs begin to receive more blood due to improved blood flow.
You may also experience an elevated mood during the first day. However, some people may notice decreased appetite, weakness, slight anxiety, or difficulties with sleeping.
During the first week after giving up tobacco, the nicotine withdrawals continue, accompanied by a number of symptoms. They include:
- excessive sweating
- lack of appetite
- shortness of breath
- difficulties sleeping
At this stage, the regeneration of the intestinal mucosa and bronchi, where sputum accumulates, begins. By the end of the first week, the stomach and pancreas work in a standard mode, taste sensations improve, while blood pressure can be slightly elevated. The gallbladder and intestines function with minor failures without nicotine.
This first week can be emotionally challenging – stress levels increase, irritability and aggression alternate with apathy. You will experience an intense craving for smoking. The probability of a relapse is high, but the determination will probably return by the end of the week.
After a month without smoking, the body is restored at the cellular level. Harmful substances are excreted, and the bronchial mucosa regenerates. The overall well-being improves – the blood cells count is restored, and the vascular tone increases. As a result, the immune system and tissue nutrition improve. Yellow nicotine stains on your fingers and nails begin to go away, and the overall condition of your complexion improves.
After six months, the total regeneration of skin cells is completed, meaning your complexion changes for the better, peeling and dryness go away. Regeneration of the mucous membrane and other tissues of the bronchopulmonary system continues all this time.
Vascular tone returns to normal in three months after quitting smoking. Blood cells are completely restored by the end of six months. By the end of the fourth month, your appetite gets back to normal, and the weight stabilizes. Because of that, you can reduce the amount of food you eat, as your body can digest it much better now.
After six months, your lungs are cleaned, resulting in their increased capacity – you can breathe deeply now. The normal functioning of the stomach and intestines is restored, and also, starting from the fifth month, liver regeneration begins.
By this time, your mood is already stable and even cheerful, and your sleeping patterns are back to normal. Moreover, the craving for cigarettes is easier to suppress since, at this moment, you will experience only a slight desire to return to a familiar ritual. Keep in mind that despite that, by then, you will probably have other habits with which to replace smoking, relapses are still possible under provoking circumstances – for example, after drinking alcohol.
A year without smoking cigarettes is a serious achievement. After a year of nicotine cessation, the body usually recovers so much that the risk of stroke decreases by 50%, of heart attack – by 40 %, and the probability of lung and liver cancer by 80-90%.
The risk of a relapse is minimal, but it is worth remembering what you went through to accomplish this milestone. It is not worth risking such an achievement for the sake of one cigarette.
According to the Office for National Statistics, “in Great Britain, more than half (52.7%) of people aged 16 years and above who currently smoked said they wanted to quit.” It means that half of the people who smoke would like to get rid of the habit, but they either cannot get through unexpected nicotine withdrawal symptoms or haven’t found a solid reason to do so.
However, it is essential to remember that smoking can be dangerous both for you and for people around you. In contrast, giving up cigarettes helps normalize the functioning of all body cells while reducing the risks associated with pulmonary, cardiovascular, and oncological diseases. Moreover, you will notice positive changes in the social, financial, and even sexual dimensions of your life.