The thyroid is an important part of the body, but we rarely notice it. Even if we feel something odd in our throat, we assume it’s something else – like a sore throat or nasal problem – rather than a problem with the thyroid.
However, if you’ve been a regular smoker for decades, it might be time to ask yourself, “Can smoking affect my thyroid?”.
The thyroid, a small butterfly-shaped gland located in the neck, plays a significant role in your body’s hormone production.
Responsible for balancing your hormones, you’ll notice significant changes in metabolism, energy levels, body temperature, and other vital functions if you have a thyroid problem.
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Many studies have shown how the dangerous chemicals of cigarette smoke can disrupt the thyroid’s carefully managed balance of hormones in your body.
More importantly, these disruptions could lead to potentially serious health issues over time and may also linger for some time after you’ve quit smoking for good.
In this post, let’s take a look at how smoking and the first few years of smoking affect your thyroid and body in general.
Thyroid Problems After Quitting Smoking: An Explainer
It’s understandable that the thyroid can cause problems while you’re still smoking. But you might be puzzled why quitting smoking should affect your thyroid at all – shouldn’t quitting smoking help it recover?
There’s a simple explanation: After quitting, the thyroid gland may undergo a period of adjustment, much like how the protective cilia growing in your lungs make you cough quite a lot as it removes chemicals from cigarette smoke after you stop smoking.
It’s easy to see how this activity is also connected to the nicotine withdrawals you’ll feel after a few weeks of stopping cigarettes.
Fortunately, for most motivated smokers, these thyroid issues after stopping smoking are only temporary.
But still, it’s crucial to monitor your thyroid health and, more importantly, if your thyroid is causing persistent discomfort or severe symptoms. Consulting a GP can greatly help if you’re concerned about your thyroid’s condition after smoking.
Is Smoking Bad for Your Thyroid?
Now, how does smoking affect your thyroid? For anyone without any thyroid issues from the start until they’ve begun smoking, they may develop the following:
Poor Iodine Absorption
Most salt products used nowadays contain iodine, which is crucial for the thyroid to do its work properly, most especially in regulating hormone production.
Studies have shown that smoking has an adverse effect on iodine absorption in the body, which can lead to potential thyroid dysfunction.
Once you quit smoking, your iodine absorption rates will begin to improve.
While it might be slow and may have some temporary symptoms mentioned above, your thyroid’s improvement will help restore iodine balance in your body, potentially back into pre-smoking levels.
Slowed Nutrient Synthesis Process
The numerous dangerous chemicals in cigarette smoke will affect your stomach, oral health and cognitive ability, namely due to immediate negative effects. In the long run, these chemicals also deprive your body of its much-needed nutrients.
The chemicals in cigarette smoke interfere with the body’s ability to absorb Vitamin C and B-complex.
Studies have also shown that cadmium in cigarette smoke (used in batteries) dissolves selenium, which is an essential nutrient for thyroid function and is found in seafood and meat.
A motivated smoker going through a quit journey restores their body’s nutrient synthesis and selenium levels. Furthermore, quitting smoking restores regular nutrient absorption from carbohydrates, proteins, and even fat.
Increased Salt Excretion from Kidneys
Smoking is linked to various severe kidney diseases, with chemicals from cigarette smoke being the primary factor in various chronic kidney diseases.
Due to a duller sense of taste and smell, the thyroid needing more iodine to balance hormones properly, and the link between smoking and alcohol, regular smokers usually have a higher preference for salty food.
This can lead to renal problems over time due to excessive salt excretion by the kidneys.
Excessive salt intake can lead to kidney stones, which are accumulated proteins that form solid deposits and are extremely painful and difficult to remove.
While it doesn’t affect the thyroid directly, it goes to show how the gland handles iodine deprivation caused by smoking, triggering a severe condition in your kidneys.
Enlargement (Autoimmune Thyroid Disease)
Iodine deprivation caused by smoking and the chemicals in cigarette smoke can cause thyroid gland enlargement in two ways.
To compensate for iodine deficiency, the gland will enlarge in an attempt to balance the body’s hormone production (goiter). This is known as Grave’s Disease.
Another autoimmune thyroid disease caused by smoking is Hashimoto’s Disease, which causes the immune system to target the thyroid mistakenly and cause swelling. Smoking has been associated with an increased risk of developing Hashimoto’s disease.
It’s Easier to Stop Smoking Today
As always, prevention is the best cure for almost anything – and that means stopping smoking will keep your lungs in good shape and avoid thyroid issues once you get older.
Here are some helpful steps you can take to stop smoking for good.
Go Through First-Line Solutions First
Some motivated smokers can handle cold turkey just fine and see success within a few tries, but oftentimes, smokers have strong withdrawals that can draw them back to lighting a stick.
That’s where nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) products come in. These are readily available and stocked at your local pharmacy.
NRT products are the most trusted quitting option available for motivated smokers. They might not imitate cigarettes, but they contain a small dose of nicotine that may be enough to alleviate your withdrawals. These come in the form of patches and gums for easy and convenient nicotine delivery.
While NRTs can be effective, they don’t work for everyone. If these haven’t done the trick for you, you may be eligible for a nicotine prescription to use nicotine vaping products (NVPs).
Chat to a GP
As mentioned, NRT products have worked for many successful ex-smokers. But, you might have ingrained behaviours and triggers that only something that mimics a cigarette can successfully address, such as the hand-to-mouth motion, and needing something to use while having a drink with friends.
That is where NVPs become very handy in helping you fight the urge to consume tobacco.
You need a nicotine prescription before you can purchase NVPs, so you’ll need to consult with a GP to help you on your smoking cessation journey.
And, if your GP deems it necessary, they can write you a nicotine prescription for NVPs.
You can chat to your usual GP more about this.
Visit Your Local Pharmacy
Once you have your nicotine prescription, you can pop down to your local pharmacy. Over 2,200 pharmacies across Australia hold these products in-store, but any pharmacy can order these in for you if they don’t currently stock them.
Both your pharmacist and GP can advise you on how best to use the product, such as the initial setup, and the number of puffs to take when you feel withdrawals.
Prevention Is the Cure for Thyroid Problems
Thyroid problems are an unnecessary health issue that is easily prevented by stopping smoking. And, if you’re concerned about your thyroid after quitting smoking, know that these discomforts are only temporary – once your thyroid recovers, you’ll live a better and much healthier life.
Looking to quit smoking and improve your thyroid’s health? We can help.
Smokefree Clinic gives you access to many medically reviewed and trustworthy resources that can inform and aid you in your path to wellness, so have a look around!
If you’re ready to get started, Smokefree can connect you to Australian healthcare professionals who excel in helping patients quit smoking for good.