Everyone appreciates the absence of constipation in their lives – being unable to get rid of bodily waste is uncomfortable and can be an embarrassing burden.
It’s typically due to a number of issues, such as having a lengthy and unnaturally structured colon or a lack of dietary fibre, but you may also experience constipation days or weeks after you’ve stopped smoking.
There’s a complex interaction between the chemicals in cigarette smoke and how your digestive system and larger intestines work, which might explain why you’re constipated after quitting.
In this post, we’ll shed light on the relationship between bowel movement and cigarette smoke, why it’s normal to endure constipation after stopping smoking, and how to minimise or avoid it.
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Did Smoking Help My Bowel Movement?
Cigarette smoke has many adverse effects on the human body. It can cause your breath to smell, your skin to turn unhealthy, and cause irreparable damage to your lungs, heart, and of course, your stomach and digestive system.
After you smoke a cigarette, the smoke (and chemicals) can enter various areas of your body, such as your olfactory system, lungs, and stomach. When it enters your stomach, it can alter the microbiome inside your guts – the ‘workers’ and defenders of your digestive system.
Furthermore, chemicals from cigarette smoke can stimulate stomach movement. For people with digestive issues, stomach and intestine movement can be helpful for constipation, allowing it to function normally, especially if you have a lengthy colon.
Did Quitting Smoking Cause My Constipation?
Constipation affects nearly everybody at one point or another. While it’s far from being a huge humanitarian problem, the discomforts and potential dangers of constipation should never be underestimated.
Once you stop smoking, your stomach’s artificial stimulation from cigarette smoke ceases – this is one explanation for why you’ve become constipated after quitting smoking.
However, there may be other reasons. Let’s look into those.
A motivated person who quits smoking will have an altered sense of taste, which may adversely affect their diet. It’s also possible that due to boredom and lack of stimulation via cigarettes, they’ll start eating more as their sense of taste improves.
The sudden increase in food intake and the lack of stimulated stomach movement may cause constipation.
In addition to a good diet, regular physical activity is one of the best ways to reduce or even stop the symptoms of constipation.
It strengthens your musculoskeletal system, especially near the abdomen area that helps bowel movements between the stomach, intestines, and colon.
Smoking Causes Digestive Issues
Smoking is a primary cause of numerous digestive problems, especially as you become older. Here are some examples of them.
GERD: Smoking is a known risk factor for GERD, a chronic condition where stomach acid regularly flows back into the esophagus. Smoking can weaken the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), a muscular ring that separates the esophagus from the stomach. Weakened LES increases the likelihood of acid reflux, leading to symptoms such as heartburn, regurgitation, and chest pain.
Crohn’s Disease: While the exact cause of Crohn’s disease, an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), is unknown, smoking has been identified as a significant risk factor.
Peptic Ulcers: Smoking can contribute to the development and exacerbation of peptic ulcers, which are open sores that form on the inner lining of the stomach or the upper part of the small intestine. Cigarette smoke increases stomach acid production and reduces the effectiveness of the stomach’s protective mucus barrier.
Pancreatitis: Smoking is a well-established risk factor for pancreatitis, an inflammation of the pancreas. The harmful substances in tobacco can damage the pancreas and its blood vessels, leading to inflammation and the development of pancreatitis. Chronic pancreatitis, often linked to long-term smoking, can result in permanent damage to the pancreas and impair its ability to function properly.
Cancer: Smoking is a major cause of various types of cancer, including lung cancer, esophageal cancer, stomach cancer, and pancreatic cancer. The chemicals in tobacco smoke can damage DNA, leading to the uncontrolled growth of cells and the formation of tumors.
Treating Constipation After Quitting Smoking
Here are several ways to provide yourself comfort and possibly treat constipation after quitting smoking.
Handle Nicotine Withdrawals
To keep yourself in check and handle the nicotine withdrawal symptoms, we strongly urge you to consult with a GP to receive a customised smoking cessation programme.
GPs have helped many motivated smokers, including those with constipation, to quit successfully and manage their constipation by addressing their nicotine withdrawals with the right aids, such as nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) and pharmaceutical nicotine vaping products (NVPs) where needed.
Exercise stimulates the muscles in the digestive tract, which is helpful for bowel movements. Physical activity helps to enhance the rhythmic contractions of the intestines (peristalsis), which improves bowel motility and facilitates the movement of stool through the digestive system.
Eat Fibre-Rich Foods
Soluble and insoluble fibers found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes add bulk to the stool, making it softer and easier to pass. Soluble fiber, which dissolves in water, forms a gel-like substance in the intestines, aiding in the smooth movement of stool.
Insoluble fiber, on the other hand, adds bulk to the stool and helps prevent constipation by speeding up its passage through the digestive tract.
Use Laxatives When Necessary
In some cases, both exercise and a good diet might not be enough to alleviate your constipation after quitting smoking. If the constipation is too much, you might need to see your GP to know if a laxative might be necessary to ease your discomfort.
While smoking can technically assist in bowel movement, it only serves to cause more harm than good given the diseases and increased risks it causes.
Quitting smoking is much more effective and sustainable for improving constipation and your overall health, especially if paired with regular exercise, a proper diet, and a GP’s help in your smoking cessation journey.
We know you’re reading this because you’re having problems with constipation after quitting smoking, and we can definitely 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.