Constipation after quitting smoking happens relatively often. Because nicotine promotes the movement of feces through the intestinal tract, withdrawal from it can result in difficulty with bowel movements.
Although constipation is a
Symptoms of constipation include stools that are dry, lumpy, and hard to pass.
This article discusses the factors that relate to constipation after quitting smoking, as well as treatment and when to call a doctor. It also examines other symptoms of nicotine withdrawal, the benefits of quitting smoking, and ways to quit smoking.
Constipation after quitting smoking is one of the symptoms that occur when adjusting to the lack of nicotine, the main ingredient in cigarette smoke. Other factors associated with quitting may also contribute to constipation.
Nicotine withdrawals and constipation
According to the
- intense or mild cravings to smoke
- feeling grumpy or irritated
- feeling restless or jumpy
- depression and anxiety
- inability to concentrate
- trouble sleeping
Nicotine helps foster regular bowel movements because it mimics the action of the parasympathetic nervous system. This is the part of the nervous system that promotes digestion.
It stimulates peristalsis, the intestinal movements that propel the contents forward. Due to this action, having a cigarette
Dietary changes can occur after quitting smoking.
In the absence of cigarettes, people may turn to food to reward themselves or have something to do with their hands and mouth. Additionally, after smoking, the appetite may increase, which makes food more enjoyable.
These effects can play a role in constipation because individuals may gravitate toward sweet and fatty foods. These choices may be low in fiber, the dietary constituent that promotes regular bowel movements. It may help to eat more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
Activity level changes
After quitting smoking, some people may experience tiredness, according to
It is important to exercise throughout nicotine withdrawal. A
Stress level changes
Quitting smoking causes cravings for nicotine, which
This can worsen constipation because the hormones released during stress can slow intestinal movement and increase inflammation. With this in mind, it is beneficial to find ways to reduce stress during this time.
Symptoms of constipation
- fewer than three bowel movements per week
- stools that are difficult to pass
- stools that are dry, lumpy, or hard
- a feeling that not all the stool has passed
- nicotine cravings
- difficulty concentrating
Treatment for constipation may include lifestyle changes and medication.
- drinking plenty of water and other liquids
- eating more fiber-rich foods
- getting regular exercise
Medications for constipation
- fiber supplements such as Citrucel, FiberCon, or Metamucil
- stool softeners such as Colace and Docusate
- prescription medications such as lubiprostone, which increases fluid in your digestive tract
The benefits start within a few minutes and increase over time. The American Lung Association offers the below timeline of benefits:
|Length of time after quitting||Health benefits|
|20 minutes||The heart rate decreases to standard.|
|12–24 hours||The risk of a heart attack lowers significantly, and blood carbon monoxide levels decline to standard.|
|2 weeks to 3 months||Lung function begins to increase, and the risk of heart attacks decreases further.|
|1–9 months||Shortness of breath and coughing reduce.|
|1 year||The added likelihood of heart artery disease is 50% less than that of a smoker.|
|5 years||The risk of cancers of the esophagus, throat, or mouth is 50% lower than that of a smoker. Also, stroke risk decreases to that of a nonsmoker.|
|10 years||The risk of cancers of the cervix, pancreas, kidneys, and larynx decreases. Also, the likelihood of death from lung cancer and the risk of developing bladder cancer is about 50% of that of a smoker.|
|15 years||The likelihood of heart artery disease drops to that of a nonsmoker.|
A person can stop smoking with the help of a quitline, a quitSTART app, medications, or a combination.
This is a
Stop smoking medications
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved several options. Nicotine replacement therapy
There are two other medication options, bupropion (Zyban) and varenicline (Chantix). Bupropion is a type of antidepressant that can reduce cravings, and varenicline reduces the enjoyment people get from nicotine.
Someone should contact a doctor if constipation symptoms do not disappear with self-care. Also, they should get medical attention right away if they experience any of the
If a person experiences constipation after quitting smoking, it may stem from nicotine withdrawal. However, the stress and changes in diet and physical activity that tend to occur during this time can also contribute to the issue.
Lifestyle changes — such as drinking plenty of water, eating a fiber-rich diet, and getting regular exercise — may help with constipation, but medications are available if necessary.
Other symptoms of nicotine withdrawal include irritability, insomnia, and depression. Ways to quit may involve a quitline, a quitSTART app, medications, or a combination.
Quitting smoking is profoundly beneficial for health, so all efforts necessary for a successful outcome can really pay off.