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Don’t let them get you off track

Withdrawal symptoms are actually signs that your body is healing from nicotine addiction. While they may feel unpleasant or distracting, they are generally not severe and usually last 2 to 4 weeks. Here’s information that will help you understand specific withdrawal symptoms, followed by tips to help you get through them.

  • Duration: 2-4 weeks Cause: Irritability is caused by the body’s craving for nicotine. Heavy smokers are more likely to report this symptom.
  • Tip: Distract yourself by engaging in a hobby or exercise. Reward yourself for the progress you have made – go out for supper, watch a movie, or buy yourself a special treat. Take some deep breaths. Try a nicotine replacement therapy like nicotine gum or patch.
  • Duration: 2-4 weeks Cause: Nicotine is a stimulant, so it is not surprising that quitting smoking causes fatigue. Heavy smokers are more likely to feel tired after quitting. Over time your body will adjust and you will have even more energy.
  • Tip: Try nicotine gum, nicotine patch, take naps or a brisk walk. Avoid caffeine.
  • Duration: 1-2 weeks Cause: Nicotine affects brain wave functioning and may influence sleep patterns. It is not uncommon in the first few days after quitting for the ex-smoker to wake up frequently during the night. Dreaming about smoking is also common. Coughing after quitting may also contribute to wakefulness.
  • Tip: This symptom rarely lasts longer than a week after quitting. Try relaxation techniques, take an evening walk or a warm bath. Avoid caffeine after 6 pm.
Feeling down
  • Duration: 2-3 weeks Cause: It is not uncommon to feel a little depressed after quitting tobacco. Some say that quitting smoking is like losing a close friend. Understand that the feelings are normal. Bouts of crying are not uncommon.
  • Tip: Exercise is the best way to improve your mood. To get started, try a brisk 15-20 minute walk. Talk to a friend, write in a journal, volunteer at a place you can help others, go to a movie. See your doctor if symptoms worsen.
Tightness in the chest
  • Duration: 2-3 days Cause: It is not uncommon to experience tightness in your chest after quitting. Chest tightness is probably due to the tension created by the body’s need for nicotine or due to soreness from coughing.
  • Tip: Try relaxation techniques, especially deep breathing. Nicotine gum or patch may help.
Stomach pains, constipation, gas
  • Duration: 2-3 days Cause: Intestinal movement may decrease for a brief period when a person lowers tobacco use.
  • Tip: Eat lots of fibre like raw fruits, vegetables, bran and cereal. Also drink 6 to 8 glasses of water each day and try to exercise. Avoid caffeine.
Increased appetite
  • Duration: 1-4 weeks (usually most intense in the first week after quitting)Cause: After quitting, you may confuse nicotine cravings with hunger pangs. You may also have a better sense of taste as the nerve endings in your mouth and nose re-grow, with the result that you feel like you want to eat more.
  • Tip: Take control of your appetite—be careful not to replace cigarettes with food. Heavy tobacco users experience feelings of hunger more often after quitting than light users. Eat balanced meals. Have low calorie snacks or beverages on hand. Drink plenty of water. Try a nicotine replacement therapy such as gum, or lozenges.
Coughing, dry throat
  • Duration: Cough 2-4 weeks, dry throat 2-3 days Cause: Ex-smoker’s cough is the body’s way of getting rid of the extra mucous that has blocked airways. Dry throat is caused by the fact that the body is no longer producing a lot of mucous to protect the airways from the toxins.
  • Tip: Try drinking cold water, fruit juice, tea; chew gum, or have cough drops/hard candy on hand.
  • Duration: 2-12 days Cause: Light-headedness, dizziness or faintness are common. After quitting, oxygen levels increase to normal which may cause dizziness. As a smoker, the carbon monoxide from the cigarette smoke prevented a healthy supply of oxygen from reaching your brain.
  • Tip: Take extra caution when performing activities. Change positions slowly. If a dizziness spell occurs, sit or lie down until in passes.
Difficulty concentrating
  • Duration: A few weeks Cause: Nicotine does affect brain wave functioning. Recent studies indicate that concentration and problem-solving ability is enhanced in smokers for a short period (20-30 minutes) following administration of nicotine. Changing a habit as ingrained as tobacco use takes effort and contributes to problems in concentration.
  • Tip: Plan your workload to account for your temporary lack of concentration. Avoid additional stress during the first few weeks.
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