If you are here because you plan on quitting, I can't stress enough how great you will feel once you've finally given up cigarettes. Quitting smoking was the very best thing I've done for myself. I feel so much more energetic and better overall. I smoked for almost 15 years, and at times I thought I'd never be free from nicotine addiction.
If you're here because you already quit—and you are wondering when the misery of withdrawal will end—read on. Many of the symptoms you are currently experiencing are manageable. There are things you can do to make the experience easier and improve you chances of successfully quitting. These are the things i wished I'd known before I quit.
Increased Coughing After Quitting
Soon after you quit smoking you might experience increased coughing. Unless it is severe, don't be alarmed. This is actually a good sign! The tiny microscopic hairs called cilia that line your lungs are beginning to work properly again. They are busy clearing away dust particles and other accumulated gunk that doesn't belong there. In the meantime sip on cool water, cough drops, or soothing herbal teas.
Blood Sugar Levels
Smoking is an appetite suppressant. Every time you take a puff from a cigarette a biochemical chain of events fires off, forcing your body to release small amounts of blood glucose and stored fat. It's one of the reason I could go until early afternoon without a single bite of food, subsisting only on coffee. When I first quit smoking I felt so shaky and just ... off. I attributed it to withdraw and figured I would just have to deal with the unpleasant side effect.
The truth is many of the side effects I experienced had little to do with nicotine withdraw, and more to do with low blood sugar. I'd spent half my life skipping breakfast, and pushing lunch back a few hours. To keep blood sugar levels stable, and fend off that shaky weak feeling, you have to eat at regular intervals. For me that meant eating a balanced breakfast, something I hadn't done in years.I also had to start eating smaller meals, including snacks and a light lunch. Sipping on fruit juice between meals may help in the first few days too.
Since we are on the topic of eating and food, if you're like me the idea of gaining weight is not something you want to think about. I was overweight to begin with when I quit smoking. The idea of packing on more unwanted pounds terrified me. I did end up gaining about 7 pounds. In the end I think that is a small price to pay for finally ridding myself of an almost 15 year long addiction to nicotine. The good news is after a few weeks, my breathing and overall mood improved. Exercise was no longer so dreaded. I didn't get winded simply walking up a flight of stairs. I fell back in love with hiking and swimming and lost those 7 pounds, plus about 30 more, quite easily.
Don't let the idea of gaining weight frighten you off from quitting smoking. My advice is to forget about the scale for a few weeks. Hide it if you must. Make sure you are eating healthy balanced meals, and add in a few snacks if you need them. Sip on fruit juice between meals if it helps. Even if you gain a few pounds the first month you are still much better off health wise than a smoker.
If you consume caffeine consider lowering you dose once you quit smoking. Nicotine causes your body to deplete caffeine faster than a non smoker. When you quit smoking a cup of coffee suddenly seems twice as potent. This can leave you feeling wired and on edge, not what you need when you are dealing with withdrawal. I mostly switched from coffee to tea when I quit smoking, and cut my caffeine consumption by over half in the process. Remember chocolate contains caffeine too! Not nearly as much as other sources, but it's something to keep in mind.
Sleep disturbances, including insomnia are a common side effect when quitting smoking. The good news is this usually passes after a week or so. There are many natural ways to treat insomnia to help you get the rest you need while quitting. If you are using nicotine patches to help you quit, wearing them at night may cause vivid dreams and restless sleep. You can simply take the patch off before bed and avoid this particular side effect.
Low energy and mood
Nicotine is a stimulant, so it's stands to reason you will feel run down and tired for a while after quitting. If you are having trouble sleeping that is going to make it all the more worse. The great news is this will pass after a few weeks, and if you're anything like me, you'll have more energy than ever before. Treat yourself to a cap nap in the afternoon if you are feeling really tired, but don't nap for too long. You don't want to be up all night because you napped too long during the day.
Mood swings, and even depression can set in after quitting smoking. Nicotine is a drug that affects many functions in the body, including the brain. It increases the production of dopamine, which is a neurotransmitter that boosts happiness and a general feeling of well-being. This is one of the reasons why nicotine is so addictive. When you stop feeding your nicotine addiction moods may dip along with dopamine.
Low levels of dopamine also account for the dreaded brain fog many experience when first quitting. It seems harder to concentrate on tasks and think clearly. You may misplace things and lose your train of thought more. Just like all the other symptoms you're experiencing this too will pass shortly.
This usually only lasts a few weeks to a month. It takes the brain time adjust. In the mean time why not add in some healthy foods that contain tyrosine, the natural precursor to dopamine. These mood boosting foods include salmon, chicken, lima beans, avocados, and diary products. Activities, like exercise and sex, boost dopamine levels too.
Even if you have tried to quit one hundred times before, you CAN succeed. Most smokers don't manage to quit the first time they try. Don't think of your last attempts as failures. Learn from what worked, as well as what didn't.
If you are planning on quitting, the best tool you can arm yourself with is knowledge. Learning about all the symptoms you might experience, in addition to ways to combat them, will increase your chance of quitting successfully. Remember all of these side effects are temporary. For the first few weeks, try to eliminate unnecessary stress in your life. Get support from friends and family. Keep reading and learning all you can, and you will succeed.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
Sarah on July 11, 2017:
Ive quit now cold turkey 22 days now. I havent felt all that great either, light headed pretty much everyday, low energy. is this normal and if it is, how long can it last. I also quit marijuana at the same time, so both at once cold turkey. can these symptoms be from quitting? i have had blood tests and such and everything came back normal, but the light headed/ weirdness in my head has me concerned.
I also have terrible nightmares, no motivation, and just overall blah...
Marlboro girl on May 04, 2017:
I quit 2 weeks ago and apart from initial cravings all I am dealing with is feeling lazy, tired and unmotivated and have sleep issues
Pebbles on January 10, 2015:
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Paola on June 17, 2014:
Went cold turkey 2 weeks ago and my cravings stopped on day 3, but the bloating is horrible! How long does it last? Any remedies besides probiotics that may help? Thanks.
Tracy on March 14, 2013:
Hi. It's even 2 1/2 weeks since I quit and I'm neurotic! Up and down, happy & sad! Doesn't help that I'm pregnant as well! I feel great though! Now if I can only get through these crazy mood swings!! Thanks for your site