Does Quitting Smoking Cause Constipation?

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An About.com Smoking Cessation reader asks:

"Since I quit smoking a few weeks ago, I've been having digestion problems, including a lot of gas and constipation. It's like everything has slowed down without my morning cigarettes to get me going. Is this normal, and how long will it last?"

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Intestinal difficulties like nausea, gas and constipation are all considered symptoms of withdrawal from tobacco products.

While not pleasant, digestive issues do usually resolve themselves in a matter of weeks, so don't let the discomforts derail your quit program.

Other Causes for Constipation

In addition to nicotine withdrawal, it is possible that other changes you may have made since quitting tobacco are contributing to the intestinal difficulties you're experiencing:

Quit Aids

Two prescription quit aid medications list nausea and constipation as side effects: Chantix and Zyban. If you are using one of these, check in with your doctor for advice on how to proceed.

Changes in Diet

It is not unusual to experience dramatic changes in what we eat when we first quit smoking. Many of us turn to food to bridge the gap between the hand-to-mouth activity that smoking was, as well as using food for comfort when we're craving cigarettes. And often, the foods we choose leave our daily diets less than balanced, which can in turn, lead to digestive disturbances.

Take a good look at what you've been eating since you quit smoking. If your diet is laden with junk food, work on getting back to a more balanced regimen that includes plenty of leafy greens, fruits, whole grains and lean protein. Make sure you're drinking plenty of water too, and try to keep unhealthy snacks to a minimum.

Increased Stress

While leaving cigarettes behind will eventually bring more peace to your life than you had as a smoker, initially, smoking cessation tends to increase the stress and anxiety we feel. Emotional stress can have physical effects on our bodies, including digestion. If this strikes a chord with you, try incorporating some tension tamers into your daily routine. A few minutes of meditation when you wake up, deep breathing when stress bubbles up during the day, and a hot bath or time with a good book before bed will help you keep stress at bay, and your body, regular.

Changes in Activity

Early cessation throws life out of whack for most of us, both physically and psychologically. We're tired and cranky, and often, less active than normal. While this is fine and to be expected, less exercise than what we are accustomed to, along with some or all of the other issues listed above can be a significant contributor to constipation.

Aim for a half hour of some form of exercise most days.

It will help your body adjust to the absence of tobacco and beat back cravings to smoke as well. If you haven't been active recently, be sure to check in with your doctor before starting a new exercise regimen.

Read more: 8 Common Symptoms of Nicotine Withdrawal

The effects of nicotine withdrawal can be unpleasant, and it does take time for our bodies to find a new normal once we stop using tobacco, but balance will return eventually. That said, if any symptoms of intestinal pain persist or increase over time, don't hesitate to contact your doctor for a check up.

Remember that you are doing the absolute best thing you could for your health and well-being by quitting tobacco. Don't let temporary discomforts deter you. Better days are coming, and they are not far off.

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