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Unclepepsi's avatar

Why do I feel worse after quitting smoking?

Asked by Unclepepsi (898 points ) August 14th, 2011

I am 33 years old and quit smoking in January only to find out I feel worse now than than I did when I smoked. I get out of breath easier and go through coughing spells and have gained 20 lbs. Also can you get out of breath from over eating? By the way I am overweight.

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20 Answers

Nullo's avatar

Well, there are withdrawal effects, though I’d think you’re past those by now. The breathing is probably related to the weight. IIRC, studies show that people who quit smoking tend to gain weight; nicotine apparently acts to suppress the appetite and as a stimulant, and in any case smokers tend to wander around while they smoke.
I’ve got nothing on the coughing, only that it might just be another flavor of respiratory distress. You may want to see a doctor about that.

RareDenver's avatar

I also felt really bad at first when I stopped smoking. Between me and you (and the rest of the internet) I didn’t poop for a week. I also put on weight, about a stone. Which, getting on for two years later, I still haven’t managed to shift. It may be the weight issue that is causing your breathlessness. Might be worth going to have a word with your doctor.

Unclepepsi's avatar

I hate doctors

Bellatrix's avatar

I believe this is pretty common @Unclepepsi It takes a while for your body to get over its addiction and for all those toxins and crap to leave your body I would imagine. Could also be the psychological effects too. Your body may be stressed as it heals and you have to deal with things differently than you did when you smoked a cigarette when you felt anxious.

I would speak to your doctor though. Just to be on the safe side. Also, do you have one of those Quit hotlines where you are? You can call them up and they will probably have lots of tips to help you through this. Drink lots of water too. Keep your body hydrated. That can only help.

Good on you for giving up too. That is a huge thing. I think it must be 18 years ago now? Something like that .. wow .. amazing how long ago that was. I can’t say I have EVER noticed any huge change in my health. I just know I am better off smoking. I do remember how hard it was to give up though so give yourself a huge pat on the back for managing it.

RareDenver's avatar

Smoking also makes your immune system lazy, all those nasty chemicals in smoke that are killing you are also killing lots of other bugs and bacteria in you. When you stop smoking your immune system has to get up off it’s ass and start working harder. But it should have sorted itself out by now.

RareDenver's avatar

Another thing I noticed is that I sweat more since I stopped smoking. Not sure what that’s all about.

Bellatrix's avatar

I remember not sleeping. I would wake up really, really early and be wide awake. Went on for months. I didn’t mind so much because I was studying at the time and I got heaps of work done while everyone else was sleeping. I put it down to more oxygen in my blood or something? Also, like you @RareDenver I remember feeling hot (not in a good way :D). I think your point about the immune system is a really good one. Makes sense to me.

careerbassmaster's avatar

Hang in there it will get better.

RareDenver's avatar

@Bellatrix It was the NHS Stop Smoking Nurse that explained the immune system thing to me.

Lightlyseared's avatar

Smoking destroys all the little cilia in your lungs that help to move mucous about. When you stop smoking those cilia start working again and your lungs start getting rid off all the mucous and other shut that has accumulated in the bottom of your lungs while you smoked. You cough more and get out of breath quicker because because the upper airways are full of mucous etc. It will get better.

@RareDenver Ive noticed I sweat more since I quit too. Weird.

marinelife's avatar

Your body is reacting to the change. First, almost everyone who gains weight has lost back to the weight they were at when smoking within a year of quitting.

Have you tried exercising? It can also help replace some of the endorphins smoking gave you.

Hang in there. Don’t give up. Your lungs are healing.

cheebdragon's avatar

Just smoke one cigarette and I can pretty much guarantee that it will make you feel really sick.

I quit last year but every few months the craving gets bad or I get really stressed, so I smoke one cigarette and it makes me really sick to the point where I can go another few months without smoking.

YoBob's avatar

Well, bottom line is when you are a junky your body (and brain) pitches a fit when you take away the “junk” and will tell you anything to convince you to give them what they crave.

Stay tough and don’t let the addiction win!

Cruiser's avatar

I believe quitting smoking has simply made you more aware of your body and its current state of health or lack thereof. You are now paying attention to the duress your body is under…you quit smoking….HUGE step, now do take the next step and exercise and eat better you will be glad you did.

Kardamom's avatar

Your body chemistry changes when you quit smoking. You’re probably still reeling from the effects of withdrawal, but because one of the downsides of quitting smoking is gaining weight, that is also adding to your current troubles (which may or may not be contributing to your coughing spells).

You said that you hate doctors, but I’m guessing what you really mean is that you are afraid of doctors. Doctors aren’t the enemy, ignorance is. I don’t mean that you are ignorant what I mean is that if you don’t go to a doctor and get a full physical, there may be some things that you have (the beginnings of heart disease, the beginnings of cancer, the beginnings of joint problems etc.) that can be treated and cured, whereas if you don’t get these base line tests now, and you have some of these problems, the problems will become much more serious and harder or impossible to treat later on. It’s better to catch things early and treat them, than to wait and die from them later (and possibly at a pretty young age).

I’ve had 2 friends that have had strokes in the 40’s (one was a heavy smoker, the other smoke a bit of pot now and then) and another handful of aquaintences (all male by the way) that have had heart attacks and have died, in their 30’s! My brother just had open heart surgery at age 50 (for an undiagnosed congenital heart problem).

It’s also better to establish a good relationship with your doctor before you have some type of catostrophic problem. Because you were a smoker and you are overweight and you are having problems with a lingering cough, you need to see a doctor right now and get base line blood tests and other tests to check your joints and your lung functioning and your eyes and your digestive system etc.

Because you are nervous or wary of going to the doctor, have a friend or a relative go along with you to the appointment (even into the examination room) so that you will have an extra set of ears to remember what the doctor says, and for them to ask questions that you may be too tongue tied or nervous to ask. And don’t be afraid to ask the doctor anything. Believe me they’ve seen and heard it all, so there’s really nothing to be embarrassed about. Take a list of questions with you and have your friend write down the answers, so that you are unemcumbered. And tell the doctor the whole truth about how much you drink, if you’ve had any type of sexual dysfunction, if you’ve had blood in your urine or your stool or if you’ve ever had any problems with memory or shaking or getting light headed when you stand up, and let them know exactly what kinds of things you eat (and how much) on a regular basis. Do you eat mostly meat and potato chips and soda and whole milk? Whatever it is that you eat (and don’t eat enough of, probably fruits, veggies and fiber) let him or her know.

You should let the doctor know that you are interested in talking with a registered dietician or nutritionist to determine if you need to alter your diet and how to go about that in a smooth transitional manner. You may need to eliminate or cut down on certain foods and you may need to add things that you’ve never dreamed of eating before (and don’t worry, I’ve read several studies that say that most people can acquire a taste for things that they didn’t previously like if they try it 5 to 12 times, maybe with different types of preparations, so don’t be too quick to write off healthy alternatives that you aren’t used to)

You should also tell the doctor that you would like to start a lifelong exercise routine and ask him for suggestions on how to get started and what exercises to do, and which physical activities to avoid. Generally, you will want to do some exercises that involve aerobic activity like walking or biking or swimming, mixed with weight training. Depending upon your joint health and flexibility, you might also want to add some yoga, low impact aerobic dance or pilates. But make sure that your doctor gives you the OK before you start, then try to find activities that you actually enjoy, in settings that you like. Walking alone or walking on a treadmill can be boring, but walking at the beach or in the park or at the mall with a friend or two can be very enjoyable.

Even though you are young, because you’ve been a smoker, it’s imperative for you to get your first (if you’ve never had one) annual physical exam right away. Once your doctor gets an idea of what’s going on with you, he can advise you if you will need to get annual physicals, or wait until you are 40, but please do not wait to go see a doctor right now. Believe me, you can’t diagnose yourself and you can’t treat yourself if you have a real problem. Here is some information from WebMd that tells you what to expect during an annual Physical Exam

And again, bring along a friend, have a list of questions, and try to give the doctor any information about your health that you can think of. Are you having any digestive problems, do you have any unusual skin problems, do you have more anxiety now than before you gave up smoking? Any vision problems? Pain in your joints? Pain in any other parts of your body? Any sexual dysfunction? Do your feet hurt? What about your teeth and your mouth? Don’t wait to make this appointment. Today is Sunday, call your doctor tomorrow to schedule that appointment. And if you get a doctor who’s temperment or style doesn’t mesh with yours, do not avoid getting your exam, simply ask for another doctor. I recently had to switch to another doctor that was more in tune with my open and chatty style.

Good luck to you! : )

Kardamom's avatar

Just because we’ve just been discussing the fact that you have gained some weight and will probably need to start eating better, I copied an answer from another person’s question (a tennager, so disregard the word teen in the answer below) about eating better. Apologies to those of you that have to read it again, just scroll on through. I feel kind of bad, now that I just gave you a bunch of recipes for pulled pork LOL.

You will definitely want to start reading labels on all processed food. Most processed food is loaded with sodium (and depending upon what the food is, fat and sugar too.)

A healthy diet should have somewhere between 1200 and 1800 mgs of sodium per day. The average American diet has 10 to 20 times that much! So one of the first things to do is start looking at the nutrition information on the packages (cans, bottles, boxes, pouches etc.) The sodium is listed per serving (not for the entire contents of the package). So you have to figure out how much a serving is (which will be listed also).

A lot of people just start eating without any regard to the per serving size. So if you start out with a per serving size of 1 teaspoon of mustard, for example, which may have 90 mgs of sodium, if you double or triple or quadruple that 1 teaspoon serving size, you will be multiplying the amount of sodium! Also, you need to use real measuring spoons and cups to be sure you are only getting the true amount of the serving size. Your regular spoons that you eat cereal with are probably not true “teaspoons” or “tablespoons.”

So whenever you eat a processed food, you need to be aware of the serving size and then start getting used to adding up the amount of sodium (and other contents like sugar and fat) and trying to keep the amount within the healthy range. So if you eat a sandwich, you have to account for the entire amount of sodium that is in the bread, the mustard, the mayonaise, the cheese, the pickles etc. and add up those amounts. If you use more than the serving size, you have to keep adding more miligrams to your daily total.

I’ve found it helpful to try to find foods that have a low sodium content (per serving) in the first place. So that would be around 140 mgs. And look for products that say low sodium on the label (or no salt added). But you still have to check the actual per serving size.

It is much more difficult to control your intake of sodium, fat and sugar when you eat at a restaurant, but most restaurants now offer a nutrition list if you ask for it. You will be shocked at how much of these items are in all processed and restaurant foods, but when you start reading labels on a regular basis, you will get to know which foods are better than others.

You should aim to eat a more plant based diet. Eat fruits and vegetables with every meal. Add un-salted nuts (if you are not allergic to them) daily. Like some of the others have said, limit your meat consumption. Meat should only be a small side portion and not the main dish. If you can, try eating meat-less meals once a week and then add more meat-less days to your week once you get used to not eating meat.

As a teenager, you need to make sure that you get enough calcium, but get it through low and non-fat dairy products instead of full fat dairy products. Good sources are low or non-fat milk, cheese, yogurt. Many other non-dairy foods contain calcium such as dark green leafy vegetables and tofu. Here is an article all about calcium (where to find it and how much you need) here

You want to drink water and plain (unsweetened) brewed black and green teas (preferably without caffeine) which are loaded with healthy anti-oxidants (which are good to keep your cells intact and functioning properly) and occasionally you can drink some juices like orange and cranberry, but you don’t want to drink them everyday because they do have a lot of sugar. Only drink 100% juice (which it will clearly say on the label). Some drinks appear to be “juice” but they are really nothing more than sugar water with a juice flavor added. Low or non-fat milk and yogurt drinks are good too. Stay away from soda and Kool-aid and other sugary drinks.

It might be a good idea to learn to cook too. Learning to cook really changed my ideas about what things to eat and where food comes from and how different cooking methods can be much more healthy than other methods.

If your family currently eats butter or regular margarine, you might want to switch to one of the new “healthier” style margarines, that contain no cholesterol or trans fats (2 other ingredients to watch out for in foods) The one that I use is called Smart Balance and I think it tastes great.

Sometimes, when you start adding new foods into your diet, you may have to taste them 2 to 10 times before you acquire a taste for them. So if you don’t like something right away, keep tasting it (maybe with a different method of preparation) and then hopefully you will end up adding a whole bunch of new foods to your diet. I used to hate mushrooms and Brussels sprouts, but I kept trying them out and now I love them.

You will also want to make sure you are getting enough fiber in your diet. Most Americans don’t get anywhere near the recommended 20 to 35 grams per day. Adding fruits and vegetables and whole grains into your diet will help with this. When you get a little older (like into your 30’s and 40’s) or if you already have some problems with constipation, you also might want to add a fiber supplement like Bob’s Red Mill Ground Flax Meal (2 tablespoons daily, keep refrigerated) or Trader Joe’s Psyllium Husk (1 heaping teaspoon daily, keep in a cool dry place) or Metamucil Just make sure you drink lots of water when you take these supplements.

Try different methods of cooking (or preparations at restaurant) so instead of having deep fried chicken, make your chicken grilled. Instead of having a breading on the outside of your chicken, have it without breading and without the skin. Eat a baked potato with non-fat plain yogurt and some chopped green onions, or salsa instead of eating French fries. Have a turkey sandwich (with lettuce and tomato, hold the mayo and cheese) instead of a cheeseburger. When you order a salad or anything with a dressing or sauce, get it on the side so you can limit the amount. Switch to oil and vinegar dressings instead of cheese and mayo and sour cream based dressings. Learn to use marinades, herbs and spices and pepper and salsas and vinegars and fruit juices to give flavor to foods instead of using salt and butter and mayonaise.

If you’re not already eating these foods, here are some nutritional powerhouses to add: tofu, sweet potatoes, kale and other leafy greans, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, lettuces (except iceberg which has almost no nutrients and not much fiber) carrots, beets, Brussels sprouts, rutabagas, turnips, radishes, mushrooms, un-salted nuts, peppers (from sweet to hot) beans (of all kinds), whole grains (whole wheat bread, quinoa, bulgur, brown rice, oatmeal, un-salted popcorn, barley, wheat berries, cornmeal) tomatoes, apples, pears, berries (of all kinds including cranberries) oranges, pineapple, mangoes, cherries (especially dried) and avocados. And take a multi-vitamin for your age and sex. PM me if you want any recipes. :- )

Unclepepsi's avatar

Thank you to all who took the time to answer. For those of you with the more in depth answers a special thanks. I fell better talking to people. This site also helps me with my panic disorder just giving my mind something to do, and connecting with people.

Kardamom's avatar

@Unclepepsi You are in good company. There’s a few Jellies on here that suffer from panic disorder that can give you advice based upon what they’ve been through and what has worked and not worked for them. Hopefully they’ll see this post and chime in.

Also, when you schedule your doctor’s appointment tomorrow, let the receptionist or nurse know that you suffer from a panic disorder so they will know that it will be a little extra difficult for you to even get to the appointment and you need some TLC from the doctor and the staff. They should be able to accomodate you. And make sure you take a friend or relative with you. : )

Pandora's avatar

The extra weight can cause the breathing problems and you may also have developed acid reflux. I once had these coughing spells that would come and go for about 2 years. It turned out to be the acid relux was irratating my esphagus and nasal lining. That caused nasal drip and would make me cough. After a week of being on the medication for acid reflux and watching what I ate, the coughing disappeared. I don’t take my meds daily anymore but when I do eat something bad for me, I know to get back on the pills or it will start up again.
If that is not the case, than you probably are developing allergies. If you haven’t smoked since January, you should be fine by now.

cliff1944's avatar

I was a heavy smoker for 57 years, over the last few years 40 – 60 cigs [roll ups] a day.
I have copd and quit smoking 3 months ago. I am retired now and live alone.
E-cigs are the only help I’ve been able to use and I only use them occasionally when I’m about to tear my hair out! lol
Patches caused the most horendous skin rash, no teeth so chewing gum was out too. I was prescribed spray and lozenges to try but found both far too strong to use.
I am more out of breath now after 3 months than I ever was when I smoked [even WITH a chest infection]. Many other changes have/are happening too. If I was asked out of all the changes, what am I finding the worst; I’d have to say it’s sleep disturbances. Even IF I can get to sleep it lasts for maximum of 3 hours but often less than that. I do have Temazepam but even that isn’t helping like it used to when I was a smoker.
My moods are awful at times and I sometimes wonder who I am! My moods have never been that bad before and I’ve become quite arguementative.
IBS seems to be a problem for most that give up smoking and I am no different. Being bound up can cause it’s own problems including major headaches with me and it’s all very distressing for someone hopeing and maybe expecting to be feeling healthier by now from giving up.

I can only hope that most of the problems will subside or dissapear in time but it’s difficult [to say the least] to putting up with all these things AND miss smoking so much after 57 years.

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