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Choose Health! Kick Tobacco!

Choose Health! Kick Tobacco!
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How many of you have you made resolutions to quit smoking but never followed through? Or maybe you tried but didn’t know how to deal with withdrawal...

How many of you have you made resolutions to quit smoking but never followed through? Or maybe you tried but didn’t know how to deal with withdrawal or how to even stop. Here are some ways you can adopt to kick your smoking habit.

Putting down your last cigarette might seem like a daunting task, but with the right support system and frame of mind, it’s definitely possible. Smokers who have decided to quit will experience some unpleasant symptoms due to the lower nicotine levels in the body.

Nicotine is the main component of cigarettes and is the reason they are so addictive. Nicotine causes the brain to release neurotransmitters which stimulates the brain’s pleasure centre. By constantly activating these specific set of neurons through smoking, the brain forms ‘reward pathways’, which makes you want to smoke again because it makes you feel good.When you quit smoking, the activation and stimulation of various receptors and pathways decreases.

Withdrawal symptoms occur because your brain is coping with these drastic changes. Your doctor will help you in deciding a quit date and start you on medications which will increase your chances of quitting.There are many types of treatment including Nicotine replacement therapy in the form of chewing gums, patches, lozenges and medications which decreases your withdrawal symptoms.

The symptoms are both physical and mental and vary in intensity depending on how frequently you smoke. They usually take effect around two days after you’ve quit smoking. Some of the symptoms are:

  • Cravings to smoke
  • Poor concentration
  • Restlessness
  • Headaches
  • Increased appetite
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Constipation
  • Depression

Constipation
A recent quitter may face intestinal difficulties like nausea, gas and constipation. There is no sure-fire way to get rid of it, but keeping yourself hydrated and consuming more foods rich in fibre will help counteract the effect and soften the transition across the next two weeks.

Weight gain and voracious appetite
Following nicotine withdrawal, many turn to food for comfort when craving cigarettes. Eating junk food could end up creating more problems for yourself. Ensure that you consume a more balanced diet that includes fruits, whole grains, leafy greens and lean proteins. Minimise consumption of unhealthy snacks and drink plenty of water. When you find yourself feeling tempted or hungry, do any one of the following:

  • Carry a snack like frozen yoghurt, a smoothie or some trail nuts to prevent yourself from buying junk food.
  • Practice the four D’s; Delay your temptation, drink some water, distract yourself with something and then deep-breathe for a few minutes.

Mental health
Behavioural support is a key element in managing withdrawal symptoms. A counselling psychologist will help with developing problem solving and coping mechanisms for obstacles, triggers and cues. If you find yourself reaching for a cigarette, talking to a counsellor will enhance motivation and self-belief and will help you maintain that confidence. Some people experience depression as well which can be taken care by the doctor. They will be able to give you tips on how to handle the withdrawal symptoms, staying smoke free and dealing with relapses from a psychological standpoint.

Insomnia
If you have trouble sleeping, the most effective method is to keep your phone away at least an hour before you go to bed. Try not to use any electronic devices, and finish all your meals and snacks at least two hours before bedtime. Green tea or a warm glass of milk will help you fall asleep. Avoid caffeinated beverages as they will make you more restless.

Positive thinking
It’s important to keep a positive attitude while going through this process. Keep yourself motivated by seeing how far you have come. Constantly remind yourself of the reason you wanted to quit in the first place.List out all the reasons on a piece of paper and look at it frequently to maintain your resolve.
List out small goals and celebrate the tiniest milestones to keep yourself motivated along the journey. Don’t let yourself get bogged down, it’ll all be over in a few weeks and you’ll bounce back from this a better, healthier and stronger person.

By: Dr Shalini Joshi, Internal Medicine, Fortis Hospital, Bangalore

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