From the minute you quit smoking, your lungs begin to heal. The sooner you decide to quit smoking, the faster the healing process begins ushering in good health. If you care about your health and the health of those you love, you will not hesitate. Quitting smoking will bring you closer to a better and healthier life. People who take to smoking at a very young age, cause great harm to their health, but the sooner they quit, the faster they head towards recovery. Lungs supply oxygen to the body. Enriching the cells, blood, and all the organs with fresh oxygen, the lungs need to be kept healthy for optimal function. Without fresh oxygen, the body is at high risk and prone to fatal illnesses like cancer. The brain needs oxygen to function at its best. Oxygen in the brain improves mood, energy level, and strength, boosts immunity, reduces stress and anxiety, and keeps a person feeling happy and carefree. Let us help you understand in detail how lungs are affected by smoking.
How Does Smoking Affect the Lungs?
Tobacco has 4,000 chemicals such as nicotine, carbon monoxide, and tar etc. With excessive deposits of chemicals, mostly tar, the normal cells in the lungs transform into cancer cells. The lungs and airways undergo significant changes with smoking. While some of the changes are temporary, often causing cough and cold that may lead to pneumonia, lifetime changes caused by chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) have a lasting impression on smokers that eventually leads to more health risks than one can imagine. With smoking, the cells producing mucus in the lungs and airways start growing, resulting in the thickening of mucus. With excessive smoking, the lungs lose the capability of cleaning the excessive mucus settled inside, blocking the airways. This produces coughing, expressing mucus prone to infections. The lungs start aging faster with smoking and the natural body defences which protect the body against diseases fail to act at full strength.
With the lungs inflamed, even one cigarette can irritate with bouts of cough. This is an indication that the lung tissues are gradually degenerating, decreasing the air spaces and blood vessels in the lungs, barring the entry of oxygen in all body parts. The broom-like structures inside the lungs called cilia cannot stand smoking as they slow down after one cigarette. The number of cilia also begins to reduce with continued smoking leaving the lungs unclean.
Nicotine is the addictive part of tobacco that creates the urge to smoke, hindering the intention of quitting smoking. Nicotine impedes those embarking on smoking cessation. What turns the healthy pink lungs into a black-ashy colour? It is the tar present in tobacco, a sticky substance that burns and melts settling in the lungs. The soft healthy inner lining of the delicate lungs is coated by thick sticky tar discolouring the organ to black with years of smoking.
What Lung Complications Are Caused By Smoking?
Before we evaluate the damage caused to the lungs, let us understand the structure of the lungs. Lungs have 500 million tiny sacs, alveoli, which absorb oxygen from the inhaled air and exhale carbon dioxide. With smoking, tar released from tobacco clogs the alveoli, disabling their ability to inhale oxygen. Body structures are made in such a way that they can repair the damages. Just like a broken bone can repair itself with time, a damaged liver can grow back to a healthy liver if the person takes care, but lung tissues cannot regenerate once they are damaged. The longer you smoke, the more you harm your lungs. The alveoli are the worst hit and with time their function is completely disrupted to dysfunctional. The lungs turn fibrous and lung expansion capabilities are almost lost, resulting in low oxygen intake in the body. The sad part is despite knowing this implication some do not quit smoking and some when feeling shortness of breath are forced to quit when their lungs have been already quite damaged. If you are an early smoker, take stock of this condition and prevent your lungs from irreparable damage. Quitting smoking is the first step to lung healing, even if you cannot recover the original health of your lungs, you can at least prevent it from further damage. Lung damage is a silent process and takes around 15-20 years, but once COPD sets in, there is no way that the lungs can be saved; oxygen retention in the lungs gradually diminishes. It is lucky for some smokers that they do not develop lung cancer with so much tar deposited on the lung surface daily.
What Happens To the Lungs When You Quit Smoking?
Once you decide to quit smoking you provide renewed health to your dying lungs. Most importantly, you reduce the risk of lung cancer. Once reaching a mark with a decade of smoke-free life you are further away from lung cancer than when you were gripped with the habit. Just think of the thousands of toxic chemicals that enter your body each time you smoke. Why feed your body with these ills when you can easily and healthily live without them? From the day you stop smoking, you start lung healing. With time carbon monoxide starts leaving the bloodstream. You can feel the difference as breathing becomes gradual and the shortness of breath is no longer felt. The inflamed inner lining in the lungs triggered by smoking converts to healing as you decide to stop smoking and the inhalation of toxic substances that irritate the passageway of the lung. By quitting smoking, the lung cilia get reactivated. The cilia push the infected mucus to the back of the throat, where the individual can swallow it pushing it out of the body and clearing the lungs. You will feel the difference in the lungs once you start the quitting process. Symptoms like coughing and shortness of breath gradually start to recede and the risks of all the diseases are reduced significantly. But as mentioned, some of the conditions in the lungs are irreversible such as emphysema, or lung inflammation, that narrows and swells the airway within the lungs; this is permanent damage.
What Are Other Benefits of Quitting Smoking?
Quitting smoking is the biggest gift for your body. You are saving your health and increasing your bank balance. When you smoke, the real taste of food is not defined. By quitting smoking, food tastes better, the sense of smell reduced, is restored, and your breath, hair, skin and clothes no longer have the lingering tobacco smell. The yellow-stained teeth and fingernails are fresh and healthy. The ability to climb stairs and do strenuous work, which took a toll earlier, will be vastly improved. Quitting smoking improves your skin health, stopping premature wrinkling, gum diseases and tooth loss. The combined benefits of quitting smoking are far more than the momentary pleasures of being addicted to it. However, quitting smoking is easier said than done, and smokers are unable to quit owing to withdrawal symptoms that follow. Cold turkey quitting methods have not been successful for many who seriously want to give up on tobacco. For them, following the nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) is a good way to handle withdrawal and move towards smoking cessation. NRT is a gradual step-down therapy that replaces the nicotine craving within the body in controlled doses. Gradually decreasing the intake, the therapy takes individuals smoothly out of smoking. This therapy has a higher success rate of tapering them out of nicotine dependency within months. Once the person stops smoking completely, their body starts healing with improved lung function.
How Can I Accelerate Lung Healing After Smoking?
Quitting smoking is a great step for improved lung function, driving out the toxins that can be removed from it. If the lungs have been long damaged, recovery may not be fast, but if the smoking years are few, chances of recovering your lungs are stronger. After smoking cessation, coughing increases. This is the body's way of getting rid of extra mucus and unblocking the small, clogged airways allowing them to be filled with oxygen. Exercising and other physical activities that increase the flow of oxygen in the body are good lung healing practices. Keep away from pollution, a body already susceptible is more sensitive to dust, molds, smoke, cracker smog etc. Try not to catch a cold as the body will be prone to cold and cough and bronchitis or pneumonia are natural for a smoker. If you do catch a cold, drink warm liquids and try steam therapy. It will reduce the mucus buildup in the body. Eating anti-inflammatory food will help in lung healing.