There are lots of benefits to stopping smoking. An important one to consider, is the positive impact this can have on your immune system.
Your immune system works to protect your body. A strong immune system is important for fighting off colds, flu, and infections. When the immune system is out of balance, illness can be more severe.
You may have heard talk about the immune system recently because of the COVID-19 pandemic. We are still learning about the link between smoking and Covid-19. Some research has found smokers compared to non-smokers and ex-smokers are less likely to get COVID-19, but we’re not sure why this is. And even if there is a small protective function, this is still dwarfed by the long-term damage that smoking causes to your health.
We know that stopping smoking will lower your risk of developing illness over time including heart disease and cancer. Quitting also lowers your risk of diabetes, and helps your blood vessels, heart, and lungs to work better.
So, while quitting now may not stop you from getting COVID-19, it will help you to stay healthy, and out of hospital for other reasons, relieving pressure on the NHS. It could also reduce your risk of developing serious health problems should you get COVID-19.
Dr Emma Eade, explains: “Smokers often pick up viruses and colds more easily and these can last for longer than non-smokers. When my patients first start their quit journey, some of them tell me that they feel disappointed as they expect to feel healthier immediately. In fact, some people feel less physically and mentally well for the first four weeks compared with when they smoked. This is due to the body responding in the short term to nicotine withdrawal.”
“Some of my patient develop a “smoker’s cough” for the first time when they quit; others (around 40%) can develop mouth ulcers. We’re still unsure of why this happens but scientists think there could be a link between the lack of antibacterial properties present when you stop smoking cigarettes.”
“The good news is by using support and stop smoking aids you can stay smoke free. Being smoke free will lead to improved circulation, increased oxygen levels in the blood, and you’ll have lower inflammation in the body. All of this allows the immune system to work better, making it’s easier to fight off colds, flus and other illnesses.”
To help you to succeed at quitting so you can boost your immune system.
Dr Eade and Stop Smoking London have developed these simple tips.
1: Use Stop Smoking Aids
The main reason people keep smoking is because they’re addicted to nicotine.
When you stop smoking, you cut off your nicotine supply (or reduce it if using NRT), which can lead to withdrawal symptoms. But using stop smoking medications like Champix, or enough NRT or vapes can help and will double (and in some cases triple) your chances of stopping for good.
You can also call 0300 123 1044 to speak to a Stop Smoking London adviser.
3: Reduce Your Stress
We know that being stressed has a negative impact on your immune cell function.
Some smokers turn to cigarettes in the belief that smoking helps to relieve anxiety and stress - but it doesn't! After a couple of hours of not smoking, nicotine levels drop which can lead to irritability, low mood and urges to smoke. This feels like stress and so when you smoke (and nicotine levels rise these withdrawal symptoms go away) it tricks you into thinking that smoking relieves stress.
It is proven that people who stop smoking have less anxiety, depression, and stress, and they are happier than those who continue to smoke.
There is lots of research that exercise can benefit the immune system. As you quit, try to do some short sessions of exercise outdoors if you can. Just remember to follow the national lockdown exercise guidelines.
And the good news is that being more active, even by taking just a short, brisk walk will boost your mood, reduce stress, and help you sleep better. It will also help reduce your urge to smoke!
There are lots of exercise videos for a range of abilities available on the NHS website.
5: Sleep Well
Sleep disturbances are a common side effect of nicotine withdrawal. Lack of sleep can make everything, including quitting smoking, feel so much harder. Prolonged lack of sleep can also disrupt your immune system. So, it’s particularly important to get on top of any sleep problems you may encounter as you quit.
For advice on how to get a good night’s sleep as you quit smoking, see Good Thinking’s comprehensive set of downloadable factsheets about sleep.
Stop Smoking London support for you.
If you want to quit to support your immune system, we are here to help you start your journey today.