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  5. How Does Tobacco Affect Your Immune System?

You have heard enough about the health impacts of smoking tobacco by now. But, have you taken the warnings seriously? The pandemic gives you a bigger reason to do so.

One of the leading causes of death across the world, smoking can also compromise the efficiency of your immune system. Read to find out more about how tobacco damages your immunity and what you can do to repair it.

How Does Smoking Affect Your Immune System?

Tobacco and its smoke is loaded with many deadly components. All these impact the immune system, and reduce the body’s natural capacity of fighting diseases.

1. Nicotine:

Nicotine present in tobacco is known to be an immunosuppressant. This can lead to reducing the ability of neutrophils on phagocytes, thus compromising the body’s immunity.

2. Tar:

Smoking tobacco creates a solid chemical substance called tar. This has cancer-causing chemicals, and can stain your lung tissues too. Tar, along with other toxins in tobacco destroys antibodies, compromising the immune system.

3. Oxidizing chemicals:

These are highly reactive chemicals, that can damage your heart muscles and blood vessels. They influence cholesterol and build-up a fatty layer on your artery walls. It can cause stroke and heart disease.

4. Carbon monoxide:

If consumed in large doses, as in smoking over the years, carbon monoxide replaces the oxygen in your blood, causing early death. Among chain-smokers, the oxygen in blood finds it difficult to reach the body organs. The body’s intricate defense system becomes compromised

5. Radioactive components and metals:

Tobacco produces radioactive components that are carcinogenic. Tobacco smoke also has metals like cobalt, lead, nickel, arsenic. When inhaled with smoke, it can damage the lungs, and increase the risk of infections.

What Are The Major Diseases Caused By Smoking?

1. Pulmonary Disease

Respiratory issues are seen to be more evident in regular smokers than non-smokers. The initial impact of smoking can present through the chronic inflammation of lungs. If unchecked, this can worsen over time. It can lead to pulmonary diseases like Emphysema [1] (abnormal swelling of lungs) and chronic bronchitis [2].

Symptoms of pulmonary disease may show up as shortness of breath, usually after heavy work i.e exercise. You may also experience chronic cough, which may be mild but persistent. A feeling of throat congestion may be present too.

2. Autoimmune Disease

Tobacco smoke works as a pathogen in certain autoimmune diseases. In such cases, it may trigger the development of autoantibodies. Studies conducted to find out the connection between smoking and autoimmune disease, have usually concluded smokers to be more prone to autoimmune disease.

Rheumatoid arthritis [3] is an autoimmune disease, linked with smoking in several reports. While Rheumatoid arthritis can be hereditary, studies show that smoking can increase risk and also worsen the symptoms. Smoking also increases the risk of systemic lupus erythematosus [4].

Smoking not only enhances the risk for autoimmune disease, but also worsens health conditions for those who already suffer from it. Symptoms may present as body swelling, muscle ache, skin redness, mild fever, numbness of hands and feet, hair fall and skin rashes.

healthy lung and smokers lung

3. Atherosclerosis

Atherosclerosis [5] occurs when cholesterol, fat and other substances build up in the inner lining of the artery wall. It damages the blood vessels disturbing natural blood flow. The artery wall may burst due to the increasing pressure and cause a blood clot.

Atherosclerosis increases the chances of heart attack, stroke, peripheral artery disease, dementia and even sudden death. The harmful substances of tobacco such as tar and carbon monoxide damage the artery wall, which may lead to an atherosclerosis attack.

4. Cancer

The correlation between cancer and smoking is well known. Even the packets of cigarettes come with a clear warning. A report [6] by Centers for Disease Control And Prevention (CDC) informed that nearly 660,000 people/ year in the U.S. suffered from cancer between 2009 and 2013. 343,000 people who died due to cancer were victims of extreme tobacco usage.

Those who smoke very frequently for a long period, are at the highest risk of lung cancer. The early you start smoking, the riskier it gets. Health experts also say that you need almost 15 years to cut yourself from the risk-list after you quit smoking.

Besides causing lung cancer, smoking can also cause cancer in other parts of your body. The liver, bladder, pancreas, stomach, colon, mouth and even throat are susceptible. Also, the risk remains high, whether you smoke cigars, pipes or cigarettes.

5. Liver Disease

Your liver plays the role of a filter in your body. It processes and removes toxins, including the ones you inhale while smoking. Smoking reduces the filtering ability of your liver, thus resulting in major liver disease. Most smokers with liver disease survive on high doses of medication. Severe cases may also lead to liver failure.

6. Osteoporosis and bone fractures

Smoking makes you lose bone density at a much faster rate. Body parts like hips are the most affected. Smokers who do heavy lifting work, face a high chance of bone fractures. This bone loss may further lead to osteoporosis.

7. Eye defects

Smoking affects the eyes, and studies indicate that smokers get cataracts twice as often as non-smokers. They are also at risk of developing AMD, an eye disease that can take away your vision.

8. Ulcers

Smoking can lead to inflammation of inner organs. It irritates your stomach and intestines and forms painful ulcers within your digestive system. The nicotine in tobacco damages the muscles of your gut and bodily acids move about, negatively impacting your digestive system.

9. Infertility and Miscarriages

Being a chain smoker for a long time leads to infertility. Nicotine in cigarettes directly affects fertility. Among women, smoking may cause lower birth weight of the baby or even miscarriages. The baby may not be fully developed at birth, if the mother is a chain smoker. The smoking habit can trigger erectile dysfunction in males.

healthy food to boost immune system

How To Improve Your Immune System After Quitting Smoking?

After you quit smoking, it is important to work on building your health and immunity. Here are a few ways to go about it.

1. Improve your diet:

Your food intake is the first step to build up a strong immune system. Choose a balanced diet that is free from pesticides and other toxins. If possible opt for organic food. Eat healthy and avoid junk food to improve your health.

2. Exercise:

As smoking damages your heart, you need to work on keeping it fit. A perfect oxygen flow through your bloodstream will strengthen your heart. Opt for exercise. You can start with small freehand techniques, and slowly build up your regimen.

3. Vitamin D:

Getting sufficient amounts of Vitamin D will boost your immune system. Try spending at least 10 minutes under the sun for this. You can also use vitamin D enriched food or supplements.

4. Start a supplement:

Adding a supplement immunity booster can also help you restore your lost immunity power.

5. Take extra precautions:

If smoking has already affected your immune system, take extra precautions during the flu and cold season. Do not visit any place where you may be at risk of catching an infection.

How Long Does It Take For Toxins To Leave Your Body After Quitting Smoking?

  • Once you’ve quit smoking, your body will take some time to heal and become completely toxin-free.
  • Typically, when you quit smoking, the nicotine stays in your bloodstream for 3 to 10 days.
  • The way in which your body processes the nicotine intake, will determine the amount of time it takes.
  • Your metabolism rate and the medication you’re on are other factors that will make a difference too.
  • A regular-sized cigarette has 10 mg of nicotine. But your body only absorbs 1 mg out of the entire amount of nicotine. Once you inhale it, your enzymes break it down to the by-product cotinine. This stays in the body for a longer period. Sometimes, it can be traced even after weeks. However, over some time, your body will secrete cotinine through urine, making you toxin-free.

Wrapping Up

Smoking ruins your immune system and impacts overall health. It also causes many diseases. As the amount and duration of smoking directly impacts your health, it is important to quit this dangerous habit soon. Once you take this important decision, do work on improving your immunity, and say hello to a toxin-free healthy life.

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