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Heartburn is a common symptom of withdrawal. The following suggestions can help reduce it until your digestive system returns to normal:
- If possible, avoid greasy, spicy or acidic foods.
- Avoid large meals. Try more frequent, smaller meals.
- Eat slowly: take the time to chew everything well and don’t overload your stomach.
- Reduce your consumption of alcohol and never take alcohol on an empty stomach.
The secretions that are causing you discomfort are related to the detoxification that starts as soon as you quit smoking. In fact, the bronchial passages are covered with small cells which secrete mucus that traps polluting agents, in the same way that sticky paper catches flies. To get this mucus to rise in the trachea, a system of vibrating lashes beats in rhythm to shift the mucus, as if on a moving carpet. When we smoke, these lashes are paralyzed, the mucus builds up and its evacuation can only take place through coughing, which is often associated with smoking. When we quit smoking, these lashes begin working again to clean out the lungs by moving the mucus toward the trachea and producing the disagreeable feeling of having a blocked throat.
Drink a lot of water to help the detoxification or make yourself a thyme infusion if your throat is irritated. Finally, tell yourself these symptoms won’t last forever and that they are a sign your body is cleansing itself, adapting to your new life as a non-smoker.
You are not the only person to show irritability as a withdrawal symptom. Many people feel touchy, more easily provoked and have an ever-diminishing amount of patience. Some are even tempted to start smoking again, just to avoid looking like someone who is always on edge and about to explode.
Don’t give in! Remember that these intense reactions are only normal: a part of the process to free you from cigarettes. Ask those close to you or your colleagues to be patient and mention that your behaviour, due to a lack of nicotine, is only temporary and should improve within two or three weeks.
Here are some suggestions to help you return to being a calm person:
- Ask yourself what the cause of your irritability is and find a safety valve other than the cigarette. Express your feelings. For example: share your experience with someone in whom you have confidence.
- Move, walk, dance. In short: find ways to reduce your tension.
- Do things for yourself and reward yourself often.
- Take deep breaths or practice 4-4-8 breathing several times (breathe in through the nose for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 4 seconds, and exhale through the mouth for 8 seconds).
- Make time to relax.
Keep in mind the reasons why you quit smoking. Tell yourself it’s only a rough period to get through and that you will soon return to your behaviour of earlier times, but without the cigarettes.
In fact, the way nicotine works on the brain could very well be the reason. In short, nicotine interferes with the brain’s reward system and generates an additional dose of dopamine. This dopamine surplus has a direct effect on a person’s humour and on the ephemeral feeling of well-being that a smoker gets with each cigarette. We can compare the effect to that of a roller coaster: when you are at the top you feel the excitation and anticipation of pleasure, and when you are at the bottom you only aspire to climbing back up and no longer feeling the pain of withdrawal.
To diminish the unpleasant state related to tobacco withdrawal, the ex-smoker has to relearn to produce dopamine naturally, without needing nicotine to do it. Physical exercise, creative or comforting activities, or simply pleasing yourself with a reward could play this role.
Here are some useful questions to help you find rewards that work for you:
- What are my major interests?
- What are my hobbies?
- What would I like to receive as a gift?
- Who do I like to be with and what do I like to do with them?
- What do I do to relax, to have fun?
You can even concoct a calendar of rewards, a way to stimulate your little daily dose of well-being, feeling good. So stop holding back, give yourself some pleasure and do things you enjoy. It can only brighten your day and make you feel better.