Constipation after Quit Smoking

By Dr. Julia Lizy, MBBS (KEMU)

Constipation After Quit Smoking

Most of us know that quitting smoking can be extremely beneficial to health. 

However, for those who have tried to quit smoking, they know about the many bothersome withdrawal symptoms that show up within a few days to a few weeks after quitting.

Fortunately, the process of quitting is only temporary, but leads to a better quality of life.

Recovery from nicotine addiction is a journey of readjustment in which the body and mind undergo a healing process.

This includes the desensitization of dopamine numbed pathway receptors. The number of these receptors must be returned to the normal level of a non-smoker.

Constipation After Quit Smoking - continued

According to a large British study focused on abstaining smokers, about 1 in 6 people who quit smoking experience constipation as a withdrawal symptom.

It occurs more severely in those who habitually smoked a cigarette before defecation.

Factors involved in constipation after quitting smoking can be physiological or psychological.

The human brain becomes psychologically dependent on nicotine, and when it is withdrawn by not smoking, numerous problems can result, including:

  • Depression

  • Anxiety

  • Severe constipation

Physiologically, nicotine stimulates peristalsis in the gut.

When this nicotine stimulation is withdrawn, it can result in decreased bowel movement, leading to constipation. Nicotine withdrawal can also bring about nausea, cramps and bloating.

Though most people who quit smoking tend to gain weight, some ex-smokers experience a decrease in appetite and weight loss.

Constipation after Quit Smoking

Why constipation is a problem

Constipation After Quit Smoking - continued

The first few weeks after quitting smoking are the most difficult. 

It takes about 8-12 weeks to restore a normal life style. Tobacco contains nicotine. The body develops a dependency for this addictive drug, and needs a certain level of nicotine all the times to satisfy this dependency. 

When nicotine is withdrawn, the following symptoms are common. 

1. Physical symptoms 

  • Intestinal disorders (cramps, nausea, constipation, bloating)

  • Sweating

  • Cold symptoms

2. Psychological symptoms

  • A feeling of dependency

  • Insomnia

  • Mental confusion

  • Irritability

  • Anxiety

The journey towards quitting smoking is accompanied with all of the above symptoms. 

One of the most common of these symptoms is constipation. It occurs for a brief period of time due to decrease in intestinal movement.

Interruption in the body's routine

The intestines becomes dependent on other chemicals in cigarettes as well. The body adapts to the various chemicals in cigarettes. When these are withdrawn, it disrupts how the body has learned to operate. 

This can lead to irregularity. Added to this, nicotine also affects the receptors of the bowel. When a person quits smoking, it requires a lot of adaptation by the body.

A temporary problem

Constipation After Quit Smoking

Fortunately, constipation caused by withdrawing from cigarettes doesn’t last very long.

After some weeks without nicotine the body will adjust to the change and establish a new normal routine.


Psychological factors add to the dependence on nicotine. Having a cigarette has become associated with good bowel movements.

In a way, it is something like bowel training, where a person is accustomed to passing stools at a certain time each day. If you interrupt this routine, it can create some difficulties.

When cigarettes are removed from equation of those accustomed to them, the bowel is out of sync.
Fortunately, with a little time the bowel will establish a new routine that doesn’t involve cigarettes.

How to avoid Constipation after quitting smoking:

Constipation After Quit Smoking - continued

guy avoiding constipation after quit smoking

Constipation may last for several weeks after a person quits smoking. 

The greatest difficulty seems to come in second week after quitting. Sometimes this alone brings enough discomfort for a person to consider going back to smoking.

To help a person over the hump, there are simple remedies which can help in dealing with constipation after quitting smoking and decreasing the symptoms.

Diet modifications: Choosing right kind of diet after one quits smoking is helpful in combating the problem of constipation. This diet should include extra fruits and vegetables, and go light on meat. Fiber rich foods such as leafy vegetables, roughage, whole grains and bran are called for to help minimize the complaints of constipation. Fiber helps digestive system to work normally. It will also be helpful to cut off other food items (constipation-foods) from diet, such as caffeinated drinks, chocolate and dairy products.

  • Drink plenty of water: Drinking a lot of water also helps to reduce constipation after quitting smoking. The old rule to drink 8 glass of water every day works well here.

    The extra water improves metabolism and minimizes a number of the withdrawal symptoms of nicotine. Prune juice is also a good choice to improve symptoms of constipation.

  • Get some exercise: To keep the body healthy and working, it is necessary for everyone to get some exercise. Exercise is helpful to stimulate the bowel and to strengthen abdominal muscles.

    It can be any type of exercise which is suitable and easy, including running, taking a brisk walk or using a treadmill. Exercise helps to ease constipation, plus some of the other symptoms of nicotine withdrawal.

  • Moderate laxative use: It’s also helpful to use laxatives as a temporary measure during bowel retraining. You may choose an over the counter or prescription drug, or an herbal solution, such as psyllium seeds and husks, and flaxseeds.

  • A magnesium supplement: Magnesium is a laxative mineral that helps to relieve constipation. Magnesium is a relaxant, and is therefore especially helpful for those dealing with stress, anxiety and worry. It also helps to relax a tense bowel, which can help with the defecation process.

Magnesium also helps by drawing water into the colon. This helps to moisten stool, making it softer, bulkier and more slippery. This is a wonderful formula for constipation relief.

A magnesium supplement may be taken daily for as long as it is needed, so it can provide long-term constipation relief.

Unlike most laxatives, a magnesium supplement is not habit forming, and can bring gentle relief without cramping.

Once the transition is made to life without cigarettes, a magnesium supplement may be stopped without any adverse effects.


Although every one of us is different, we may all experience different withdrawal symptoms.

These symptoms are only a temporary discomfort, and lead to a healthier, smoke free life. Taking a magnesium supplement may be one of the best ways to avoid constipation when a person quits smoking.

(Return from Constipation After Quit Smoking to Causes of Constipation)

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