Take Back Your Immune System

Don’t Let Smoking Destroy One of Your Body’s Most Valuable Possession

Wonder why your colds linger longer than anybody else’s? Or why your wounds or sports injuries take longer to heal? Smoking just doesn’t cause cancer, it also can weaken your immune system, making you more prone to infections. Think of it this way: Tobacco is like a Pac-Man that will eventually chew up every organ in your body. Your immune system, included.

Why is your immune system so important? It’s your body’s natural defense system, an intricate, interlocking network of cells, tissues, and organs that defend your body against “invaders,” such as bacteria, viruses, and parasites. When you smoke, this natural defense system becomes seriously impaired. Because smoke damages your sensitive lung tissues, you’re at higher risk for respiratory infections like bronchitis and pneumonia. Because the tar and other toxins in smoke destroy antibodies, you have less ability to fight off infections and may remain sicker longer. Because antioxidants like Vitamin C become damaged, your risk for cancer is higher. And worse of all, smoking can turn your body’s immune system against itself, causing autoimmune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis — conditions that are very hard to treat.

The minute you quit smoking though, you take back your body’s innate superpower to heal. Besides quitting smoking — your first line of defense — there are other things you can do to boost your immune system.

  • Eat for strength: While there are so many different perspectives on diet, physicians mostly agree that a diet And to protect yourself from exposure to pesticides and other toxins that may be lingering on produce, try going organic.
  • Keep moving: Regular exercise keeps oxygen pumping through your bloodstream and strengthens your heart, which may have been damaged from nicotine and smoke. If you don’t have time to exercise, check out how short bouts of exercise can help you get in shape.
  • Get just enough sunshine: If you spend 10-15 minutes in the sun, you’ll get sufficient Vitamin D to boost your immune system. Don’t forget to put on sunscreen though!
  • Consider supplementation: Extra vitamin C and other immune-boosting vitamins may be helpful, especially if your diet doesn’t supply them.
  • Protect yourself: Your immune system may already be low from smoking, so be aware during flu and cold season and avoid places where there are outbreaks of illnesses, such as the norovirus, which has been known to break out on cruise ships (even at the 2016 Republican Convention!). Wash your hands often and use common sense.

The best way to start the path toward better immune function is quitting. Get a quit buddy, try smoking aids, enlist the help of your family or groups — anything you can do to feel supported as you power through cravings and onward to ultimate success. The good news is, the minute you stop smoking, your immune function will start improving. And so will your health!

How have you felt since you quit? Share your thoughts on Facebook!