When you quit smoking, your brain suffers as your body goes through some radical changes. It’s an inevitable consequence of quitting smoking, but also necessary and beneficial for you to live a life of true freedom.
If you’re a long time smoker, you have built a strong network of brain (and behavior) receptors that love nicotine and the physical act of smoking. Some of the changes that your brain undergoes may leave you feeling miserable, while other changes may leave you feeling better than you ever have!
We wanted to share some of the things your brain will experience as you quit. If you’re prepared and aware of what to expect, you’ll be better able to stay motivated when quitting smoking.
The most important thing to remember is that our brains are plastic and always changing. They can return to normal no matter how long you’ve been smoking.
BRAIN FOG AND DIZZINESS
One of the most common ways the brain suffers people notice when they attempt to quit smoking is the inability to concentrate and serious brain fog. These symptoms are the most severe in the first 2-3 days after quitting.
While the symptoms may be common knowledge, the reason why they occur is not. The body sugar in ex-smokers begins to plummet right after they quit smoking.
Many people experience this low blood sugar as brain fog, dizziness, and disorientation. Former smokers have trouble concentrating because their brain suffers from not getting enough sugar to fuel it.
One option to mitigate these side effects is to consume sugar throughout the day in the form of juice or fruit. By consistently eating a small amount of sugar, people can more easily regulate their blood sugar. Your brain will thank you, and the dizziness and brain fog will subside.
Every time you smoke, your brain releases dopamine. Dopamine is the chemical in your brain that makes you feel good and rewards you for acting in ways that promote your survival and the survival of the human race.
Whenever you eat, have sex, or do something that may positively impact your life, your brain releases dopamine to reward you. You feel good and are more likely to engage in the act again. It is the perfect way to keep you motivated, but can also result in binge eating or over stimulation when taken too far.
After you smoke for a long period of time, your brain produces less dopamine because of how much dopamine is released when you smoke. The brain suffers when trying to keep the levels of dopamine at a fairly consistent level.
As soon as you quit smoking, your brain experiences a sensation of less dopamine. It has cut back on the amount of natural dopamine production it was previously creating. You will feel fewer reward sensations than you once did after you smoked.
This is the feeling associated with depression. Things in your life may seem less rewarding. You’ll get less of a positive sensation when doing your daily tasks that contribute to your well being.
The good news is that over time, your brain will start to produce more dopamine to compensate for the lack.
After you’ve refrained from smoking for a long period of time, your levels of dopamine will regulate, and you’ll feel great again after engaging in positive activities like exercise or healthy eating.
YOUR BRAIN CRAVES SUGAR
As we mentioned earlier, after you quit smoking, your body will not be used to the feeling of blood sugar being released slowly, rather than immediately after consuming nicotine.
One way that the brain suffers is sugar overcompensation, creating cravings for sweet and sugary foods. The problem is that many people are used to feeling satisfied after they have a cigarette. Their brain releases blood sugar into their body immediately after smoking, and they feel full.
After quitting, ex-smokers will eat, but not get that sensation. Their brain urges them to continue eating to feel satisfied. 20 minutes after they started eating, they will start to feel full. But in this 20-minute time frame, they may have eaten significantly more than they needed to feel full.
Because of this, many people gain weight as they quit. They binge because their body is not accustomed to having to wait 20 minutes to feel full and energetic. If you’re aware of this, you can better estimate how much you need to eat to function and ignore the signals your brain is sending that tell you to eat more.
HOW VAPING CAN HELP
HIGHER LEVEL OF NICOTINE RECEPTORS
When you’re smoking, your brain has a higher level of nicotine receptors than nonsmokers. These receptors are what allows the brain to absorb nicotine. When you quit smoking, these receptors still crave the nicotine they were once receiving.
Luckily, our brains are plastic. They adapt and change over time due to neuroplasticity.
After you quit smoking, your brain begins the process of reducing the number of nicotinic receptors in the brain. Between 6-8 weeks after you quit smoking, the number of nicotinic receptors in the brain lessens.
SLOWLY REDUCE NICOTINE RECEPTORS
When you’re vaping, you can slowly reduce the amount of nicotine you’re receiving, almost negating the symptoms mentioned above. Eventually, you can begin consuming almost no nicotine when you vape. By slowly weaning off, you’ll allow your brain to slowly reduce the number of nicotinic receptors. You can also begin to make adjustments to your diet to get used to regulating your blood sugar in a more healthy way without resorting to binge eating or other unhealthy habits.
The Brain Suffers – But It’s Worth It!
We hope this article helped give you a better understanding of what your brain will go through as you quit smoking.
Did your brain suffer when quitting? Do you have any tips and tricks for others trying to quit? We’d love to hear about your experience on our Facebook page.