Your immune system is not as forgiving after smoking

Your immune system is not as forgiving after smoking

Smoking cigarettes is the top cause of lung cancer, which can be a motivating factor to quit. However, just because you quit smoking doesn’t mean your health is in the clear.

A new study reveals that smoking can impact your immune system even a few years after quitting. The findings show that current smokers have an increased inflammatory response to bacteria exposure. After quitting, this damage to the immune system took a few years to recover – another reason to quit as soon as possible.

Your immune response is what detects and fights off harmful diseases, such as bacteria, viruses and cancers. If you do get sick or injured, a healthy immune system helps you recover faster and typically experience less severe illness.

“While not entirely surprising given what we know about the detrimental effects of smoking on health, the extent to which it affects immune function even after cessation is important,” explains Dr. Rona Wardak, a family medicine physician at Advocate Health Care. “It emphasizes the significance of smoking cessation programs and ongoing health monitoring for former smokers.”

Smoking isn’t the only bad habit that compromises your immune system.

Dr. Wardak says these habits can also cause damage:
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Eating excessive amounts of processed foods that are high in sugar and unhealthy fats
  • Chronic stress
  • Lack of sleep
  • A sedentary lifestyle
  • Unsafe sexual practices

Whether you recently quit smoking or if you simply are looking to decrease your chances of getting sick, there are ways to strengthen your immune system.

Dr. Wardak recommends adopting the following immune system-building habits:
  • Quit smoking/never form the habit of smoking
  • Maintain a balanced and nutritious diet
  • Engage in regular exercise
  • Prioritize sufficient sleep
  • Manage stress effectively
  • Practice good hygiene
  • Avoid close contact with sick individuals

Want to learn more about your risk for lung cancer? Take a free online quiz.

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About the Author

Anna Kohler
Anna Kohler

Anna Kohler, health enews contributor, is an external communications specialist for Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care. She received her bachelor's degree in public relations from Illinois State University and has worked in health care public relations and content marketing for over five years. In her free time, she enjoys working out, exploring new places with her friends and family, and keeping up with the latest social media trends.