Smoking damages the immune system and makes your body less able to fight off infection and disease. The immune system is responsible for protecting the body from everything from colds to various types of cancer. However, smoking works like a double-edged sword against your immune system: it increases your risk of developing diseases while reducing your ability to fight them off.
When you smoke, your body’s natural defense system is disrupted. Because smoke damages your delicate lung tissue, you are at greater risk of respiratory infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia. The tar and other harmful toxins in cigarette smoke can disrupt immune cells and interfere with antibody production, making you less able to fight off infection and making the disease longer. Habitual smoking also increases the risk of developing autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease that causes the immune system to attack the joints, causing inflammation and pain.
By quitting, your body can reverse the ill effects of cigarette smoke and regain its ability to fight disease. However, there are additional ways you can boost your body’s immune system as well. A varied diet of fruits, vegetables, and other minimally processed ingredients can provide you with the nutrients you need to maintain and strengthen your immune system. Getting enough sunlight and regular physical activity can also help speed up your immune response.
The best way to step down the path to better immune function is to quit. Get a quit buddy, try smoking aids, seek help from your family or groups – all you can do to feel supported as you struggle through cravings and ultimate success. The good news is, once you quit smoking, your immune function and health will improve.