The detriment of smoking is not only pigeonholed in the lungs. The active ingredients in the tobacco pass into the bloodstream and continue to exert their effects on your system. And what active ingredients are we talking about?
- Carbon monoxide
- Hydrogen cyanide
Nicotine is the addictive ingredient of tobacco and is what the smoker really craves. But while you might be relaxing at a long beach, lifting that cigarette to your lips before luckily striking that match, keep in mind that procedure you have next week.
This is because nicotine is a potent vasoconstrictor. The amount in a couple of cigarettes cuts down blood flow by about 30 per cent. Half of this blood flow will be restored in about 10 minutes but the tissue closer to the skin will have lower levels of oxygen for close to an hour.
When an individual ups this smoking to a pack a day, this vasoconstriction will take effect for the full 24 hours of a day! It should be noted that oxygen is required for the various processes involved in the optimal healing of wounds.
Lower oxygen levels can cause the formation of free radicals. These molecules disrupt the normal function of cell membranes, DNA and enzymes by stealing electrons from their constituent atoms in their lifelong bid to become whole again. This leaves many cells irreparably damaged and enzymes in a non-functional state.
Apart from causing the vessels to constrict, nicotine can bring about ischemia in the wounded area by making the platelets stick together in the small vessels. This greatly reduces the arrival of all the vital blood corpuscles and compounds needed for wound healing.
HOW DO THE OTHER CHEMICALS IN CIGARETTE SMOKE AFFECT WOUND HEALING?
Whilst nicotine is wreaking its havoc in your body, carbon monoxide and hydrogen cyanide are throwing their own kind of party too.
Carbon monoxide cuts down on the supply of oxygen; a gas that we know for sure is vital in the replenishment of energy at the wound site in order to spur on the necessary repairs to the tissues.
On the other hand, hydrogen cyanide interferes with the enzyme activity at cellular level. The chemical inhibits the enzymes – and there are plenty of those – that speed up the recovery processes.
So put together, all these chemicals in cigarette smoke will make the healing process longer than it should be. Numerous studies have shown that smokers take longer to heal after surgeries, be it cosmetic or otherwise.
WHAT YOU SHOULD DO
Before you go in for any procedure, you should stop smoking for at least two weeks. This will ensure that your body has cleansed itself of the cigarette chemicals that would have otherwise interfered with the wound recovery process.
You should also endeavour to resist the urge to light one up after the surgery because the same reasoning applies.
Apart from pocketing your pack and putting away your lighter, you should endeavour to consume foods rich in antioxidants like vitamin C. As an antioxidant, this acid – readily available in fruits – neutralises the hazardous effects of the free radicals, leaving the wounds to heal nicely and quickly.
So, in your recuperation period, it seems to make sense to replace those cigs with figs, no?
Vitamin E is also an important antioxidant and is vital in making sure that the integrity of the cell membrane remains intact. This prevents cell damage and ensures that the healing process moves on without a hitch.
Silverstein, P. (1992). Smoking and wound healing. The American journal of medicine, 93(1), S22-S24.
MacKay, D. J., & Miller, A. L. (2003). Nutritional support for wound healing. Alternative medicine review, 8(4), 359-378.
Smoking. (2018). [image] Available at: http://www.sydney-acupuncture-clinic.com/sydney-quit-smoking.html [Accessed 14 Mar. 2018].