The Effects of Smoking on the Liver
Most people are well aware of effects of smoking on the heart and lungs. However, what you may not know is that smoking cigarettes can also severely affect your liver. The numerous toxins found in cigarette tobacco lead to chronic inflammation and scarring in the liver, which in turn, increases your risk for liver damage including diseases such as Hepatitis B and C, liver cancer and liver fibrosis. Additionally, smoking affects the way your liver processes alcohol and medications, which can increase your risk for alcoholism as well as your overall drug and alcohol tolerance levels.
How Cigarettes Hurt Your Liver
Think of your liver as your body's natural filter. It's the liver's responsibility to prevent harmful toxins from entering the bloodstream. In addition, your liver helps your body metabolize sugars and carbohydrates, and regulates the flow of bile, the substance that aids in the digestion process. Humans cannot survive without a liver and when the organ is agitated, the body's immune system weakens and becomes more susceptible to disease and infection. Additionally, N-Nitrosodiethylamine, one of the many chemicals found in cigarettes, can cause liver tumors. Another chemical, N-Nitrosopyrrolidine, is proven to contribute to liver cancer. Arsenic, another ingredient found in the smoke you inhale, is also known to increase your risk of developing liver cancer.
Why You Crave Nicotine
Oddly enough, your liver is also partly responsible for your nicotine addiction. When you inhale smoke, your liver produces enzymes that help your body clear out the toxins through your urine. One particular enzyme is specifically responsible for filtering out nicotine. Therefore, as your liver produces more and more of this enzyme, the nicotine leaves your body much faster. Remember that nicotine is the most addictive ingredient found in smoke and is therefore responsible for most smokers' craving for cigarettes. With each cigarette you smoke, your body produces more of this enzyme and the nicotine leaves your system. This means that, as you smoke more cigarettes, more enzymes are created and nicotine leaves your body more quickly. While this fact seems beneficial, it actually contributes to your addiction--because the nicotine is leaving so quickly, your body demands more, which leads to that overwhelming sensation to smoke. Fortunately, studies reveal that by quitting smoking, you drastically reduce your health risks and after 15 years of not smoking, your body will be in the same condition as that of a nonsmoker. This, of course, is if your body is not already damaged. So if you've smoked for a long time, now may be the time to quit...before it's too late.
- Photo Credit Craig Jewell
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