Aside from your lungs, cigarette smoke enters your digestive system, causing irritation and potential damage to your stomach lining, intestines, and beyond. If your throat’s feeling a little acidic lately, it could be due to the cigarette you recently lit.
There’s no doubt that smoking can cause severe and lethal problems for your stomach and digestive system. In this post, we’ll look at how smoking harms your digestive system and also the other issues it creates.
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
The esophagus is where the throat hit happens when you consume a cigarette. As it receives the brunt of every hit, it’s the most irritated and reactive among the other parts of your digestive system.
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Prolonged exposure to chemicals from smoke exacerbates these reactions, causing GERD by weakening the esophagus’ special muscular valve that prevents acid reflux.
GERD isn’t a fatal condition by itself, but it makes you extremely uncomfortable with frequent regurgitations and chest pains. Prolonged acidity in the esophagus can also cause long-term damage with esophagitis, impairing your digestion permanently.
Smoking causes GERD, which in turn causes frequent heartburn.
The bicarbonate levels in the stomach, which are natural stomach acid neutralisers and make up its protective linings, drop with prolonged exposure, causing frequent bouts of heartburn and extreme discomfort.
Chemicals in cigarette smoke also cause food to stay longer in the stomach than it needs to. When this happens, the stomach responds by increasing acid levels, making the stomach highly acidic and prone to damage.
As you keep smoking, you might feel extreme pain in the stomach area due to peptic ulcers.
As your stomach’s lining dissipates in a highly acidic environment caused by GERD and heartburn, it becomes prone to damage that causes ulcers.
The stomach lining heals naturally with nutrition and oxygen delivered by the blood. However, due to smoking, the stomach and intestines lack what they need to restore your stomach lining and heal any damage.
With constricted blood vessels also affecting your immune system, you become prone to bacteria that cause peptic ulcers. The impaired recovery of your stomach lining accelerates the growth of H. pylori in your digestive tract.
If the liver or stomach malfunctions, your body will have a hard time digesting food and managing your stomach acids.
Chemicals in cigarette smoke have been a primary cause of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and an increased risk of liver cancer.
The prolonged irritation and inflammation of the liver, caused by the larger production of free radicals due to smoking, will cause damage to the liver and impair its capacity to detoxify harmful substances.
Also, if you keep smoking and drinking simultaneously, you’re at a higher risk of developing alcoholic liver disease. The organ gets strained continuously in breaking down the alcohol you consume while fighting off free radicals and inflammation.
When you stop smoking and drinking, you give your liver the best chance of recovery and keep your stomach working normally.
The minor digestive issues smokers endure above can get worse with prolonged exposure. GERD and heartburn can cause your esophagus, stomach, and also your intestines to get inflamed.
Furthermore, the dangerous chemicals in cigarette smoke will alter your gut biomes with prolonged exposure.
These ‘friendly’ bacteria help your intestines absorb nutrients from food. Studies have shown that the biomes in the intestines of smokers are altered and reduce the population of these helpful bacteria.
Combined with a slower immune system response, more free radicals in your intestines, and inflammation, the stage is set for Crohn’s disease to develop.
Don’t wait until you see blood in the toilet or feel frequent stomach aches and diarrhoea – stop smoking and prevent yourself from carrying a long-term health burden.
Increased Risk of Gallstones
Feel your abdomen or a side of your body getting sharply painful then ebbing into relief frequently? Those could be gallstones caused by cigarette smoking.
Your gallbladder stores the bile from your liver, an essential chemical that breaks down fat in what you eat. Chemicals in smoke alter the gallbladder’s function and reduce its motility or activity, causing bile to remain stagnant inside of it and produce gallstones.
Moreover, smoking and higher levels of free radicals accelerate the hardening of bile by changing its chemical composition.
If you don’t want to feel the extreme pain of passing a gallstone in various parts of your body, stop smoking and have a healthy diet.
How It’s Easy to Quit Smoking for Good Today
Smoking is a danger to every part of your body. Fortunately, if you stop today, regardless of age, you can still recover physically and mentally from the grips of cigarettes and tobacco. Here are a few steps to get you on the right track.
Consult a GP
GPs have been key to helping many ex-smokers stop smoking for good. Their smoking cessation programmes are personalised and made with all your needs in mind. GPs can also prescribe the right amount of nicotine replacement products (NRTs) and nicotine vaping products (NVPs) from pharmacies to help you during the strongest of your withdrawals.
Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) Products
These lozenges, gums, and inhalers contain a small amount of nicotine to keep your withdrawals at bay. With a smaller dose of nicotine and the absence of cigarette smoke, they’ve played a significant role in smoking cessation and nicotine abstinence practised by many successful smokers.
Nicotine Vaping Products (NVPs)
NVP products sold in pharmacies are made under stringent pharmaceutical standards on the manufacturing process and ingredients, are toxicologically assessed for inhalation, are locally insured, and are specifically designed to help you stop smoking.
As a second-line solution, NVPs from pharmacies are helpful if NRT products, which don’t always work for everyone, fail to help a person trying to quit.
Unlike their illegal counterparts sold in corner shops and tobacconists, pharmacy NVPs are made with your health in mind and not to profit off an addiction.
The latest Cochrane Review found high-certainty evidence that NVPs are more effective than NRT in helping people stop smoking.
It’s clear to see that smoking and your digestive system have a negative relationship. It also increases the risk of developing problems in your stomach, intestine, liver, and gallbladder, too. By stopping smoking, you give yourself the best chance of being able to eat and digest well as you grow older.
You’re probably reading this because you’re interested in knowing the effects of cigarettes on your digestive system. We hope this information was helpful. We can also help you quit smoking for good.
Smokefree Clinic gives you access to many medically reviewed and trustworthy resources that can inform and aid you in your path to wellness, so have a look around!
If you’re ready to get started, Smokefree can connect you to bulk-billing Australian healthcare professionals who excel in helping patients quit smoking for good, including using responsible vaping products where appropriate.
Click here to book your bulk-billed telehealth consultation with an Australian healthcare professional and quit smoking today.