Smoking: A Habit That’s Hard to Digest

Smoking can be harmful to your digestive system in a number of ways:

Quit SmokingNo Help for Heartburn
The stomach makes acidic juices that help you digest food. If these juices flow backward into your esophagus, they can cause heartburn. They can also cause gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). The esophagus is protected from these acids by the esophageal sphincter, a muscular valve that keeps fluids in your stomach. But smoking weakens the sphincter.

Increased Chance of Ulcers
Smokers are more likely to develop peptic ulcers. Ulcers are painful sores in the lining of the stomach or the beginning of the small intestine.

Limiting Liver Function
The liver normally filters alcohol and other toxins out of your blood. But smoking limits your liver’s ability to remove these toxins from your body.

Crohn’s Is More Common
Crohn’s disease is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease. This disease is an autoimmune disorder of the digestive tract. For reasons that are not clear, it’s more common among smokers than nonsmokers.

Raising Colon Cancer Risk
Smoking is one of the major risk factors for colon cancer. Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths.

Possible Boost in Gallstone Risk
Some research suggests that smoking increases the risk of developing gallstones. Gallstones form when liquid stored in the gallbladder turns into material that resembles stones.

Other Cancers
Smoking is a risk factor for mouth, lip, and voice box cancer, as well as cancer of the esophagus, stomach, pancreas, liver, and rectum.

The Bottom Line?
If you smoke, try to quit. Seek medical help to stop smoking if you need help. Giving up smoking will lower your risk for lung cancer and heart disease. It will also reduce your risk for other digestive disorders.

Did you know WCHN has centers devoted to the diagnosis and treatment of digestive system conditions? Learn more: