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Smoking: A Culprit in the World of Reflux

In the past two decades, a lot of research has come out about tobacco use—and the news hasn’t been good for tobacco companies. Whereas once smoking appeared to be a harmless pastime, something that just about everyone did, inside and outdoors, that isn’t the game anymore. Tobacco use continues to decline across the United States, but there are still a lot of people out there who smoke at least somewhat regularly. By the latest estimates from the Centers for Disease and Control, about 18% of US adults use tobacco products in some form or another.

Smoking causes a lot of different health problems, from increasing your risk for types of cancer to making you more susceptible to a heart attack. Smoking cigarettes is still considered the number one cause of preventable death in the United States, causing more health problems than obesity.
When we think about the health consequences of smoking, these are the types of diseases that come to mind—lung cancer, jaw cancer, heart disease. But that is just the tip of the iceberg. The dirty truth about tobacco is that it could be influencing your health in a world of other ways. For example, research shows that the use of any tobacco products, including pipe, cigarette, and chewing tobacco, increases your risk for acid reflux disease.

How Smoking Increases Heartburn

The biggest problem with using tobacco is the fact that it is linked with nicotine in just about every form it is sold. All pipe, chewing, and cigarette tobacco contains nicotine, which is a highly addictive substance. Together, the use of cigarettes creates both a stimulant and depressant effect on the central nervous system.

Nicotine has been found to actually relax the lower esophageal sphincter, which is the ring of muscle that surrounds the separation between the stomach and the esophagus. This sphincter controls the doorway between the stomach and the esophagus. When it is relaxed, digestive juices from the stomach, like acid, are able to wash out of the stomach and into the esophagus. This is what causes the burning sensation that is known as heartburn. Long-term use of nicotine can lead to permanent damage to the lower esophageal sphincter, and as a result to chronic heartburn and acid reflux. In addition, cigarette smoking causes the mouth to produce less saliva, which naturally helps to relieve heartburn. Less saliva means more pain when acid reflux strikes.

There are a lot of health benefits to cutting down on smoking. If you are struggling with chronic heartburn and acid reflux, then that might be one more reason to quick the cigarette habit.


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