How Does Smoking Affect Your Stomach?

Smoking cigarettes has become a habit for millions of people around the globe. The number of smokers worldwide is estimated at over 1 billion.

If you smoke, you should know that smoking impacts your health in several ways. The best-known ways are diseases like lung cancer, emphysema, heart disease, and so on.

However, that’s not the full extent of the damage that smoking can cause. It can also have a variety of effects on the stomach too.  In this article, we’ll look at exactly how smoking can affect your stomach.

What Does Smoking Do To Your Stomach?

Smoking damages your stomach in numerous ways. First, it causes inflammation. This means that there will be an increase in the amount of mucus produced by your stomach lining.

Mucus helps protect your stomach from bacteria and other harmful substances. When you smoke, the chemicals in tobacco irritate your stomach lining. This leads to more mucus being produced. As a result, you may experience frequent bouts of diarrhea or constipation.

Second, smoking reduces the production of digestive enzymes. Digestive enzymes help break down food into nutrients. They’re usually found in saliva and the pancreas. 

When you smoke, these organs aren’t working as well as they should. This means that you won’t get all the nutrition you need from your meals. You might feel hungry even though you’ve eaten enough.

The Effects Of Smoking On Your Stomach Are Not Permanent

When you quit smoking, the negative effects of smoking on your stomach gradually disappear. Within about one month after quitting, your stomach lining returns to normal. After that, you should start feeling better. 

However, if you continue to smoke, the damage done to your stomach will begin to accumulate again. Eventually, it could lead to serious problems.

If you want to stop smoking, talk with your doctor about using nicotine replacement therapy (NRT). NRT products include patches, gum, lozenges, sprays, inhalers, and nasal spray.

These products contain small amounts of nicotine. They help reduce withdrawal symptoms when you first quit smoking.

If you use them regularly, they can keep you from starting back up with cigarettes. They also make it easier to quit altogether. Talk with your doctor about which product is right for you.

Stomach Acid Reflux And Smoking

There’s another way that smoking can affect your stomach besides causing inflammation and reducing digestion. Some studies suggest that smoking increases acid reflux. This happens when stomach acids flow backward instead of forward.

This condition is called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). GERD isn’t dangerous unless it occurs frequently. Fortunately, most people who suffer from GERD don’t realize that they have it. They just think their stomach hurts because of indigestion.

However, some people do notice signs of GERD. For example, they may wake up during the night with a burning sensation in their chest. They may cough or wheeze while breathing. They may find it difficult to swallow.

Some people who smoke often develop GERD. Others who never smoked before may develop it later in life. Although many factors contribute to GERD, smoking appears to play a role.

Some researchers believe that smoking raises the pressure inside your esophagus. This makes it harder for your stomach acids to move through your throat and out of your mouth. It also makes it harder for your esophagus to relax between heartbeats.

There is also evidence that smoking lowers the pH level in your stomach. The lower the pH level, the greater the chance that stomach acids will flow backward.

In either case, smoking seems to raise the risk of developing GERD. If you already have GERD, smoking probably worsens your condition. That’s why doctors recommend that patients who are smokers try to quit.

Smoking Can Make Indigestion Worse

Indigestion is common among cigarette smokers. Many people experience gas, bloating, cramps, and other gastrointestinal issues.

These conditions are caused by too much acid in your digestive system. Too much acid can cause pain and discomfort. It can also interfere with your ability to digest food properly.

When you’re not eating, your body produces more acid than usual. This causes an imbalance in your stomach. Your stomach becomes acidic.

Your body tries to neutralize this excess acid with bicarbonate ions. Bicarbonate ions are alkaline. As a result, your blood becomes slightly alkaline.

When you eat, however, your body doesn’t produce enough bicarbonate ions to balance the extra acid. Instead, your body uses carbon dioxide to neutralize the excess acid. Carbon dioxide is acidic.

The combination of these two substances creates a chemical reaction. The resulting gases expand your abdomen. You feel bloated, uncomfortable, and gassy.

The amount of acid produced by your stomach depends on several things. One factor is how long you’ve been smoking. Another factor is whether you’re male or female.

Cigarette smokers tend to produce more acid than nonsmokers. Women who smoke usually produce less gastric acid than men who smoke.

If you stop smoking, your stomach should return to normal within a few days. However, if you continue to smoke, you’ll probably still have problems.

If you smoke every day, you’ll probably need to cut back on the number of cigarettes you smoke each day.

You might also want to take antacids or other medications to help reduce your symptoms.

Smoking And Peptic Ulcers

Smoking also increases your risk of developing a peptic ulcer. A peptic ulcer is a hole (ulcer) in your stomach wall.

A peptic ulcer occurs when the lining of your stomach becomes irritated. When the lining gets irritated, the acid begins to leak into your stomach.  If you smoke, you may develop a peptic ulcer sooner than you would otherwise.

Any peptic ulcers you have are more likely to heal if you stop smoking.

Smoking Causes Stomach Cancer

The link between smoking and lung cancer is well established, but a lot of people don’t realize that smoking increases your chances of getting stomach cancer as well.

Stomach cancer develops when cells grow abnormally in your stomach lining. These abnormal cells form tumors.

Tumors can grow large enough to block your esophagus. They can also spread throughout your abdominal cavity.

Tobacco use has been linked to stomach cancer in several ways. First, tobacco contains chemicals called nitrosamines. Nitrosamines damage DNA in cells. This damages cell growth control mechanisms. When these mechanisms fail, cells become cancerous.

Second, nicotine stimulates the release of adrenaline from your adrenal glands. Adrenaline speeds up cell division. This helps cancer cells multiply faster.

Third, nicotine constricts blood vessels. This reduces oxygen supply to tissues. This makes it harder for healthy cells to survive.

Finally, nicotine triggers the production of free radicals. Free radicals attack healthy tissue. They also destroy enzymes that protect against cancer.

People who smoke have higher rates of stomach cancer than non-smokers. 

In addition, women who smoke have a higher risk of developing stomach cancer than men who smoke. Smoking may increase your risk of stomach cancer by about 1 in 10.

Cigarette smoking is one of the most significant risk factors for stomach cancer. 

Final Thoughts

The take-home message here is that smoking can have a wide range of effects on your stomach.

These range from indigestion to stomach cancer. They also become more likely the longer or the more heavily you smoke. 

It’s important to quit smoking if you want to avoid these side effects, and the sooner you quit, the sooner your body can start undoing the damage.

Also, if you notice any unusual changes in your digestive system, such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or weight loss, talk to your doctor right away. He or she will be able to tell you what’s causing your symptoms and give you advice on how to treat them.

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