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Can Smoking Cause Acid Reflux?

Smoking is a dangerous habit that can result in many health risks. Smoking is associated with many cancers, heart disease, vascular disease, stomach ulcers, and lung disease, to name a few. Some studies have shown a link between smoking and acid reflux. Even though smoking does not directly cause acid reflux, it can exacerbate acid reflux symptoms.

The nicotine in cigarette smoke can reduce the ability of the lower esophageal sphincter to contract or close, allowing acid to reflux. The LES is a muscle that keeps acid produced in the stomach from entering the esophagus. Anything that relaxes this muscle (cigarettes, alcohol, foods, or medications) causes the esophagus to be exposed to acid. Studies have shown that smoking increases irritation of the esophagus when acid refluxes and increases symptoms of heartburn.

Aside from discomfort caused by reflux, the greatest complication of acid reflux is the development of cancer, and smoking greatly increases esophageal cancer risk.

Cigarette smoke, particularly nicotine, can dry out your mouth, which decreases saliva production. You swallow saliva constantly, and this aids digestion of food and lubricates the esophagus. Saliva neutralizes acid and is protective when stomach acid refluxes into esophagus by helping to clear it.

Some people are in the habit of reaching for a cigarette right after a meal, which can exacerbate problems. After you eat, the stomach produces acid for digestion. Then, if you smoke, nicotine and cigarette smoke enter the bloodstream and impair contraction of the LES. The relaxed LES and a plentiful supply of acid are set up for acid reflux to occur. So, in this way, even though smoking may not directly cause acid reflux, it can make acid reflux worse.

By Mortin - Copyright 2009
Last modification 31/12/2009

Can Smoking Cause Acid Reflux? References