Nicotine and Heartburn
Although only the effects of cigarettes on GERD have been seriously studied, experts warn that any product that contains nicotine can worsen the symptoms of heartburn and acid reflux. Nicotine products, including cigarettes, chew, and nicotine gum, may increase the risk of acid reflux and worsen the long-term effects of GERD.
Nicotine can worsen acid reflux symptoms because it weakens the lower esophageal sphincter that is responsible for preventing stomach acids from flowing back into the esophagus. It also reduces saliva production and increases the production of stomach acid.
In addition to helping cause acid reflux, smoking cigarettes can also worsen the long-term effects of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). People who use tobacco are more likely to suffer from esophageal damage caused by acid reflux. Once the damage occurs, the esophagus tends to heal more slowly if you’re a tobacco user. Damage to the esophagus can lead to serious complications, including cancer of the esophagus.
There is some debate about how effective quitting tobacco can be in resolving heartburn issues. While studies have shown that using tobacco can significantly increase your risk for GERD, quitting smoking or chewing may not be enough to cure you of all of your GERD symptoms. It is commonly believed, however, that quitting tobacco use can lessen symptoms and at least slightly reduce your risk for long-term complications. If quitting tobacco doesn’t completely resolve your GERD symptoms, other lifestyle changes of medical options are available.