The Heartburn-Tobacco Connection

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You probably already know that smoking cigarettes is harmful to your health. Quitting can reduce your risk of cancer, heart disease, and lung disease. But did you know that smoking could also give you heartburn?

The pain of heartburn is caused by stomach acid flowing back up into the esophagus from the stomach. Tobacco, whether it comes from a cigarette, cigar, pipe, or chewing tobacco, can make acid reflux worse. There are a number of ways that tobacco can trigger reflux and heartburn.

How Tobacco Causes Heartburn

  • Impairing the function of the LES. The LES, or lower esophageal sphincter, is part of the mechanism that is normally responsible for keeping stomach acids inside the stomach and out of the esophagus. The nicotine in tobacco is believed to lower the pressure in the LES, allowing stomach acids to flow into the esophagus.
  • Increasing acidity. Nicotine increases the production of stomach acids. More stomach acids often lead to more frequent occurrences of reflux and heartburn.
  • Harming the esophagus. Tobacco smoke can irritate the esophagus lining. A damaged esophagus can worsen reflux.
  • Reducing saliva production. Saliva helps to push acid down into the stomach when you swallow. Saliva also helps to neutralize acid, which can reduce reflux and heartburn.

Uncontrolled heartburn that continues to occur over a long period of time can cause long-term health complications, including cancer. If you’re suffering from frequent heartburn and regularly use tobacco, you may consider giving up tobacco to relieve your heartburn symptoms.

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