We all know smoking is bad news for our lungs, heart and blood vessels – but did you know cigarettes can damage your gut and digestive health too? From bowel cancer to IBS, here are five of the key ways smoking can negatively affect your digestive health.
1. Smoking could throw your gut bacteria off balance
It’s becoming increasingly clear that our gut microbiome (that’s the term used to describe the trillions of micro-bacteria that live in our guts) plays a vast and vital role in our overall health and wellbeing. From stress and antibiotics to poor diets, lots of things can throw our sensitive microbiome off balance, and there’s evidence to suggest smoking can adversely affect gut bacteria too. The good news is, research has also found that after quitting smoking, your gut microbiome can flourish.
2. Smoking can cause or aggravate heartburn
Lots of lifestyle factors are known to make heartburn/acid reflux worse, including smoking. Chronic heartburn, known as gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD), can have a big impact on your quality of life, so if you do smoke then it’s definitely worth taking steps to quit. Other factors can also play a part but there are things that can help, so don’t suffer in silence. If heartburn is impacting your life, make an appointment to discuss it with one of our experts.
3. Smoking can make IBS symptoms worse
Since there’s no cure for IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), managing the condition through treatments, lifestyle changes and avoiding ‘triggers’ is really important for sufferers – and this includes not smoking. There’s a number of reasons for this: smoking can irritate the digestive tract, increase stress responses throughout the body (a big factor in IBS!), and as we’ve already mentioned, damage gut microbiome, among other things. If you’re struggling to manage IBS symptoms, our experts are on hand to help.
4. Smoking can increase the risk of digestive cancers
Cigarettes aren’t just a major risk factor for cancer of the lungs – there’s also lots of evidence that smokers are at higher risk of developing cancers of the digestive tract and organs, including oesophageal cancer, stomach cancer and cancers of the bowel and colon. Research suggests smokers may have a 17-25% higher chance of developing bowel cancer than people who’ve never smoked. Remember, it’s never too late to quit smoking and take steps to improve your health and if you are concerned about cancer, it’s always best to get any symptoms checked out early. Simply book a consultation with one of our experts.
5. Smoking could increase your risk of stomach ulcers and colon polyps
Although not the primary cause, smokers could be at higher risk of stomach ulcers, which can be sometimes be very painful and lead to complications such as internal bleeding. Research also suggests smokers could be more prone to colon polyps, small growths in the large intestine or rectum. Colon polyps are actually very common and not always problematic, but certain types can cause symptoms or potentially become cancerous so may need to be removed.
Also find out about our top digestive health tips.