See what questions
a doctor would ask.
Article title: Smoking and Your Digestive System: NIDDK
Current estimates indicate that about one-third of all adults smoke. And, while adult men seem to be smoking less, women and teenagers of both sexes seem to be smoking more. How does smoking affect the digestive system of all these people?
Heartburn happens when acidic juices from the stomach splash into the esophagus. Normally, a muscular valve at the lower end of the esophagus, the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), keeps the acid solution in the stomach and out of the esophagus. Smoking decreases the strength of the esophageal valve, thereby allowing stomach juice to reflux, or flow backward into the esophagus.
Smoking also seems to promote the movement of bile salts from the intestine to the stomach, which makes the stomach juice more harmful. Finally, smoking may directly injure the esophagus, making it less able to resist further damage from refluxed material.
Why is this so? Doctors are not really sure, but smoking does seem to be one of several factors that work together to promote the formation of ulcers.
For example, some research suggests that smoking might increase a person's risk of infection with the bacterium Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori). Most peptic ulcers are caused by this bacterium.
Stomach acid is also important in producing ulcers. Normally, most of this acid is buffered by the food we eat. Most of the unbuffered acid that enters the duodenum is quickly neutralized by sodium bicarbonate, a naturally occurring alkali produced by the pancreas. Some studies show that smoking reduces the bicarbonate produced by the pancreas, interfering with the neutralization of acid in the duodenum. Other studies suggest that chronic cigarette smoking may increase the amount of acid secreted by the stomach.
Whatever causes the link between smoking and ulcers, two points have been repeatedly demonstrated: People who smoke are more likely to develop an ulcer, especially a duodenal ulcer, and ulcers are less likely to heal quickly among smokers in response to otherwise effective treatment. This research tracing the relationship between smoking and ulcers strongly suggests that a person with an ulcer should stop smoking.
Office on Smoking and Health,
Public Information Branch
4770 Buford Highway NE.
Mail Stop K50
Atlanta, GA 30341-3724
Tel: (404) 488-5705
2 Information Way
Bethesda, MD 20892-3570
E-mail: National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse
The National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC) is a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). NIDDK is part of the National Institutes of Health under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Established in 1980, the clearinghouse provides information about digestive diseases to people with digestive disorders and to their families, health care professionals, and the public. NDDIC answers inquiries; develops, reviews, and distributes publications; and works closely with professional and patient organizations and Government agencies to coordinate resources about digestive diseases.
Publications produced by the clearinghouse are reviewed carefully for scientific accuracy, content, and readability.
This e-text is not copyrighted. The clearinghouse encourages users of this e-pub to duplicate and distribute as many copies as desired.
NIH Publication No. 99-949
e-text posted: 11 May 1999
Search Specialists by State and City