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  Can Smoking Cause Heartburn?

Heartburn is a common disease that affects a sizable population of USA. Over 50 million Americans suffer from this disease at least once a month while the number of those suffering from it daily stands at a whopping 15 million. Among the various reasons that can cause heartburn, smoking is a prominent one. In case you are looking for an answer to whether smoking can cause heartburn or not, it would be a good idea to understand what heartburn is and how smoking can cause this disease in the first place.

Is smoking responsible for heartburn?Heartburn – what causes it?  

Heartburn is a symptom of GER (gastroesophageal reflux). When natural acidic juices from the stomach flow back into the esophagus, it causes irritation in the esophagus, as the inner lining becomes damaged or injured by the stomach acid. This causes a pain in the chest, which is known as heartburn. Patients suffering from it usually feel hot and inconvenient in the region behind their chest bone, up to the area of their throat.  

How smoking worsens the condition 

Smoking not only causes heartburn, it may even worsen the disease in a number of ways. If you are wondering how smoking can have such adverse affect on your health, here are some points that will make the scenario clear:  

·       Decrease in saliva production: Saliva acts as a defense mechanism of your body against the damage caused to esophagus. Saliva contains bicarbonates, a type of acid-neutralizing chemicals, which can counteract the acidic juices of the stomach. However, cigarette smoking slows down the production of saliva. Many research studies have also shown that the amount of bicarbonates present in the saliva of smokers is lesser than that found in their non-smoking counterparts.  


This is why the saliva of a smoker has reduced ability to neutralize the acid. Saliva also offers a protective coating for esophagus, thus lessening the effects of stomach acid that has climbed up from the stomach, and even helps wash down the acid to get it back into the stomach again. However, a smoker’s saliva often fails to do all these jobs, thus causing acid reflux and heartburn.  

·       Excessive formation of stomach acid: Smoking encourages the production of stomach acid, which in turn increases the chances of having heartburn. 

·       Weakening of digestive valves: Smoking can relax and weaken the LES (lower esophageal sphincter). LES needs to shut down properly to keep the stomach contents confined in stomach. However, if it relaxes inappropriately or doesn’t work properly, stomach acids are likely to climb back up into the esophagus and cause heartburn.  

·       Stomach acid content changes: Smoking seems to encourage the movement of bile salts to the stomach from the intestine, which in turn makes the stomach acids more dangerous. 

·       Causes injury to the esophagus: Smoking causes double damage to the esophagus; it not only injures the esophagus directly, but also makes it more prone to further damage caused by acid reflux. In fact, studies shave shown that the esophagus pipe in smokers is blocked, which is why their food takes a longer time to reach the stomach. This in turn often gives rise to heartburn. 

·       Slows down the digestive process: While smoking, smokers are found to have decreased gastric motility. Due to this slowed down digestive process, smokers have less efficient digestion and their stomach takes a long time to become empty.  


The best solution is to quit smoking. Though some people believe that cutting down on their smoking habit will help, it’s best to understand that such a step won’t offer a cure. However, giving up on smoking isn't easy. You should talk to your doctor to discuss different strategies that can let you give up the habit. You will also need the support of family and friends to stay away from cigarettes once you have bid the habit adieu. Joining a support group can be a good idea as it will help you to cope with the situation.  

You doctor may even prescribe some medicines or lifestyle changes to help you steer clear of acid reflux symptoms

So, if you were lighting up your cigarettes happily until now without caring for the heartburn, it’s time to ditch the habit as an important step towards getting control of your condition.