Cigarette smoking causes many life threatening diseases, including lung cancer, emphysema, heart disease, colon cancer etc. Smoking affects the entire body, including the digestive system.
Smoking can harm all parts of the digestive system, contributing to such common disorders like the peptic ulcers, heartburn etc.
Smoking increases the risk of Crohn’s disease, and possibly gallstones, which forms when liquid stored in the gallbladder hardens into piece of stone like material. Smoking also damages the liver.
- Heartburn: Heart burn is a symptom of a syndrome called the gastroesophageal reflux abbreviated as GER. Gastroesophageal reflux is when the natural acidic juices in the stomach flow backwards into the esophagus. Acidic juices and made by the stomach to help break down the food. The stomach is naturally protected from acidic juices but the esophagus does not have the same protection. Normally, a muscular valve at the lower end of the esophagus, called the lower esophageal sphincter, keeps the acids in the stomach and out of the esophagus. Smoking weakens the sphincter, which allows stomach acids to flow into the esophagus. When stomach acid comes in contact with the esophagus, the inner lining can become injured or damaged.
- Peptic ulcer: A peptic ulcer is a sore on the lining of the stomach or duodenum, which is the beginning of small intestine. One cause of peptic ulcer is bacterial infection, but some ulcers are caused by long term use of non steroidal, anti inflammatory agents which are commonly abbreviated as the NSAIDs. Aspirin, Ibuprofen or Brufen are some of them. In few cases cancerous tumors in the stomach or pancreas can cause ulcers. Peptic ulcers are not caused by stress or eating spicy food but these can make ulcers worse.
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Research has shown that people who smoke cigarettes are more likely to develop an ulcer. If people with an ulcer keep smoking, their ulcer may not heal, or it may take longer than usual to heal. Smoking also increases people’s risk of infection from a bacterium called Helicobacter pylori and increases the risk of ulceration from alcohol and over the counter pain relievers.
Acid present in the gastric juice also plays an important part in producing ulcers. Normally stomach acid is absorbed by the food we eat the acid which is not absorbed by food enters the duodenum and this quickly neutralized by sodium bicarbonate, a salt like substance made by the pancreas. Some studies show that smoking reduces the amount of bicarbonate in the body, which causes problems in the neutralization of acid in the duodenum. Other studies suggest that cigarette smoking may increase the amount of acid secreted by the stomach overtime.
Pancreas is an enzyme producing gland located below the stomach and above the intestine. Enzymes from pancreas help in the digestion of carbohydrates, fats and proteins in the small intestine. The oesophagus is the long tube between the mouth and the stomach. It uses rhythmic muscle movements called peristalsis to force food from throat into the stomach.