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Natural heartburn remedies and lifestyle changes are key to getting rid of acid reflux forever. Does smoking cause heartburn, and does that mean you have to quit if you want to relieve heartburn?

Smoking, we all know, is bad news. 

If you're currently a smoker, you don't like to dwell on the fact that smoking tobacco is a direct cause of such varied ailments as lung cancer, bladder cancer, coronary heart disease, female infertility, and cataracts [1]. Smoking kills. The package itself will remind you of that, and if you're still smoking, you obviously don't care enough to stop. 

Why? Well, research shows that the knowledge of the health effects of smoking depends on your gender, ethnic background, and socioeconomic status, but also on your smoking status [2]. Non-smokers are more likely to acknowledge the health effects of smoking — presumably because they're less affected by them.

Yes, smoking will shorten your life, and smoking will diminish your quality of life. But perhaps not today, so let's think about that another time. Nicotine creates a powerful addiction, and that, in turn, leads to denial. 

So, why am I writing about whether smoking causes heartburn at all? If the prospect of cancer and heart disease isn't enough to make you quit, why should heartburn? Perhaps I'm being a little too cynical here, and your wish to get rid of heartburn will indeed help you quit. Because chronic heartburn isn't something that might happen in the future, or not, but something that's already making you uncomfortable. Perhaps that heartburn is a good thing, if it helps you quit smoking. 

Does Smoking Cause Heartburn?

Yes, smoking triggers heartburn — and studies stretching back decades back that up. 

One study from the 1970s concluded that episodes of heartburn were more likely to occur while a person was smoking, but that smoking-related acid reflux is temporary and reversible. That is, your heartburn stops when you quit smoking. [3] Another study, from the '90s, found that smoking prolongs the duration of acid reflux episodes, and that those who smoke 20 or more cigarettes are at the greatest risk of smoking-related heartburn [4].

Another study concluded that the combination of smoking more than a pack a day and drinking alcohol regularly was a risk factor for gastroesopagheal reflux disease (GERD), the chronic form of acid reflux [5]. 

What's interesting here is that studies investigating whether other dietary and lifestyle choices — such as spicy foods, fatty foods, and coffee — trigger heartburn tend to be somewhat contradictory, with some research suggesting that these things lead to heartburn, and other research indicating that they might not. All research into the link between tobacco and heartburn suggests that there is a very strong correlation, on the other hand.

This means that you can bet that smoking is making your chronic heartburn worse and you need to quit to get rid of heartburn. Why is that, though?

Why Does Smoking Cause Heartburn?

Nicotine, the main addictive component in tobacco, is thought to contribute to causing heartburn in two major ways. Firstly, it relaxes the esophageal sphincter, allowing stomach acid to back up into your esophagus, causing that burning feeling. Secondly, nicotine alters the flow of your saliva. This reduced salivary flow means that those stomach acids are less likely to be washed away. [6]

The fact that tobacco causes heartburn, and nicotine in general causes heartburn, is "bad news" for those people who think that might be able to get rid of heartburn by quitting smoking but taking up another form of nicotine, like vaping or chewing tobacco — research shows that heartburn is one of the major side effects of nicotine chewing gum [7] and that is despite the fact that chewing gum generally increases the salivary flow, making it one of the best natural heartburn remedies out there [8]. 

The only form of nicotine you can use without a risk of heartburn is Trans-dermally administered nicotine, or in other words, nicotine patches [9]. These bypass the esophagus altogether and can be helpful during smoking cessation, making nicotine patches an option if you want to stop smoking and follow an acid reflux diet.

So, How Do I Quit Smoking?

Are you ready to get this over with and to stop smoking forever, saying no to tobacco and committing to an acid reflux diet? Self-help strategies can be very helpful. Some basic tips include:

  • Identify when you are most likely to crave cigarettes. It might be during work breaks, when you're with friends, or when you have your morning coffee. Make a plan to alter your usual routine so that you're less likely to be tempted. 
  • Remember that an individual craving likely won't last longer than five minutes. You can distract yourself with exercise, a large glass of water, or a good talk with someone, or you can get through it by realizing that it will pass. 
  • Keep reminding yourself why you are doing this, and make lists of all the benefits of quitting smoking.
  • Know that nicotine withdrawal is only temporary, and you will soon feel a lot better. [10]

You can do this, and if you also follow an acid reflux diet, you will be rid of heartburn in no time. You'll also enjoy the benefits of a longer and healthier life. 

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