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Heartburn and Smoking

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Updated March 26, 2013

If you smoke, consider stopping or decreasing the amount you smoke. This is a wise decision for a few reasons:

Reason No. 1: Saliva Production
Cigarette smoking slows the production of saliva. Saliva is one of your body's defenses against damage to the esophagus. There are even acid-neutralizing chemicals in saliva, called bicarbonates. Research shows that the saliva of smokers contains smaller amounts of bicarbonates, thus reducing the ability of the saliva to neutralize the acid. Saliva also bathes the esophagus and lessens the effects of acid that has refluxed up from the stomach, and helps wash the acid down to the stomach.

Reason No. 2: Too Much Stomach Acid
Smoking stimulates the production of stomach acid.

Reason No. 3: Weakens Digestive Valves
Smoking can weaken and relax the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), which is a valve at the junction between esophagus and stomach. If the LES isn't working properly or relaxes inappropriately, stomach contents can reflux back up into the esophagus.

Reason No. 4: Changes Stomach Acid
Smoking also seems to promote the movement of bile salts from the intestine to the stomach, which makes the stomach acids more harmful.

Reason No. 5: Injures Esophagus
Smoking may directly injure the esophagus, making it even more susceptible to further damage from acid reflux.

Reason No. 6: Slows Digestion
Studies have shown that smokers have decreased gastric motility (digestion) while smoking, which can cause less efficient digestion because the stomach takes longer to empty.


For more on how to quit smoking, visit About.com's Guide to Smoking Cessation. You also may want to consider the following articles:

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Updated: 12/05/05

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