Smoking And Heartburn: A Basic Guide

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At this point, it’s been well-established that smoking is one of the worst things that anyone can do to their body because of all the damage it can do.  For anyone that is well-aware of what happens with cigarettes, lung cancer, throat cancer, and heart disease come to mind. Even though the rates of smoking have been on the decline in recent years, the full extent of the damage it causes still isn’t fully understood by many.

With cigarettes becoming one of the leading causes of death in the United States annually (almost half a million people die from related diseases), it’s crucial to understand just how dangerous it is for the body. And while concerns such as lung diseases are already common knowledge, the full extent of the health issues caused by smoking must be understood.

Did you know that smoking can cause and exacerbate heartburn?

What is Heartburn?

Heartburn is characterized by a burning sensation that is typically felt in the center of the chest. In some circumstances, however, the discomfort can radiate to the throat, neck, or upper arms—making it a painful experience not to take lightly. 

This condition isn’t a disease but is actually a constituent of a group of symptoms associated with various gastrointestinal problems. The assortment of conditions it is linked to range from indigestion and acid reflux to gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

What Happens When You Experience Heartburn?

Regardless of the underlying cause, the primary mechanism of heartburn is related to the opening and closing of the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). 

Heartburn occurs when the LES fails to close completely or at all. This eventually causes stomach acid can make its way back up into the esophagus. Unfortunately, this is only the start of a series of complications because stomach acid contains hydrochloric acid that can burn or scar the mucosa lining of the esophagus.

How Does Smoking Affect Heartburn?

Recent studies have shown that there is a close link between smoking and GERD. Researchers and scientists have also discovered that quitting smoking often gives patients noticeable relief from GERD symptoms, which shows further insight into the relationship between the two. 

Here are some of the different ways smoking can bring about heartburn (and worsen it):

1. Smoking Can Interfere with the Lower Esophageal Sphincter

Nicotine acts as a relaxant to smooth muscle, which can cause problems in the gastrointestinal tract, particularly the very relevant lower esophageal sphincter. When you continuously smoke cigarettes, nicotine intake can cause the muscle to relax and malfunction, causing stomach acid to leak through and cause heartburn.   

2. Smoking Reduces Saliva Production

One of the body’s internal mechanisms that help prevent acid reflux or GERD is saliva production. Smoking, however, can meddle with this process as the chemicals of cigarettes can significantly reduce it, leading to even more problems as the body doesn’t get the bicarbonate it needs to mitigate reflux. 

3. Smoking Makes Secreted Acids More Potent

When people smoke regularly, they supplement their bodies with excessive amounts of bile salts and other elements that aggravate the potency of stomach acid. This reaction can cause the acid to slosh around and potentially make its way back up into the esophagus, causing heartburn in the process. 


Although there are many different reasons for heartburn among vulnerable patients, smoking is one leading cause that anyone should be mindful of. If you’re suffering from heartburn or GERD and you still light up a cigarette regularly, quitting is your best chance of mitigating the symptoms so that you can minimize discomfort.

If you’re looking to treat your acid reflux with valuable tips, tricks, and news, then there’s no need to look any further because Reflux Away has got you covered. Visit our website today and read through our resources for more helpful information!