Does Smoking Cause GERD?

How Quitting Smoking Can Reduce GERD Symptoms

If you’re a smoker, chances are you’ve already been pestered and nagged ad nauseum about quitting. Between lung cancer, emphysema, second hand smoke and stinky clothes, smoking really doesn’t have much of an up-side.

But what most people DON’T know is that there is an important connection between smoking and suffering from GERD.

GERD Overview

Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or acid reflux, is a very common illness among people of all ages, especially smokers. In most patients diagnosed with GERD, the condition is caused by the movement of stomach acid into the esophagus which causes an unpleasant burning sensation. In a small number of patients, the culprit is bile, not stomach acids. This is why most physicians prefer the term GERD over acid reflux disease.

GERD can be triggered by many other factors besides smoking, including: pregnancy, obesity, and some respiratory diseases. But GERD has a similar effect on all those afflicted.

GERD is a digestive malfunction that frequently causes heartburn in most people. Unlike mild heartburn that occurs once in a while, patients who experience GERD attacks commonly suffer from heartburn at least two or three times a week.

How Does Smoking Affect GERD?

In patients with GERD, the LES (lower esophageal sphincter) does not function properly. The LES is a tube that runs from the esophagus to the stomach. Under normal conditions, food travels through the LES into the stomach. Once food reaches the stomach, the LES then closes to prevent any stomach acids from returning to the esophagus.

When the LES becomes weakened or damaged, the tube doesn’t close once food has entered the stomach. The end result is the return of unwanted stomach acids to the esophagus, causing heartburn or acid reflux.

Smoking can damage the esophagus, leading to a high incidence of GERD among smokers.

In addition to weakening the LES muscle, smoking creates another disadvantage for patients. Under normal conditions, your saliva contains an optimum amount of bicarbonate. Bicarbonate is needed to help neutralize and dissolve stomach acid quickly.

Unfortunately for smokers, their body may produce only half the amount of saliva found in non-smokers. Less saliva means less bicarbonate, which results in the body taking longer to break down harmful stomach acids.

Will Reducing Smoking Before Meals Help Stop GERD?

Many smokers think that not smoking a few hours before a meal will eliminate any unpleasant GERD symptoms. This is not the case. Acid reflux symptoms often do not occur immediately or shortly after smoking. So stopping smoking only at times when GERD is most likely to occur will not help your condition.

In order to permanently reduce or eliminate the symptoms of GERD, a patient must stop smoking altogether. After quitting smoking, your saliva level will eventually return to normal and the amount of bicarbonate will also increase. In due time, the LES may begin to heal too.

Foods that Can Cause GERD Flare-Ups

Besides kicking your smoking habit, there are also many foods and drinks that can trigger acid reflux symptoms. By avoiding these foods and beverages, you can further help prevent GERD.

  1. Coffee
  2. Alcohol
  3. Peppermint
  4. Fried or high-fat foods
  5. Chocolate
  6. Citrus fruits and juices
  7. Pepper
  8. Tomatoes

Over-the-Counter Antacids Good For GERD?

Non-prescription antacids help to lower the amount of acid in the stomach and esophagus, preventing heartburn attacks. These over-the-counter remedies should only be used by people who occasionally suffer from mild heartburn. GERD patients should refrain from taking non-prescription antacids on a regular basis.

While these drugs may provide temporary relief for some, the long term effects can be harmful. After long term usage, GERD patients who take antacids may develop a number of other ailments such as too much magnesium in the body, diarrhea, or a change in calcium metabolism.

Some antacid remedies may contain peppermint, which is known to soothe the stomach. For GERD patients however, the peppermint can do more harm than good.

Herbs Used With Prescription Medications for GERD

While herbal treatment alone is not recommended for people with GERD, there are many natural herbs that can be used in combination with prescription drugs to provide additional relief.

These herbal remedies are especially helpful in reducing stress levels. While stress alone doesn’t cause GERD, it can aggravate the condition or result in more frequent flare-ups.

The following list contains several natural herbs that are useful in treating acid reflux:

  1. Marsh mallow: protects and soothes the esophagus from harmful stomach acids.
  2. Meadowsweet: reduces mild ulcer bleeding.
  3. Calendula: promotes the healing of ulcerations.
  4. Lemon balm: the leaves can be used to create a relaxing herbal tea that neutralizes stomach acids.
  5. Chamomile: chamomile tea benefits both the digestion process and helps to reduce stomach acid production.

Prescription Medications For Acid Reflux Disease and GERD

For smokers who suffer from GERD, prescription medications are the best treatment for permanent relief and healing. Nexium is the most popular drug on the market today for acid reflux. Nexium both helps to repair damage to the esophagus and prevent the risk of developing additional stomach ulcers.

Nexium tablets are taken on a daily basis at least one hour before meal times. It is important to establish a regular eating schedule so the pills can be taken at the same time each day.

Depending upon the severity of your GERD symptoms, there are two different dosages of Nexium to choose from. Your physician can decide what strength of Nexium is right for you. Most GERD patients experience a great reduction and improvement in their symptoms within 4 to 8 weeks of treatment.

To learn more about prescription Nexium and how it can help treat your heartburn, GERD and acid reflux symptoms, visit the Nexium product information and order page.

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