Most people are familiar with the fact that smoking can raise the risk of some types of illness, like cardiovascular disease and lung cancer. But did you know that nicotine can negatively impact the digestive system as well? Studies have shown a link between smoking and peptic ulcer , heartburn and possibly even gallstones. This article will explore the relationship between smoking and peptic ulcer to see if one might lead to the other.
Helicobacter pylori are bacteria that medical experts believe is a factor in many peptic ulcers. This bacterium is found in the digestive system of many people in the United States , up to 20% of those under 40 and more than half of those over 60. However, only a few infected with this bacteria will go on to develop an ulcer. H. pylori is thought to be found in some food and drinking water and it can also be passed from person to person through saliva. Smoking can increase the risk of becoming infected with H. pylori, which can be a factor in the link between smoking and peptic ulcer .
Stomach acid is another factor in the development of ulcers. When stomach acid enters the duodenum, it is neutralized by a substance called sodium bicarbonate, which is produced by the pancreas. Sodium bicarbonate ensures that powerful digestive acids do not harm the delicate lining of the intestines. However, when bicarbonate production is reduced, the result can be a sore or peptic ulcer. Nicotine can affect the amount of bicarbonate that is produced by the body, which may be another clue to the link between smoking and peptic ulcer.
By the same token, smoking may increase the production of stomach acid. This is the reason many experts believe that nicotine use may exacerbate heartburn. If more stomach acid is produced, it may be difficult for the body to produce enough sodium bicarbonate to neutralize the effects. The result may be an excess of stomach acid in the intestinal region, which could increase the risk of a sore developing within the intestinal lining. Yet another possible cause and effect between smoking and peptic ulcer .
Some studies have also suggested that nicotine use may increase the risk of problems developing from alcohol and NSAID use. NSAID stands for non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and are sold under names like ibuprofen, naproxen and aspirin. There appears to be a relationship between frequent use of these medications and ulcers, particularly if alcohol consumption is also a factor. Cigarette smoking can also intensify these effects. Smoking may not cause ulcers, but there is sufficient evidence to suggest there is a link between smoking and peptic ulcer .