Smoking with IBD? More Reasons to Quit

B.S. Dietetics, Dietitian, Health Professional

According to current CDC statistics, approximately 42.1 million adults in the United States still smoke despite advancements in smoking cessation programs. Along with a myriad of other health problems, smoking also increases the risk of developing IBD. For patients who have IBD and smoke, their symptoms may be worse, treatments may not work as well, and healing time from any surgery can take longer.

If all of these reasons haven't convinced you to quit smoking, maybe the newest research on IBD and smoking will. A recent summary analysis of several Dutch studies showed that smoking also exacerbates symptoms outside of just intestinal ones. IBD patients who smoked had a greater incidence of skin disease, eye disease and joint pain associated with IBD. Increases in these issues add to a lower quality of life for these patients.

Trying to quit smoking can be a difficult thing to do, especially if you have been a heavy smoker for a long period of time. Some of these tools have been effective and can even be used in combination for some patients to increase the chance of positive results.

Support Groups

Support groups can be found in many forms: online, over the phone and in person. The benefit of support groups are that they offer some accountability. One example of a successful support group is the Freedom From Smoking courses given through the American Lung Association. This program provides a step by step plan for quitting in a clinical setting. It can help patients get control over the behavior once and for all.

Nicotine Replacement Products

Nicotine patches were approved by the FDA in 1996 for over-the-counter sale to those hoping to step down from the nicotine addiction. The 18-hour patches are good for lighter smokers, while the 24-hour patches tend to be better for heavier smokers. There are also gums, lozenges and other nicotine replacement products on the market now, too, but all work in the same way. The idea of using these products is to help gradually step down from the nicotine and, thus, reducing withdrawal symptoms and increasing the likelihood of success. While these programs work for the physical addiction, they have far greater success when combined with behavior therapies like support groups.

Prescription Medications

There are two medications that are approved by the FDA for aiding patients in quitting smoking: Chantix (varenicline tartrate) and Zyban (buproprion hydrochloride). Both of these medications are available in tablet form and require a prescription from your physician. Both of these medications work on brain chemistry. Chantix specifically works on sites in the brain that are affected by nicotine, while the exact mechanisms of Zyban are not known. As with any medication, these two can come with side effects and may interact with other medications you are currently using. Talk with your physician about the risks versus benefit of these types of medications for smoking cessation.

There are several options for quitting that may work well for you, especially when used in combination as approved by your physician. The risks of continuing to smoke when you have IBD are troubling at best and deadly at worst. If you are still smoking, please make an appointment to talk with your physician as soon as possible.

_Jennifer has a bachelor's degree in dietetics as well as graduate work in public health and nutrition.  She has worked with families dealing with digestive disease, asthma and food allergies for the past 12 years.  Jennifer also serves the Board of Directors for Pediatric Adolescent Gastroesophageal Reflux Association (PAGER). _

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