The Impact of Smoking on Crohn's
Smoking is harmful for any person, but it’s especially detrimental for a person with Crohn’s disease. Crohn’s is an autoimmune condition that affects the body’s digestive tract by triggering inflammation and the breakdown of intestinal organs over time.
Here is what you need to know about smoking and Crohn’s disease.
Smoking will worsen Crohn’s disease. Studies show that smoking leads to worsening symptoms. Smoking also weakens the body’s ability to heal properly, increasing the risk for relapses and the need for more medications and surgeries.
More complications result from smoking. There is a clear relationship between smoking and an increase in flare ups. The chance of recurring flares increases significantly with smokers, and fistulas and abscesses are more common as well. Most smokers with Crohn’s disease must take heavy immunosuppressive drugs to keep their condition under control. In short, managing Crohn’s is much harder if you smoke.
You are more likely to develop Crohn’s if you smoke. People who smoke or used to smoke have an increased risk of developing Crohn’s disease, compared to people who have never smoked. Female smokers have a higher risk of developing Crohn’s disease than male smokers. The reason is still unclear, but some researchers believe smoking affects important intestinal bacteria that keep the gut healthy, decreases the flow of blood to the intestines and hinders the body’s immune system, making it more susceptible to inflammation.
Tobacco creates an unhealthy environment. Research shows tobacco is a significant environmental factor for increasing the possibility of developing Crohn’s disease. This environment also extends to children. Children exposed to secondhand smoke are more likely to develop Crohn’s disease, compared to those not raised around smokers. The more cigarette smoke to which a child is exposed, the higher the risk for Crohn’s.
Bottom line: If you have Crohn’s disease and currently smoke, seek help to stop immediately. Talk to your doctor about how to approach quitting and visit an informational website, such as smokefree.gov, for information and help on how to stop smoking. It’s never too late to stop.
Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America, https://www.ccfa.org/assets/pdfs/flares_brochure_final.pdf
Crohn’s & Colitis Australia, https://www.crohnsandcolitis.com.au/smoking-and-crohns.php
National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC), https://www.digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/smoking/#smokingaffect
World Journal of Gastroenterology, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3413052/
Erica Sanderson is a former content producer and editor for HealthCentral. Living with a chronic disorder that affects the lungs and instestine, Erica focused on covering digestive health and respiratory health. Topics included COPD, asthma, acid reflux, managing symptoms and medication.