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Can Smoking And Alcohol Contribute To My Acidity And Heartburn Problems?

Thursday, August 27, 2009
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How many of us know that smoking  a few cigarettes or drinking even a couple of alcoholic beverages a day can cause mild to severe acidity and heartburn. Majority of us believe these two chronic conditions are a result of overeating, eating too fast, or going to bed right after a heavy meal.

Well, the majority are right, but they also need to include smoking and alcohol consumption into the acidity culprit list.

So, exactly what causes heartburn and acidity?
Both heartburn and acidity are common problems across the globe. The main factors contributing to acidity are -
•    Alcohol
•    Smoking
•    Obesity
•    Over consumption of acidic foods and drinks.
•    Large gaps between meals
•    Very oily and spicy foods
•    Excessive caffeine
Most commonly seen symptoms of heartburn are -
•    Headache
•    Acidic vomits
•    Nausea
•    Burning pain in lower chest.
•    Stomach pain

Thus acidity is seen to be associated with damaged food pipes, gastritis, gastrointestinal bleeding, colitis, and bile reflux.

Role of alcohol:
Alcohol can not only get us drunk, but it can also affect our stomach and esophageal tract. Alcohol relaxes the valve that keeps acid in the stomach. In acidic conditions, this acid flows back into the food pipe and irritate the digestive system and its muscles.

Believe it or not, but beer and wine increase acid production in the stomach, causing inflammation on the stomach's inner lining. Several studies have reported that the level of acid in thefood pipe is high in the first three hours after drinking alcohol.

Role of smoking:
Compared to alcohol, smoking actually harms the digestive system and its organs by weakening the lower part of our food pipe. It may damage the upper airways as well by increasing its exposure to acid by nearly 50 percent. Smoking  can also harm our salivary glands or even cause digestive stress, which in turn may alter the process of digestion by producing harmful enzymes in the gastrointestinal tract. Smoking also results in the washing of bile salts from the intestine into the stomach, producing acid reflux.

Alcohol and smoking can also prevent the body from absorbing B vitamins by inhibiting nutrient absorption and utilization. Even if nutrients are digested and absorbed, smoking and alcohol alter transport and storage of nutrients and excretion of waste.
Simple solutions:
Make gradual changes to your lifestyle habits -
•    Prevent yourself from overeating.
•    Don't eat greasy, high fat meals or acidic foods, specially late in the evening/ dinnertime.
•    Eat about 3 hours before getting into bed.
•    Avoid consuming caffeine or alcoholic beverages
•    Mental stress aggravates acidity.
•    Heartburn occurs more frequently during the summer. Persons with acidic tendency should be more cautious.
•    Become more aware of foods that cause you acidity/ heartburn, then avoid them.
•    Lose weight if you are overweight
Your doctor may recommend lifestyle modifications of quitting smoking and alcohol consumption as well as recommend an antacid etc.

Repeated episodes of heartburn/ acidity more then two times a week, may be due to GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disease) Do get it checked from your doctor, as it might indicate a more serious underlying issue.

By. Janki Patel, Dietitian, Online



User Comments

23 August, 2012 | virkam kshatri | Reply

virkam kshatri i smoke heavily(20 cig a day) i always have heavy acidity problem, throat infection once in month and some times heart burn.what should i do. may be u wud say quit smoking, m fine with that but how do i quit smoking. any help madam???

28 August, 2012 | Vijayalakshmi Iyengar | Reply

Vijayalakshmi Iyengar Dear Mr. Kshatri,
Numerous research studies on the effects of smoking on the body, have shown that smoking can severely harm your digestive system, contributing to common disorders such as heartburn and peptic ulcers. Even more worrying is that it can precipitate or aggravate existing conditions like asthma, diabetes, hypertension, oral or lung cancer, gall stones, liver disorders etc.

Yes, quitting smoking requires self discipline and is easier said then done.

We suggest a two pronged approach to try to quit.
1. Kindly seek professional help to quit; your physician would be most helpful here.
2. Perhaps becoming more aware of the consequences and long term implications will help you quit smoking immediately or at least slowly. There is plenty of information from authentic sources on the internet for you to learn from I have attached a link for you to begin with.

If you would like us to help you manage your lifestyle and diet better - please do not hesitate to let me know and we could tentatively set up a schedule for you to to get regular feedback from us through online consultations.
We wish you all the very best.
Vijayalakshmi Iyengar

29 June, 2012 | Suhas | Reply

Suhas is it possible if a person having acidity problem he will squirt yellow or dark red colour substance from mouth...

03 December, 2010 | Vijayalakshmi Iyengar | Reply

Vijayalakshmi Iyengar Life does not exist without stress. Stress adds to heartburn.So learn to deal positively with stress, eat healthy, hydrate well and exercise regularly reduces heart burn by half. Avoiding junk food, alcohol and smoking will reduce other half.

23 November, 2010 | Girish Hiriyur | Reply

Girish Hiriyur I drink very occasionally, may be once in 2 -3 weeks. Its either beer or vodka. i have observed that if I eat something before I start drinking am fine. But if I drink and eat simultaneously it is not fine. I feel bloated and heaviness in my stomach and chest. Why is this so?

24 November, 2010 | Vijayalakshmi Iyengar | Reply

Vijayalakshmi Iyengar Dear Girish
Alcohol is absorbed into your body through the stomach and small intestines. Food slows down the rate of absorption - that's why alcohol affects you more quickly on an empty stomach. Alcohol then flows through the bloodstream throughout the body, reaching your heart, brain, muscles and other tissues and all in a matter of a few minutes.
The congestion you feel in your stomach and chest is actually in your stomach and intestines due to the quick absorption of alcohol.
Our advise is
1) Eat something substantial and healthy before drinking.
2)Avoid drinking on an empty stomach or eating fried food with it.

22 November, 2010 | move4less | Reply

move4less I really like your blog..It always something different and interesting keep posting more...Thanks

06 July, 2010 | Sangeetha Narayana Swamy | Reply

Sangeetha Narayana Swamy Habitual drinking and smoking makes the person to lose his appetite considerably. This effects the food time, quality and quantity which in turn causes acidity, gastritis, anxiety and malnutrition and also depresses the immune system.

02 June, 2010 | Kanika Jain | Reply

Kanika Jain As aptly written by Janki, few simple lifestyle changes can help us in managing heartburn. E.g. excess weight put pressure on our abdomen which pushes up our stomach and cause acid to back up into esophagus, hence, if one is overweight or obese then losing some weight will help in alleviating heartburn.

Kanika Jain

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