If you suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) you know the debilitating effects it can have on your quality of life, including your physical and emotional health, and ability to work and socialise in a normal way.

You may spend time tracking your food intake, worrying about toilet facilities, resting at home because of the pain, or treating the anxiety often associated with this condition.

You probably spend quite a bit of time monitoring and treating your IBS. Why then would you continue to indulge in habits that only make your symptoms worse?

Well, you may not even realise something is harmful, which is often the case for cigarette smoking. Although you may have noticed that feeling of needing ‘to go’ straight after a cigarette, you may not have considered that cigarettes could be seriously contributing to your IBS symptoms.

Here are some of the most important facts about smoking and IBS:

Tobacco is a powerful GI tract stimulant and irritant

Because the chemicals used in cigarettes stimulate the bowel, they can worsen IBS symptoms including diarrhoea, gas and cramping. If you continue to smoke you will continue to feel the negative effects of tobacco on your bowel movements and general sense of wellbeing.

If you have the type of IBS that causes constipation you may have been relying on smoking to regulate your bowel movements, coming off smoking therefore can worsen IBS related constipation. You may be left feeling as though you can’t quit smoking, despite the other health issues associated with cigarettes, because of this. However, smoking is not a healthy way to regulate your bowel movements, and can still cause painful cramps and gas. By quitting smoking, and consciously improving your lifestyle and habits, you can lead a happier and healthier life. Making changes to your diet and exercise routines can help immensely, so ensure you meet up with your primary health care provider to find out what can work for you.

Smoking also contributes to heartburn and acid reflux

Many people who suffer from IBS, especially women, also present with issues of the upper GI tract, including heartburn and acid reflux. Nicotine is thought to relax the muscles in the lower oesophagus making it easier for stomach acid to make its way up your throat. Furthermore, smoking reduces saliva production which can worsen heart burn. Quitting smoking can help you to manage these symptoms more easily.