Whether you choose cigarettes, cigars, or pipes, smoking can be increase your risk of oral tumors and various lung diseases. But those aren't the only consequences: Now we know that smoking can lead to heartburn.

The lower esophageal sphincter (LES) is a valve that keeps stomach contents out of the esophagus. When your LES relaxes or malfunctions, acidic stomach juices can leak back into the esophagus. This produces the sensation we know as heartburn. There is emerging evidence that smoking plays a role in relaxing the LES, thus leading to heartburn.


In recent studies, smoking led to a 50 percent increase in esophageal acid exposure, and heartburn was 114 percent more likely to occur during the daytime.

Some studies have also shown that smoking affects your salivary function, resulting in acid taking a long time to leave the esophagus. Others have contended that smoking actually changes the composition of the saliva. Saliva contains biocarbonates, which are chemicals that neutralize acid, but those who smoke have markedly smaller amounts of biocarbonates. This, in turn, makes it more likely that acid will ruin the esophageal tissues.

Additionally, the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC) warns that smoking can cause an overall "digestive stress," which can alter the way your body processes food.


For those suffering from smoking-related heartburn, the NHBA offers tips on how to deal with the disease. A starting point is to keep a log recording when your symptoms hit. This way, you can see what activities may have caused them, like intense exercise or a heavy meal. Secondly, if you smoke to unwind, try walking or yoga-two things that can help prevent heartburn. And third, quit smoking-all areas of your health will reap the benefits.