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Does Smoking Impact Your Digestive System?

Does Smoking Impact Your Digestive System?

Dr. Brooke Scheller, DCN, CNS Dr. Brooke Scheller, DCN, CNS
5 minute read

When we think about smoking, we immediately think of its impacts to lung and respiratory health. Most notably, we may think about smoking increasing the risk of lung cancer or chronic respiratory diseases, like COPD. But what about the other ways that smoking can impact our health beyond the lungs?

Whether you smoke tobacco cigarettes, have switched to e-cigarettes, or have a history of using either product, read on for more about how smoking and gut health are connected, as well as ways to improve your health.

According to the American Lung Association, cigarettes contain over 7,000 toxic chemicals, including benzene, arsenic, cadmium, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, lead, tar and others. At least 69 of these chemicals are known to cause cancer. When we smoke, we inhale these chemicals into the lungs, and from there they pass into the bloodstream and are transported to every organ in the body. Because of this transfer of toxins throughout the entire body, cigarettes don't just affect the lungs, but instead impact each and every organ.

E-cigarettes, also known as vaping, took off more recently as a “healthier” alternative to cigarettes. According to John’s Hopkins Medicine, vaping nicotine contains less chemicals than regular tobacco cigarettes, but they still contain chemicals and heated nicotine products that can cause harm within the body. Marijuana smoking won’t be covered in this article, but can still have impacts on the body!

Today, we’ll be talking specifically about how smoking tobacco can impact the gastrointestinal system, also known as the gut.

You may have noticed that smoking has had an impact on your digestive tract. Perhaps you’ve experienced sudden urges for a bowel movement after smoking, experienced digestive discomfort like heartburn or reflux, or maybe experienced constipation as a result of trying to quit. This is because cigarettes do impact the digestive system on a deeper level. Read on for some of the ways that smoking can impact your gut and digestion.

Changes to the Gut Microbiome 

Smoking cigarettes causes imbalances in the gut microbiome, which may be due to the toxic compounds in cigarette smoke, its impact on the liver, and/or changes in the pH of the gut as a result of smoking. Exposure to cigarette smoke has been associated with increased pathogenic bacteria, changes to the bacterial balance of healthy microbes, and lower diversity among microbes in general.

Increased Intestinal Permeability (AKA Leaky Gut)

Smoking, especially e-cigarettes, has been associated with decreased function of the gut barrier and breakdown of the gut lining (aka leaky gut). While studies have shown some microbial changes with e-cigarettes, they seem to be much more detrimental to the health of the gut lining itself. Both tobacco and e-cigarettes are known to increase inflammation, thereby increasing the risk for inflammatory bowel diseases (like Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis) and other systemic inflammatory disorders [Reference, Reference]. If you have a history of smoking, or are a current smoker, it's important to consider how to support healing the body to reduce or manage your risk of health issues.

Here are my top recommendations:

Take a probiotic, like resB® lung support. This probiotic is specifically developed to support the gut-lung axis, and will help rebalance and repopulate the healthy microbes in the gut.

Eat foods that support the gut. Increase your intake of fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Especially focus on high-fiber foods (vegetables, beans, nuts, and seeds) that can help rebalance the gut and improve digestion. Reduce your sugar and processed food intake, which can have a negative effect on gut health and microbial diversity.

Boost intake of anti-inflammatory foods. Foods like turmeric, ginger, broccoli, cauliflower, berries and apples have antioxidant properties that can help reduce systemic inflammation in the body. By increasing foods that lower inflammation, you can help mitigate the damage from smoking.


About the Author:

Brooke Scheller, DCN, CNS

Brooke Scheller, DCN, CNS is a Doctor of Clinical Nutrition, author, and the founder of Functional Sobriety, a nutrition-based program for alcohol reduction. 

After finding freedom from alcohol in 2021, Dr. Brooke took her experience in sobriety and applied her expertise in nutrition and functional medicine to help others change their relationship with alcohol. After working with executives, celebrities, and other successful clients, she recognized a glaring gap in the wellness space: overconsumption of alcohol. Her approach results in improved brain health, mood, energy, focus, gut health and hormone balance. 

Her launch of Functional Sobriety led to the development of her online community, the Functional Sobriety Network and several online programs with members across the globe. As a motivational speaker, Dr. Brooke helps to spread the word about functional nutrition, alcohol-free wellness and the power of sobriety. 

She currently resides in NYC. Follow Dr. Brooke on Instagram @drbrookescheller. Learn more at or





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