Can You Smoke With Ulcerative Colitis?

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Despite its link to damaging effects on overall health, smoking may be helpful against ulcerative colitis (UC), a kind of inflammatory bowel illness (IBD). Research studies have demonstrated this, as UC is less likely in smokers than nonsmokers.

Even though it seems absurd, some study indicates it might be true. Be aware, though, that there’s also contradictory research present. And that doesn’t even consider the many known risks associated with smoking, such as an elevated risk of heart disease, stroke, various cancers, etc.

Keep reading to learn more about ulcerative colitis, the relationship between UC and smoking, and whether you can smoke with ulcerative colitis.

What Is Ulcerative colitis?

Ulcerative colitis is a long-term disease that causes colon and rectum inflammation. Following are some facts about UC.

  • It affects the bowels and is inflammatory. 
  • It causes your large intestine’s lining to be irritated, inflamed, and vulnerable to ulcers.
  • People experience symptoms intermittently for the rest of their lives, and there is no known medical cure. But the correct medical care can assist you in managing the illness.
  • Inflammation of the rectum, the large intestine, or both can lead to UC.

Due to this inflammation, the colon’s lining develops tiny sores known as ulcers. Generally, inflammation starts in the rectum and progresses upward. However, your colon may be affected entirely.

Your bowel moves its contents quickly and frequently empties as a result of the inflammation. Ulcers develop as the surface lining of your bowel loses cells. The ulcers could bleed and secrete pus and mucous.

UC symptoms can range in severity depending on the individual. Additionally, the symptoms may alter over time.

People diagnosed with UC may occasionally have minor symptoms or none at all. Remission is the term for this. But symptoms could come back and get worse. This is referred to as a flare-up.

Primary symptoms of UC usually involve:

  • Abdomen ache
  • Elevated abdominal noise
  • Bloody stools
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Back pain
  • Malnutrition

Ulcerative Colitis and Smoking

Now that you know about Ulcerative colitis, you might wonder what its relation with smoking is. 

Studies have revealed that smokers with UC seem to experience a milder form of the disease. In addition, patients who smoke are reported to have less number of flare-ups, hospitalizations, the need for oral steroids or immunosuppressants, and colectomy rates.

Not all studies, though, support this. For example, a 2019 research study published in the journal Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics shows that smoking has no significant benefits for male or female UC patients.

Additionally, Health professionals broadly agree that the harms of smoking vastly outweigh any advantages shown in UC and strongly advise against it for everyone, IBD patients included.

Although researchers don’t fully understand how smoking prevents UC, they have some theories. According to experts, nicotine or other components of tobacco may prevent you from developing UC in several ways, including:

  • Lowering cytokine levels, which are inflammation-causing substances.
  • Causing immune cells to become active, which reduces inflammation.
  • The release of carbon monoxide, which has potential anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Higher mucus production, which creates a layer of protection to encourage better gut flora.

Is Smoking a Good Treatment for UC?

Smoking is not advised as a UC treatment. This is because the component of cigarettes most closely associated with cancer is tar, not nicotine.

Nicotine has been utilized as a treatment for UC by experts. However, this does not imply that nicotine is healthy for you. Any item that contains this highly addictive drug could be harmful to your health. Additionally, nicotine is provided via chewing gums, skin patches, or enemas rather than cigarettes.

Unwanted side effects can result from some of these approaches. For example, they may cause headaches, nausea, or pancreatitis, which causes swelling and redness in the pancreas. Furthermore, some research indicates that nicotine enemas may not benefit people with active UC.

How effective these treatments are is unclear. This is because ethical considerations prevent formal research on the connection between UC and smoking. Since numerous significant health dangers are associated with smoking, it would be risky to ask a group of individuals to start doing so.

Thus, research involving smokers is the only source of information on smoking as a treatment for UC. But as mentioned above, there are discrepancies in these studies findings.

Why Smoking and Nicotine Should Be Avoided

Following are some reasons smoking should be avoided, despite its somewhat positive effects on UC patients.

  • In addition to tar and nicotine, an average cigarette contains 600 other components, many of which are dangerous.
  • These components combine to create more than 7,000 chemicals.
  • The majority of these chemicals are harmful.
  • Many others are known to be cancer-causing.

Smoking reduces your risk of developing UC, but it also harms your digestive system in other ways. This is because the various chemicals in cigarette smoke and the significant amounts of pollution you breathe in when smoking can harm the tissues in your body.

Cigarettes are only one source of the elevated chance of suffering from negative health effects. At least 30 compounds in smokeless tobacco have been associated with cancer. There are several cancers linked to smokeless tobacco. Some are given below:

  • Tongue cancer
  • Pancreatic cancer.
  • Gum cancer.
  • Mouth cancer.
  • Cancer of the cheek.
  • Oesophagus being cancerous.

Nicotine tolerance varies among people. Studies have shown that many who tried nicotine therapy for IBD experienced side effects such as rashes, nausea, headaches, or sleep disturbance.

Although nicotine seemed to benefit those with active disease, it did not seem as helpful when used as maintenance therapy (constant use to avoid flare-ups). Additionally, studies have shown that 5-ASAs and steroids are two more common IBD medication therapies that are more successful than nicotine.


Although smoking and nicotine have been demonstrated to have potential benefits for ulcerative colitis, the hazards of smoking make it impossible to suggest it as a serious treatment. Hence, it would be best if you did not smoke with ulcerative colitis.

Patch and vaping may be the two safest products because both have dosage controls. Nicotine is not advised for long-term use because it is an addictive substance. Consult your doctor if you want to learn how to manage your UC symptoms without nicotine.


Can you smoke with ulcerative colitis?

Medical professionals strongly advise against smoking for anyone, whether or not they have ulcerative colitis, as the risks exceed any benefits shown in UC.

Is smoking protective in ulcerative colitis?

According to some research studies, smoking is protective against ulcerative colitis; however, other studies prove the opposite.

Is smoking a risk factor for ulcerative colitis?

Smoking impacts Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis (UC) differently. Never smoking and prior smoking increases the likelihood of ulcerative colitis.

Does smoking make inflammation worse?

Smoking does make inflammation worse while also being the cause of many other health problems.

Does quitting smoking cause ulcerative colitis flare up?

Although quitting smoking has caused ulcerative colitis flare-ups in some instances, it is not very likely to happen.

Author: Syed Hasan

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