Smoking Modifies Gut Microbiome Leading to Sickness, Cancer & Disease
Did you know smoking still causes 480,000 deaths per year in the United States alone? That’s an unbelievable amount of preventable death. People most often think about lung cancer or lung diseases when they think of health risks associated with smoking. But, in reality, smoking affects the entire body. All sorts of cancers are caused by smoking: mouth, larynx, esophagus, stomach, kidney, pancreas, liver, bladder, cervix, colon and rectum, and acute myeloid leukemia are associated with tobacco smoking! New research even suggests that your gut health is not safe from the effects of smoking.
MICROBIOME: What it is and why it matters
The microbiome is made up of trillions of microorganisms that live inside our bodies. They consist of good bacteria, fungi, viruses, and more. They also help stimulate the immune system and play key roles in advancing the daily operations of each person’s body. Like the ants in a colony, they work together in digestion, absorbing nutrients, and maintaining the gut barrier that keeps out toxins. Both probiotics and antibiotics, medicines you are likely to be familiar with, help regulate the microbiome. Probiotics add good bacteria back into the microbiome while antibiotics help fight bad bacteria. To say that the microbiome is important and complex doesn’t even paint the full picture.
GUT HEALTH & SMOKING:
Knowing 1) a healthy microbiome is a key to healthy living and 2) smoking affects so many areas of the body, researchers knew studying the effects of smoking on the microbiome would be important. Prior research also suggested that the biome of the lungs was heavily affected by smoking, leading investigators to suspect the same thing of gut health.
The study consists of participants ages 18–85 years old, and they were broken up into the three groups: Never-smokers (NS), Ex-smokers (XS), and Current smokers (CS). After studying their microbiome, there was clear evidence that current smokers had significantly different gut health than never-smokers. And for ex-smokers, after 10 years their microbiome looked closer to that of a never-smoker. This change indicates that if someone stops smoking, his or her gut health can likely recover.
Even more important, however, is the new understanding that smoking may have more serious negative associations with poor metabolic and gastrointestinal health beyond what medicine now recognizes.
Maybe you’re reading this and you wish you could stop smoking, but you’re not even sure why you smoke. Having a clear understanding of what makes you pick up a cigarette can help you quit. Smoking.gov has a quiz you can take to help you identify your reasons. Also, having clear goals for why you want to quit can change your daily routine too. Make a note of reasons you want to be healthier and stick them on your fridge or your bathroom mirror. Quitting is never easy, but there’s so much hope for ex-smokers and their health. Take back your health and your life today!