crohn's and smoking

Smoking with Crohn’s disease – What are the risks and what can be done about it?

If you have Crohn’s disease and smoke, you are probably wondering if this could affect your disease. The relationship between smoking and intestinal inflammation is complex.

Many studies have shown that smokers are more likely to develop Crohn's disease and research suggests that smoking increases the severity of the disease.

It is important to remember that smoking carries many other health risks.

This article looks at the evidence for the different effects of tobacco smoking on Crohn’s disease and what it can mean for people with inflammatory bowel diseases. It also looks at ways in which you can stop smoking.

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How does smoking affect Crohn’s disease?

Smoking increases the risk of developing Crohn’s disease. Research also suggests that smoking can make Crohn’s disease worse. Smokers with the disease, in particular, may notice the following:

  • Dangerous constipations: Smoking can lead to constrictions in the digestive tract and thus have a strong effect on health.
  • Fistulae (tubular connections that often require surgery)
  • Smokers need more and above all stronger medicines so that the body can recover. Read more about this topic in the article Antibiotics and smoking
  • Smokers have to undergo surgeries more often
  • Smoking also leads to diseases such as osteoporosis (weak bones), arthritis, skin and eye diseases

Research suggests that women who smoke more often than men suffer from Crohn’s disease and need surgery.

How does smoking make you susceptible to chronic intestinal and stomach diseases?


In a nutshell: We don’t really know, although there are many theories. Tobacco smoke contains more than 1,000 chemicals, including nicotine, carbon monoxide and free radicals.

There is a number of ways these chemicals can affect the intestines. Smoking can change the bacteria living in the intestines, affect the function of a person’s genes and cause changes in the immune system – all of which can make a person more likely to develop Crohn’s disease.

Does passive smoking increase the risk of having problems with the intestines and stomach?

Studies on the effects of passive smoking on Crohn’s disease aren’t conclusive. Some studies suggest that babies and children exposed to cigarette smoke are more likely to develop Crohn’s disease. Another study suggests that adults with Crohn’s who are exposed to passive cigarette smoke may need more medication.

In fact, more research is needed in this area to determine if these relationships are connected.

The lack of scientific evidence between passive smoking and Crohn’s may be partly due to measurement difficulties. It is not easy to determine how much smoke a passive smoker is actually exposed to.

Smoking during pregnancy is not advisable for anyone with or without Crohn’s because of the risks to the unborn.

Will quitting smoking relieve my symptoms?

Researchers and physicians agree that smoking cessation is beneficial for people with Crohn’s disease.

European directives strongly recommend people with Crohn’s to stop smoking.

Non-smokers have significantly fewer problems. The symptoms are less severe.

When will the first results be seen?

After just one year without a cigarette, the likelihood of the disease flaring up can be as low as in a person who has never smoked.

It is worth it!

People who continue to smoke are more than twice as likely to experience a flare than people who have stopped smoking.

In addition, the probability that smokers will have to undergo surgery and that the disease will recur after the operation and a second operation will be necessary is more than twice as high. Smoking cessation can significantly reduce these risks.

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Does a reduction in cigarette consumption also help?

The answer is simple: YES!

Reducing smoking can also have a positive effect on your symptoms. Studies have shown that heavy smokers develop more difficulties in other parts of the body.

Also, parts of the intestine often have to be removed. This suggests that although stopping smoking completely has the best result, reducing the amount you smoke can also help.

It is also clear that occasional smokers with Crohn’s disease are on average more often ill, have a higher hospital stay rate and are more likely to have surgery.

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