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January 18, 2022  
REFLUX1 FEATURE: Smoking and Reflux Disease

Quit Smoking to Reduce GERD Symptoms

Reflux, Quit SmokingThese days, most smokers know that one of the best things they could do to improve their overall health and avoid a range of illnesses from heart disease to cancer is quit smoking. But many do not know the damaging role smoking plays in GERD. For reflux sufferers, who frequently experience the backflow of stomach acid into the esophagus, smoking can seriously aggravate symptoms. This is because smoking reduces the amount of bicarbonate, a chemical that helps to neutralize stomach acid, naturally present in saliva. Some studies site the reduction in bicarbonate at up to fifty percent, enough to make a huge difference to someone whose throat and mouth are being flooded with potent stomach acid regularly. So remember, when it comes to smoking, �quitter� is a compliment, especially for reflux sufferers! Some basic tips for quitting smoking can help you get ready to kick the habit:

Plan for it.
If you are prepared for the day you stop smoking, chances are you�ll have an easier time abstaining from your frustrating addiction. You should get rid of all cigarettes and make your house a no smoking zone. Be clear with friends or family who may be used to lighting up in your house that it�s not allowed anymore. Some people find that cleaning rooms, clothes, and furniture items that smell like cigarettes can help reduce their thinking about smoking, and the same goes for any cigarette-related paraphernalia: ashtrays, lighters and matches should be out of sight � and hopefully out of mind. If you�ve tried to quit before and found yourself smoking again, you might want to review what you think you did well and what could have used some work the last time, and try to use what you learned then to help you now. Finally, make a list of your reasons for quitting. Use concrete, specific goals and rewards, things like: �So that I can play sports with my daughter,� �In order to live longer and have more time with the people I love,� �Because I will be able to have a healthy pregnancy,� �To protect my grandchildren from secondhand smoke illness� or even �Because I won�t smell like an ashtray anymore.� Anything that will make quitting worthwhile for you should go on the list. When you have a particularly hard day, you can consult this list and be reminded why you�re doing what you�re doing.

Make sure you have support from friends and family.
Tell the people close to you that you are quitting smoking, and would appreciate their support as you embark on this difficult mission. You may also want to specifically tell people who might offer you cigarettes when you are out to keep the temptation away from you, and warn them that you plan to avoid places where smoking is prevalent, at least at first. If anyone has a complaint about your new, non-smoking house, remember that adults are vulnerable to peer-pressure, just like children and teens, and hold your ground. Usually even the most persistent complainer will settle down if you are firm about your new rule. And, though support from friends and family is an invaluable resource, remember that some people benefit from a more organized, regularized source of support, such as a group of new non-smokers or substance therapy. If you�re busy and afraid to take time out of your schedule, remind yourself that good health is worth a time commitment, and look for telephone options � there are help lines for quitting, and some therapists offer telephone appointments for a reality check and some discipline-boosting reminders and tips. If you feel that therapy isn�t the way to go for you, even having a quitting buddy � a friend who is also trying to quit � to call when the going gets rough can do wonders to fight those sudden, intense cravings.

Replace �smoking behavior� with �non-smoking� behavior.
While one component of nicotine addiction is the physical addiction, there is an emotional component to smoking, too. Since smoking is often tied to other routines (having a morning cigarette break with a cup of coffee, smoking when you are at social gatherings, lighting up after a big meal, etc.), changing these routines can help break the association to cigarettes. Sometimes it may be as simple as eating in a different place or planning an activity other than smoking for your �smoke breaks.� But remember, quitting is hard work (otherwise everyone would succeed!), and it may be necessary to make bigger changes, such as not going to restaurants that allow smoking, or avoiding trigger situations, like parties, for example. After you�ve retrained yourself, you�ll still have to be careful in trigger situations, but lighting up won�t be second nature anymore. Also, finding ways of reducing stress that don�t involve smoking can be helpful in eliminating some cravings. Take a relaxing bath or treat yourself to a half-hour massage at lunchtime. If you�re a �fidgeter,� take up a hobby that will occupy your hands, such as knitting, so that you�re not tempted to reach for the cigarettes. Remember to avoid drinking, as this aggravates GERD and reduces your chances of success as a non-smoker. Training yourself to drink plenty of water and practice good nutrition can help you fight cravings, too, and is advisable for reflux sufferers anyway.

Don�t be afraid to use medication.
There are a number of medications or quitting aids available for new non-smokers. These include the patch, nicotine gum, the nicotine inhaler, nicotine nose spray, and a group of orally administered prescription medications that can help you manage the symptoms of smoking withdrawal. If used properly, they can do wonders to help you beat the addiction. Talk to your doctor about your habits, and work to decide on which option might be the best for you, then get it, make sure you understand how it�s used, and follow the instructions. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, most ex-smokers have almost twice the difficulty staying away from cigarettes without medication, so you will likely have a much smoother transition if you opt for one of the available options.

Remember that nobody�s perfect.
Quitting smoking is difficult enough without beating yourself up about less-than-perfect behavior. Remember that you may gain some weight or feel grumpy or depressed when you begin your efforts, and this is normal. Think of ways to fight secondary negative effects, like adding a little extra exercise to your routine to boost your mood and help you beat the extra calories. Some medications are also designed to combat depression and the urge to overeat. You should also be prepared for difficult situations, such as a party where the hosts let everyone smoke indoors. There may be a time when you break down and have a cigarette, but if you berate yourself and feel horrible about it for days, these feelings will only increase your likelihood of having another cigarette in the future. Instead, tell yourself it was a mistake, get rid of any smoking paraphernalia that exists from a �relapse,� and pat yourself on the back for doing as well as you are. If you feel you are struggling too much to make progress, or the amount of effort you have to devote to fighting cravings makes it too difficult to concentrate on day-to-day responsibilities, don�t give up. Instead, call a friend for support, and call your health care provider. It could be that your combination of behavior changes, medication, and coping skills isn�t exactly right for you, and with a few small changes you won�t have to fight as hard to succeed.

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