We’ve all read the warnings on the packs. We’ve all seen the horror-movie public service ads. We’ve all heard it from doctors, family and friends:

Smoking is bad for your health.

And yet, millions of Australians still light up everyday.

If you’re one of those and you suffer from inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), this might be the best time to change your lifestyle for the better. This decision is one that can not only be good for your health overall, but also have a positive effect on your IBD.

This is not a case of wagging the finger or making you feel guilty. Your health is a serious matter and if you suffer from Crohn’s it’s important to understand how certain elements of your lifestyle can impact on your condition for better or worse.

Ultimately, everyone wants good quality of life and, for people living with Crohn’s disease, ditching the cigarettes can have a positive effect on the length and severity of symptom flares.

Smoking is bad for anyone’s health.

As sufferers of chronic health conditions are often aware, maintaining a good baseline of overall health is a crucial part of managing your illness. That healthy baseline means that when a flare up occurs you’ll be in the best shape to cope with it. A good healthy baseline may also help reduce the length and severity of symptom flares. The reality is that inhaling noxious fumes like the nicotine and tar found in cigarette smoke does not help anyone achieve a good baseline level of health. No matter how fit you are or how healthy your diet, ingesting poisons on a daily basis will take its toll on your health and wellbeing.

Smoking is bad news for health, period. It’s bad for your heart, your lungs, your throat, your tongue, your teeth, and your brain (it is an addiction, after all). Smokers have an increased risk of developing many health problems including cancer, heart disease, stroke and Crohn’s.

The link between smoking and Crohn’s

That’s right, smoking makes you more likely to develop Crohn’s in the first place. Not only that, it also speeds up the progression of Crohn’s disease. We’ve all heard that second hand smoke is bad for children – but did you know early exposure to cigarette smoke actually increases their risk of developing Crohn’s disease later in life?

Research shows that smokers with Crohn’s disease have an increased hospitalisation rate, present with more active and severe symptoms, are more likely to need surgery and have a poorer quality of life overall. Smoking can also reduce the effectiveness of certain medications that are used to treat Crohn’s disease.

Quitting for life

Quitting smoking is part of any healthy living strategy. Just as basic as maintaining a good diet and regular exercise regime, ditching bad health habits put you on a path to improved wellbeing. And if you do have a problem with smoking, this opportunity to improve your IBD and reduce your risk of surgery (not to mention a plethora of cancers) is a pretty convincing argument to kick the habit for good.

There’s help out there

Smoking can be a tough habit to quit, but you don’t have to go it alone. There are a range of good support options available to help you quit – from counselling and hypnosis, to laser therapy, nicotine patches and gum. It’s a matter of finding one that works for you, something you can stick with that will deliver results for your lifestyle.

Of course, before embarking on any major lifestyle change it’s important to consult with your doctor about how these will affect your IBD (especially if you’re considering anything like supplements or nicotine gums/patches). Your doctor may also be able to refer you to services or resources to help you quit and help you improve your chances of staying smoke-free for good.

The best news?

Once you’ve quit for a year, the risks posed to your IBD by smoking drop back to zero. It’ll be like it never happened. Starting today will make that day come sooner.

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