Does Smoking Really Help Ulcerative Colitis?

OK, has been a while since I posted an update.

I have had a few bad weeks, especially since my current GI doctor prescribed Imuran. I started to have uncontrollable movements and felt like I am falling apart. I decided to stop the Imuran last weekend and felt an immediate improvement. Last Monday I went to see Dr. Hanauer at the University of Chicago. This guy is the bomb. Extremely positive and has experience that is out of the box. So, after reviewing my case, he flat told me to start smoking 3-5 cigarettes per day and I will be in remission faster than I have ever been. Yes, I am fully aware of all the side effects, but truth is, I started last Monday with 20-25 movements per day, and today I am down to 5!!!!! I am more willing to cut off a few years at the end if I have the quality of life until I get there. I also cut down on the Prednisone from 60mg/day to 30mg/day right now and can’t say I ever felt better in months.  I have my family back and my normal life, can go to work again and don’t have to be afraid to soil myself several times per day. I am discussing the use of Humira with him next week and sure hope to stop taking that as well, too. GO SMOKE!!!!

-UC Man

Dr. Hanauer’s doctor review

**Also, some recent research study on Smoking and IBD, titled:

Impact of Cigarette Smoking on the Gastrointestinal Tract Inflammation: Opposing Effects in Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis  (full study available here: )


538 thoughts on “Does Smoking Really Help Ulcerative Colitis?”

  1. It does suck. I HATE it. Thank you for talking to me. Even that helps me feel a little better. I’m gong to go on a fast for 3 days, and only drink water to see if that works. It used to work wonders for me. Thank you for the prayers. We all need them! I wish you well on your journey too.,

    1. I agree, that talking to someone who is going through the same thing is helpful, so thanks to you too. How do you find the three days of only water to get through?

  2. It is very difficult to fast– just horrible. You feel very bad because basically you are detoxing from everything all at once. Your body cleans out all the trash it’s been holding for so long. It’s hard, but it allows the colon a good rest. I have a friend who says the colon heals very fast with no food irritating it. (He’s researched this stuff a lot) I used to just fast periodically when I was younger, and I would completely heal, but now that I’m older, I guess it doesn’t work so well. I will try fasting and smoking at the same time to see if anything happens. I don’t have much of a choice at this point. :)

  3. True enough! I should give that a try….well i am currently on prednisone and have to take it with food but will remember it for the future if i flare again.

  4. Smoked for ~10 years, quit, was diagnosed with (severe) left-sided UC approx. 4 months later (was about 30 years old).

    Dealt with all the symptoms for ~3 years while on Mezavant and prednisone (only for relief of flare-ups).

    The pharma drugs didn’t work all that well since my UC was quite severe, and the next set of drugs they wanted me on were pretty brutal with a looooong list of potential (probable) side-effects. The first drug was Imuran. I read the side-effects (cancer to name one) and just knew there had to be another way.

    Enter the internets. Found some people on a message board (similar to this site) who had shared their stories regarding smoking and UC. Their stories were identical to mine. I started with the patch one day, and no word of a lie, within 15 minutes of applying the patch all my hunger came flying back. Colour in my face was restored. It was amazing to say the least. Kept on with the patch for approx. a month with about ~90% of my symptoms having been resolved. Was a very tough decision, but I bought myself a pack of cigs. Have been smoking 3-4 a day for ~3 years now and not a single symptom has reared its ugly head. Not once. Bowel movements are A-OK. Everything is good to go.

    Just thought I’d share my story. THe potential (probable) side-effects from the pharma drugs were too much for me. Studies have shown that smoking less than 5 cigs a day is negligible to your long-term health. So with that in hand, smoking 3-4 cigs vs taking a list of pharma’s was a no-brainer. Gives me my quality of life back without all the pharma drug side-effects. Just treat the smoking like a medication, and don’t let it get out of hand. I usually have a smoke at 9am, again at 3pm, and again at 9pm. Roughly every 6 hours during my day. This keeps me in check. Last thing you want is to become (possibly again) a pack-a-day smoker, ’cause that just opens up a whole new can of worms.

  5. Hi everyone. Does anybody here know of a possibility for getting CO (carbonmonoxide) without smoking? Either as a medication or another way? I find that smoking 4-5 cigs a day combined with SCD diet totally keeps my colitis in remission, while nicotine patches, nictoine gum, vapor with nicotine and WTA (whole tobacco alkaloids) don’t make a difference. I don’t want to stick my head in the fire place :-), but I would love an alternative to smoking, maybe some kind of an inhaler. Thanks a lot and have a wonderful, fart free, one solid poop day everone

    1. Thanks Graham. Being on the SCD diet, adding a starch might not be what I want, but I’ll look into it. Maybe there are other foods which do the same thing

  6. Tried the smoking for a couple of months, close to half a pack a day. Got my colon removed because it didnt help me. Feel amazing now.

  7. This may or may not be the smoking gun for colitis and tobacco but I have no doubt it will be the reason for some of you.

    For 17 years I’ve been through this stopping then having to start again. Well they just found a heavy parasite infestation. When you search this subject you quickly realise tobacco effectively controls many parasites. It does not kill them off entirely but they will die off considerably.

    Interestingly, parasites love sugar which is also a bit of a no no for us. So if sugar increases your symptoms and smoking reduces them maybe you could try a parasite cleanse? EVOO is also in the charts for dealing with these so it may also explain some of those benefits.

    Think you don’t have parasites? Most people do in fact. If you were in a 3rd world country they would suspect it but not in the clean industrial world. Parasites are rarely seen in the small intestine where they reside. Colonoscopy and endoscopy fails most times and even a specific stool test will be negative. I know its small intestine and we all have proctitis or inflammation in the sygmoid to begin with but trust me. It will affect distal areas

    I will post more information on this soon.

  8. Graham,

    Thanks for posting a lot.

    Doesn’t smoking increase the risk of Crohn’s?

    Also, for a person who was an occasional smoker (2-3 cigarettes) a week, how many would it take on a daily basis after their first flare to make it go away?

  9. Hi Sal,

    Recently I have found the statement “smoking makes Crohns worse” to be slightly arguable. The statistics don’t lie but that’s not the entire picture in my opinion. As I understand it UC is mainly a TH2 immune response and Crohns TH1. Smoking reduces the TH2 response. I think it unlikely that you can switch easily from one to the other though some with UC do end up with Crohns. I have unknowingly had hookworm for years, these reside in the small intestine and damage it though also provide some anti inflammatory benefit there. Many parasites provoke a TH2 response and this is the bodies mechanism against them. So perhaps my UC was a TH2 response and caused by them, I wait to find out. When I took the drugs and they left (hopefully entirely) I bled heavy from the small intestine and it was smoking that actually stopped it. I was in fear that as my small intestine was involved in a Crohns kind of way that cigarettes wouldn’t work. Phew!

    5 cigarettes a day seems to be the magic number. You could likely heal quicker by smoking more but you then end up more addicted. It usually took me a couple of weeks to stop the bleeding but I rarely let a flare get out of hand.

    I smoked from 16 and then found out I had UC after quitting around 9 years later. I must have quit around 20 times now, hopefully one day for good.

  10. tobacco stopped being effective for me, help

    I’m a former smoker/snuff user with uc in the distal end of my colon x18 years, I flare every 3-4 years. My last flare I saw continuous symptoms for over a year, in between flares I have no symptoms and cease tobacco with no ill effects. I held out for along time during my last flare because quitting tobacco is so hard that I did not want to start again. I went on asacol, did the enemas as well, my doc kept prescribing prednisone even though it had no effect, I went in hospital for uc steroids (electively), and finally gave in and took 6mp, I eventually decided to go back to nicotine and ended my flare.
    I’ve been symptom free for 4 years and nicotine free for most of that time as well (though I enjoy an occasional cigar) I had decided that when my symptoms returned I would simply resume use of tobacco and end my flare….but this time it’s not working!!! I’ve been flaring for a month, I’ve been on nicotine (cigarettes and pouches) for 2.5 wks, but my symptoms persist…I’m also on asacol.

    Has anyone else experienced tobacco lose its healing effects? It’s like this disease figured out ways to outsmart you…I’m terrified of the pharmaceutical options, the risks are horrendous and who knows what the long term consequences are. I’m 37 I can’t imagine that spending the next 40 years on immunosuppressants could doanything remotely good for my body…I doubt I’d make it 40 years…also I’m a firefighter/emts so I kind of need my immune system.

    Any advice?

    1. Hi Chris,

      I seem to have experienced a similar issue with tobacco loosing its healing effect. I was diagnosed with left-sided colitis and cigarettes / nicotine have kept me in remission for 10 years. I stopped and started many times and always had the same result – 4 days after stopping I was in flare-up, 4 days of smoking 10 a day got me back into remission. I had a routine of smoking 10 + a day, then weaning down and replacing the cigarettes with an e-cig and snus. This would keep me in remission for a couple of months and once mild symptoms returned, I switched back to cigarettes for a while.

      5 months ago, while on the e-cig / snus cycle, I had to go on a course of strong antibiotics (Clindamycin) and went into a flare within 12 hours. I immediately resumed smoking cigarettes but I didn’t experience the 4 day turnaround. Symptoms got worse over the next few weeks and I ended up in hospital. I was re-diagnosed with pancolitis and told my colon was in such a bad state, they would have to consider removing it. Luckily I got into remission with pred + asacolon and have remained in 80% remission since(with a few blips here and there). I’m still smoking, on asacolon and using the GAPS diet, but can’t get the complete remission I used to have on tobacco alone. I’m not sure why, but my guess is that smoking used to “cure” me because only a small section of the intestine was affected, but it’s not enough now that it’s the entire colon. Or maybe I just need to smoke even more.

      How many a day are you smoking? In addition to your regime, maybe you could try throwing diet / probiotics / supplements into the mix. Whatever it takes.

      Wishing you well.

      1. Hi. I’m now flaring while smoking still. Did a round of prednisone and not getting remission. Refuse to go back on 6mp.

        Anyone try medical marijuana? In addition to cigarettes? I’m leaning to that to get back in remission. Hate the steroid grumpiness and don’t want to do another round.

        – KimC

        1. Hi Kim,

          I haven’t tried it but I’d be prepared to give it a shot. I’d be very interested to hear how it works for you or from anyone else who’s tried it. Btw, is medical marijuana any different to the regular stuff and where can you get it?

          Have you tried SCD/GAPs/Paleo diets. It might also be worth trying curcumin, l-glutamine, elderberry syrup, ginger etc. I’m throwing everything but the kitchen sink at it this time. They ain’t getting my colon!

          Hope you get some relief soon.
          Take care

  11. Hi-

    I was on 6mp for 17 years and smoked occasionally during that time. I quit smoking and two months later had a major flair. Nothing helped until I went back to smoking. So I decided to go off the 6mp and just try smoking regularly. I have been off 6mp for 8 months and have had one minor flair. I did a short round of prednisone and it cleared quickly. The benefits of going off the 6mp were incredible. Hair regrowth, brain fog gone, immune system increases, plantar warts disappeared. So much better.

    So, back to your question. Just do a ten day to two week round of steroids. 50mg -60mg slow taper. The other thing I do is Citrucel daily (6 pills) a night for the IBS symptoms. If you can keep the IBS down then the colon won’t flair into the IBD.

    Prednisone sucks but I had to do a round at least once a year even on 6mp. I keep on hand always and start when I can feel a flair coming on before it’s really bad and have to do 4 week taper.

    Good luck!! Feel better!

    1. My disease is totally refractory to prednisone…steroids seem to do nothing for me, even enemas had little to no effect… Mesalamine oral and enema seem to be helping some now…scope in 2wks to see what’s going on…I just really thought that the nicotine would induce remission right away again…maybe soon

  12. Hi. That’s sucks on the steroids not working. And my remission with smoking was within 24 hours and 48 hours was complete remission after starting nicotine. So unfortunately yours might need something stronger to kick it. My brother does round of Flagyl which works for him but not for me. Everybody is different. Check out low FODMAP diet also.
    – Kim

  13. The FDA moved it off the market. Google this The Urban Domestic Diva: The Anatabloc Logs to see just how effective it was

    So when people go to ecigs which only has nicotine they get little benefit.

    99% of people believe it is nicotine.

    when someone says I am going for a smoke to calm down they are talking about anatabine in tobacco

  14. I’ve had UC since 1996 (20 years) and was never a smoker. After doing some extensive research I decided in 2007 to try smoking to see if it would help my symptoms. At that time I was having about 6-8 movements per day (with blood), cramps etc. I smoked 1 cigarette and probably an hour later I had another movement…..NO BLOOD! Also, cramps subsided. I was sold and have been smoking no more that about 8 cigarettes per day since. I do know the negative sides of smoking but for me IT’S WORTH IT. As of 2012 I’ve been in remission!

  15. Well done UCnomore, it’s good to hear someone shout about this in my opinion. It could be a death sentence but it’s also a life saver. Drugs can kill us too so congratulations on getting your life back!

  16. Thanks Graham Lee. Agreed, I was never a smoker and always stayed physically active but when the cigs helped I had to just go with it. Years of prednisone and other drugs caused so many sides. I still take 1 script Apriso but all is good.

  17. I smoked for 2-5 cigarettes for a couple of weeks and didn’t notice an improvement in my symptoms while taking 60mgs of prednisone and the max dose of oral and rectal mesalamine.

    Still having bloody movements 3-4 times daily with little form, cramps and urgency.

    Think I should give smoking another, longer try?

    Thanks all.

  18. If you want to try this route the general opinion is 4-5 a day to maintain remission but 5-10 to reduce symptoms or stop the flare. I’ve done this myself many many times.

  19. Thanks Graham. Maybe I will try for 10 or so a day for a few weeks.

    Probably a safer route than my doctor’s recommendation of azathioprine and/or biologics.

    I’ll report back in a few weeks to let the forum know how it goes.

    I’m a refractory case, so we’ll see!

  20. Hi,

    I believe I got UC in the first place when I stopped smoking. I was diagnosed in 2011 and had smoked for at least 7 years before that. I took up smoking again to help with my symptoms and it definitely seemed to help me. Last year I saw a naturopath who recommended me to take Niacin (not niacinimide, they are different) and that mimics the same effects as smoking. I stopped taking the tablets in December last year and in February this year I relapsed very badly, coincidence? My mum bought me an e cigarette today and within about 20 minutes of puffing away the need to go to the toilet stopped. The diareahh is less and tonight there was no blood so I do believe it does help!

  21. I have recently privately funded a full GI panel test, mainly to rule out parasites. Happily none were found this time but there were other fungi and bacterial agents well above normal range. After reading the article below these may explain why some of us find smoking helps our UC. The study found that nicotine inhibited the growth of a number of these agents. These were my bad guys and the relative scores.

    They were scored 0-4 with 0 being normal.
    Candida 1 dividing
    Common yeasr 2 dividing
    Enterobacter sp 2
    Escherichia coli 3
    Klebsiella sp 3

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