Stopping Smoking With Ulcerative Colitis
Introduction And Summary
This hub covers the problems that smokers who suffer from ulcerative colitis experience when trying to stop smoking.
- a brief resume of the health risks caused by smoking,
- explains what ulcerative colitis (UC) is,
- the effect of smoking on UC,
- why it is harder for UC sufferers to stop smoking,
- covers one possible means of helping UC sufferers to quit smoking without worsening their UC, and
- provides some information on SCD - the specific carbohydrate diet - which helps sufferers from various inflammatory bowel diseases.
Why Stop Smoking
There is a great deal of pressure on smokers these days to stop, because it has negative effects on the:
- blood pressure,
- circulation, etc., and
it poses a cancer risk, for lung cancer, mouth cancer and throat cancer.
The risks of smoking have been well documented elsewhere, so I do not intend to cover any more on this here.
What is Ulcerative Colitis?
Ulcerative Colitis is one of the inflammatory bowel diseases, characterised by pain, gas, inflammation and bleeding from the rectum. If you have any of these symptoms, you should consult your medical adviser immediately. This article does NOT provide medical advice.
Ulcerative Colitis is an inflammatory disease of the large intestine or colon. As the name suggests, ulcers or sores develop on the gut lining. This can cause pain (sometimes a LOT of pain) or discomfort, diarrhoea and blood in the stools. There are many possible causes suggested but no one actually knows for SURE why some people get this.
Some of the symptoms of ulcerative colitis include diarrhoea, often with blood, pain in the abdomen or the rectum (end of the large intestine), urgency in needing to go to the toilet, and there may also be weight loss and fatigue.
Effect of Smoking On Ulcerative Colitis
It has been known for many years that smokers are less likely to suffer from ulcerative colitis than non smokers and that where they do suffer from it, it is less severe. Ex smokers are less likely to suffer UC as early in life as the general population and if they do get it, it is likely to be a milder form.
If you would like to read an academic medical article on this you can find one at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1496690/pdf/bmjcred00596-0030.pdf, the citing reference is Br Med J (Clin Res Ed). 1982 Mar 6; 284(6317): 706. One quote from this article is that, "cigarette smoking was uncommon in patients with ulcerative colitis..." That is - smokers are less likely to suffer from ulcerative colitis.
One Man's Battle To Stop Smoking
My husband started smoking at the age of 8 years. Now, he probably was not a regular smoker at that age, most likely he filched an odd cigarette from his father's pack of cigarettes but by the age of 12 years, he says he smoked regularly. That's about 60 years of tobacco and tar through his system.
He has always been a very fit man in the past, strong, healthy, used to working outdoors and happy to walk reasonable distances each day, between 3 and 12 miles, say, with no problem.
Over the last 40 years, he has tried stopping smoking, realising that it is an unhealthy habit and also expensive. He managed to stop smoking several times, once for 3 months before succumbing to the lure once again. He switched from cigarettes to the pipe, hoping that would be less unhealthy - this was in the days when pipe smoking was thought for a while to be the equivalent of not smoking! But pipe smokers who switch from cigarettes are more likely to inhale the smoke than those who start out as pipe smokers. At first, he suffered no other problems when quitting smoking, other than the usual problems of quitting a highly addictive drug - cravings, jumpiness, crotchety, etc.
About 30 years ago, he underwent a very stressful time, away from home for a week, on a residential course in a university setting. The food was completely different and he came home with a digestive upset and a dislike of salad, which he had previously enjoyed.
After this, when he tried quitting smoking, he suffered abdominal pain and bleeding; and was eventually admitted to hospital and diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, following a photographic scan of his large intestine and colon. He was released with heavy duty medication and warned he might have to undergo surgery for removal of his bowel. He went back on to smoking and within 3 weeks, his symptoms had disappeared. Our local GP dismissed the smoking factor and said he "must never have had ulcerative colitis because it didn't go away like that". This was before the protective effect of smoking on ulcerative colitis was widely known.
Although he tried several times after this to quit smoking, the ulcerative colitis symptoms always returned and as they got worse, he would then return to smoking and the symptoms would disappear.
More recently, the abdominal pain has returned at intervals, even when he has been smoking but at times of particular stress. When the stress has eased, so have the symptoms.
Stopping Smoking With Ulcerative Colitis
Over the years, I have looked out for ways of curing or alleviating ulcerative colitis without medication or surgery and in the past year, heard about the specific carbohydrate diet (SCD) which is aimed at all inflammatory bowel diseases, including Crohn's disease and IBD, as well as ulcerative colitis. He wasn't willing to look at the information and it's not the sort of diet that you can just put under someone's nose as a "new recipe for tea", so I saved the information on my computer and forgot about it.
Over Autumn and Christmas, we had quite a stressful time looking after a terminally ill friend, who died on Boxing Day. My husband then caught a bad cough from the grandchildren and found he could not breathe lying down. He sat up dozing in a chair for 3 nights in a row, and his breathing and cough were very bad - so bad he could not even look at the pipe and tobacco and he decided to give up smoking - again! It took several days for the cough to clear, so he could breathe easily.
He suffered so much from the cough and catarrh during those days, that he swore he would rather suffer the gastric problems than ever return to smoking. Of course, once the cough and other breathing problems subsided, the abdominal pain returned and the craving started again. The abdominal pain became very bad and stretched right across his abdomen, not just on the left side, where the pain normally resided.
Again, if you are suffering abdominal pain, see your doctor. My husband has made his own choice, the information in this Hub is NOT advice.
At this point, he did not want to return to smoking and was willing to consider going onto the specific carbohydrate diet (SCD) to see whether it would help, though he didn't have much faith in it.
The Specific Carbohydrate Diet
SCD is a dietary approach to managing inflammatory bowel diseases. It removes certain carbohydrates from the diet and permits others. The permitted carbohydrates are mainly non-starchy fruits and vegetables. All starchy food, like potatoes, rice and flour are cut out. No grains or grain products are allowed.
The diet was originally developed by Dr Sidney Haas, based on earlier work by other doctors looking after patients with coeliac (celiac) disease. His work was carried on by Elaine Gottschall, whose young daughter had been diagnosed with incurable ulcerative colitis and who was successfully treated by Dr Haas.
Elaine wrote a book "Breaking The Vicious Cycle", explaining SCD and why it works.
I had originally found a PDF on the Internet, called "SCD lifestyle, surviving to thriving" about the SCD diet. This was the one I had downloaded and saved some time before. With the UC symptoms returning, with bleeding, pain and gas, he was willing to try anything that held out hope of not having to return to smoking.
The booklet gave the personal stories of the two authors who both suffered severe inflammatory bowel disorders and who were both helped by the SCD diet. It also gave a process for starting the diet with a very basic soup made with chicken and carrots that would help alleviate symptoms. The soup was made in the slow cooker (or it can be in a saucepan on the stove top), where chicken legs and thighs were slow cooked along with carrots and green vegetables, like parsley and celery. The difference from other soups was that the green veg were removed from the soup after imparting flavour. The carrots, along with more boiled carrots, were then liquidized and made into a soup. The chicken meat was also kept. My husband ate this soup for a couple of days, along with more carrot soup made with carrots and turkey broth I had frozen after Christmas.
There was an IMMEDIATE improvement in his health. The booklet "SCD lifestyle, surviving to thriving" also mentioned 24 hour yogurt that generally had to be made at home so I bought the Luvele yogurt maker and set about making 24 hour probiotic yogurt.
The Luvele yogurt maker keeps the culture at a steady temperature for the whole 24 hours, which is important for making a good set. It includes 4 ceramic pots, each holding 400 ml. I started into making the yogurt straight away and made a lovely batch first time, just following the instructions that came with the yogurt maker.
This also needed a yogurt starter culture to create the yogurt from the milk. The culture must include only Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus, there must not be any Bifidum bacteria for the SCD diet yogurt. I purchased a freeze dried pack of starter culture but you can also get yogurt starter cultures that are like yogurt themselves. The 24 hour yogurt removes ALL lactose from milk and provides a very rich bacterial preparation to repopulate the gut with beneficial bacteria. My husband had never been a yogurt eater but he started into it and is now enjoying it. It actually takes 32 hours to make the yogurt before you can eat it because after the 24 hour period is up, the pots have to go straight into the fridge and remain unmoved for a further 8 hours. That meant I could not start another batch of yogurt until 32 hours after the first batch was started, so I bought a set of 4 of the ceramic pots for the Luvele 24 hour yogurt maker, so that I could get another batch started more quickly. I currently have one pot of yogurt left in the fridge, a batch in the yogurt maker that will be finished tonight and that will then be in the fridge overnight and I can get another batch started tonight.
At this point, he was beginning to get sick of chicken and carrot soup and the next allowed items in the process were not vegetables he had ever liked or was willing to eat. He had not read the full booklet because it was written in a style he does not enjoy. The call of tobacco was also getting very strong as the memory of his breathing problems receded. The booklet recommended getting Elaine Gottschall's book "Breaking The Vicious Cycle" but I had hesitated because it was expensive but decided to go for it.
I am so glad I did. "Breaking The Vicious Cycle" is written in a style he found more acceptable to read. It included research and medical experience that he finds easier to accept than personal testimonials and it included the scientific explanations for why the SCD diet worked. In addition, it gave more examples of food he could eat and this was a great help, as I had the ingredients in the house anyway and was able to make him some almond buns to tickle his sweet tooth! (NOTE: these are made with honey, as sugar is not allowed at all on the SCD.)
We are now going through Elaine Gottschall's book in detail to develop a diet that suits us and helps keep his UC in check.
Luvele 24 Hour Yogurt Maker
Yogurt Starter Culture
Luvele Yogurt Maker Extra Jars
Book: Breaking The Vicious Cycle
My husband has now completed 2 weeks off the pipe, the longest he has ever been able to stay off it in the last 30 years. His UC symptoms are clearing and he is enjoying the 24 hour yogurt, stewed pears and looking forward to being able to eat more fruits and more treats from the book "Breaking The Vicious Cycle". I have to go and make some more muffins for him!
Update Nearly 6 weeks
He has now been off the pipe for nearly 6 weeks and enjoying many benefits, such as improved circulation, no longer cold feet, legs and knees and more energy. Occasionally the desire to smoke still arises and it's a battle to overcome it but he has managed well so far. We are still on the SCD diet and he believes that this is the best form of eating he has ever experienced. The diet is fresh and natural. His ulcerative colitis symptoms have not all gone but they have greatly reduced and are bearable. They reappear if he tries to overdo things physically (like carrying heavy boxes!) or if he gets stressed. He is trying to rest more and not to stress out over things that do not matter and gradually, he is improving.
Update - Nearly 4 Months
Well, we had a bad time just after he completed 11 weeks of stopping smoking. The nicotine addiction got to him and he started smoking again. However, within a couple of days, the coughing and catarrh came back. He stopped smoking for a day and then started again. The coughing and catarrh symptoms became so bad, he then had me hide the pipe away again. He has since said that it can be thrown out as he now realizes that he can never go back to smoking again, as the effects are dreadful for him. His UC symptoms are not completely gone, however, the pain has mostly gone, unless he gets stressed or lifts heavy weights and he is improving. We still both find this way of eating very pleasant, easy to digest, flavorful and healthy.
Update September 2020
My husband last smoked in November 2019 and the consequence for his lungs (in terms of coughing and unable to breathe) was so severe that he swore he would never smoke again, no matter how bad his ulcerative colitis got! Ten months later, with careful attention to diet, he is no longer a smoker and he has no ulcerative colitis symptoms - no gas, no bloating, no bleeding, no pain!
We eat the 24 hour yogurt every day, as a dessert after our evening meal. It's no hardship, it's lovely stuff. We usually eat this plain but at the moment, we are eating stewed fruit alongside it, using the apples and pears from the harvest in our garden. I also make carrot soup, using chicken stock from chicken carcasses cooked in the slow cooker for 36 hours, which is very tasty and he eats that occasionally (I eat a lot of it). Apart from that, he eats a "normal" diet of plain cooking. His sister visits us twice a week and enjoys the yogurt too.
While smokers are less likely to suffer from ulcerative colitis than the general public, it is possible to stop smoking and to alleviate the UC symptoms by working on reducing stress and improving your diet.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.