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Stopping Smoking With Ulcerative Colitis

RoadMonkey's husband was a lifelong smoker and tried many times over more than 40 years to stop smoking. This is his story, now updated.

Person smoking

Person smoking

Introduction And Summary

This hub covers the problems that smokers who suffer from ulcerative colitis experience when trying to stop smoking.

It provides:

  • 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:

  • heart,
  • lungs,
  • 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.

We all need fresh air to breathe and smokers often crave it but are trapped by their addiction to tobacco.

We all need fresh air to breathe and smokers often crave it but are trapped by their addiction to tobacco.

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, gas 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.

Large Intestine

The large intestine or colon runs UP the right hand side of the abdomen, across the abdomen just below the stomach and DOWN the left hand side of the abdomen, finishing in the anus (exit to the loo).

The large intestine or colon runs UP the right hand side of the abdomen, across the abdomen just below the stomach and DOWN the left hand side of the abdomen, finishing in the anus (exit to the loo).

Ulcers on the lining on the large intestine.

Ulcers on the lining on the large intestine.

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, 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.

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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.

At first, fruits need to be stewed and liquidized but he is looking forward to eating more fresh fruit.

At first, fruits need to be stewed and liquidized but he is looking forward to eating more fresh fruit.

Starting SCD

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.

Making Yogurt

The Luvele yogurt machine sits unobtrusively in the corner of my kitchen, working away silently. It beeps when the time is up, so I know to move the yogurt to the fridge. Don't be tempted to peek at the yogurt, it mustn't be disturbed until after it has sat in the fridge for 8 hours. So that's 24 hours to make the yogurt and another 8 hours in the fridge but this yogurt is well worth it.

The original machine I got had 4 jars, each holding 400 mls of milk that turns into yogurt. Eventually, I bought the 2 liter version of the Luvele yogurt maker because we were eating so much of it. I now make 2 liters of yogurt a couple of times a week and keep the jar in the fridge. My husband takes a bowl of this every night after dinner. I bought an extra set of 4 jars so that I could start off another batch of yogurt while the first batch was setting in the fridge. There are so many delicious recipes using this yogurt and I wanted to try a number of them, as well as have some to eat. Once I moved to the 2 liter version, I bought another 2 liter jar.

To make yogurt, you need a packet or two of starter culture. I use the Lactina yogurt starter culture. This needs 1 packet for each liter of milk. As I use 2 liters of milk, I use 2 packets. I heat the milk up to 85 degrees celsius in a saucepan on the stove top (I use a cooking thermometer), then cool it to below 40 degrees celsius by placing the saucepan in a bowl of cold water and waiting for it to cool.

Once the temperature of the milk is below 40 degrees celsius, I add 2 packets of starter culture, stir well and pour the mixture straight into the yogurt jar.

I then place the jar in the Luvele yogurt machine and set it going at 38 degrees celsius temperature for 24 hours. Once finished, the jar goes in the fridge for 8 hours. The yogurt is lovely and thick and can be eaten alone or with stewed fruit (no sugar. Use honey if it needs sweetened).

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.

Update June 2021

Update - June 2021.

My husband has now been off the pipe for nearly 2 years, with two short relapses early on, one for 3 days and one for only one day. In each case, going back on the pipe gave him very bad chest symptoms, he couldn't breathe and he made the decision to totally stay away from the pipe. A few weeks ago, he gave away his pipes that he had kept "just in case".

We were talking over this a couple of weeks ago. He is very glad he decided to give up smoking altogether and recited the benefits he said he had received. His breathing is much better, he can sleep well, the coldness in his legs went away completely. He has no bleeding, though occasionally he suffers from pain but this is temporary and usually related to stress.

We have found ways to reduce his stress and to remind him to relax when stress occurs.

We no longer follow the full SCD diet, though I have continued to make carrot soup and we have a bowl of that most days, plus I continue to make the yogurt. These two items really help with keeping his gut healthy, we believe and they are both tasty.

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.


RoadMonkey (author) on September 27, 2020:

Thank you for visiting and commenting MG Singh. I think most people who currently smoke wish that they had never started.

MG Singh emge from Singapore on September 27, 2020:

Nice article, I don't smoke but it was informative

RoadMonkey (author) on September 26, 2020:

I hope it gets treated ok. My son in law had the start of that but he followed a special diet and it removed all sign of it. His doctor recommended the diet but even he was astonished by how well it worked.

Denise McGill from Fresno CA on September 26, 2020:

He has prostate cancer so it isn't related to smoking (I think) and they are treating it okay for now. They aren't even trying to remove it, just regulate its growth. It seems to me they would be working on removing or killing it but not yet. Thanks for your good wishes.



RoadMonkey (author) on July 10, 2020:

Quitting smoking is good. It's never too late. I hope his cancer gets treated OK.

Denise McGill from Fresno CA on July 09, 2020:

My husband smoked for some 40 years. Now that he has cancer, I'm glad he quit about 5 years back. It would be hard to do now.



RoadMonkey (author) on May 23, 2020:

Yes Beth, he has stayed off tobacco, now it's the stress levels that need to be reduced. Tobacco helps people be less stressed, especially pipe smoking. He is finding ways to calm down without it. Thank you for visiting.

Beth Perry from Tennesee on May 23, 2020:

Your poor husband, so sorry he is going through so much with the ulcerative colitis! I have a suspicion that sometime down the road doctors will find a way to isolate and use the medical benefits from tobacco. My own doctor, who has never smoked, says there are studies that indicate tobacco and even nicotine have positive effects on fatigue and Alzheimer's. So hopefully the general prejudice against tobacco will give way to serious medical research. As the old saying goes, that which kills can heal.

RoadMonkey (author) on April 04, 2020:

Thank you very much Umesh Chandra Bhatt

Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on April 04, 2020:

Very informative and helpful article. You have presented it so nicely.

RoadMonkey (author) on February 19, 2020:

I am glad you husband has had no ill efects from stopping smoking. For most people, the greatest thing they can do to improve their health is to stop smoking.

Denise McGill from Fresno CA on February 17, 2020:

I've never heard of smoking alleviating any pain but stranger things have happened. Gratefully, my husband quit smoking for good last year after 45 years of smoking and has had no ill effects.



RoadMonkey (author) on January 17, 2020:

Hi Audrey, Thanks for visiting. Yes, he has wished for many years to stop smoking and now that he has managed it, he is finding many benefits, including that he no longer has a constant sore throat. Does your book also include the benefits of singing exercise to those who suffer from sleep apnea? I have heard that singing exercises can help people stop snoring!

Audrey Hunt from Pahrump NV on January 16, 2020:

Thanks for sharing your story and how sad it is that this addictive, life-threatening habit ever came to be in the first place. In my new book about singing (almost finished writing it), I devote an entire chapter on vocal health and the affects of smoking and vaping to the vocal cords.

RoadMonkey (author) on December 04, 2019:

Yes, it is very important not to smoke around children, especially. Second hand smoke is bad for anybody.

RoadMonkey (author) on December 03, 2019:

Hi Patricia, thank you for your comment. I am sorry to hear your niece has UC. Another contributor to UC is stress and for many people, giving up smoking is stressful. We are trying to cut down on stress but again, that is difficult for some people. I hope your niece's condition improves.

Luis G Asuncion from City of San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan, Philippines on December 02, 2019:

I am not against to those smokers because that is already your addiction. However, of you do smoke, please avoid, smoking with other people, specifically with those non-smokers. Second hand smoking is much dangerous.

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on December 02, 2019:

My niece has UC (severe) and she is a heavy smoker. She is one of the few members of our family who still smokes. She says the UC is exacerbated by her smoking but she has chosen not to quit I hope soon she will decide to give it up. thank you for sharing...Angels are headed your way this evening. ps

RoadMonkey (author) on November 28, 2019:

Smoking is very hard to give up, if you are used to it. The smell clings to your clothes. A former work colleague who had NEVER smoked shared an office with a smoker and his mother could smell the smoke on him when he came home from work each day.

Luis G Asuncion from City of San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan, Philippines on November 28, 2019:

Yes, I agree with you. Although, my wife always said, even if I am not smoking already, my smell is just like I am smoking still. However, I can assure to her, that I am not smoking anymore.

RoadMonkey (author) on November 28, 2019:

You are much better off not smoking, if possible. Smoking is very bad for the health.

Luis G Asuncion from City of San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan, Philippines on November 25, 2019:

I used to smoke before when I was mid-20s because my girlfriend looks her boyfriend more masculine, if they smoke. So, I decided to do cigarette. However, when we broke up, I quit smoking. My wife now is not fun of cigarette smoking.

RoadMonkey (author) on May 04, 2019:

Thank you for visiting and commenting Pamela. Staying away from smoking is difficult.

RoadMonkey (author) on May 04, 2019:

Thank you for visiting and commenting Bill. It is very hard to overcome the addiction.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on May 04, 2019:

This is an excellent article about ulcerative colitis and the difficulties of stopping smoking. Fortunately, I never smoked and don't have this disease. I am glad your husband is doing better, and I hope he can stay away from the pipe.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on May 04, 2019:

Fascinating information, actually.....that smoking is tough stuff for sure. Growing up in the 50's and 60's, it was so restaurants, in all public places. It has been fascinating watching the movement to abolish smoking....and still so many people choose to do so. I wonder what that says about society, so eager to do something that harmful.

RoadMonkey (author) on March 12, 2019:

Thank you for visiting and commenting. He has been nearly 10 weeks off smoking now.

Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on March 11, 2019:

The relation between smoking and UC is really interesting. Also, the information about SCD diet is new to me. I am glad your husband found relief with this diet and hope he can remain off smoking as he desires to quit it.

RoadMonkey (author) on March 03, 2019:

It may be the effect of nicotine. Some people can use nicotine patches to alleviate the symptoms but the level of nicotine has to be quite high. He has now completed 8 weeks without smoking, a record and he is enjoying the diet. Not all his symptoms have gone and we expect it may take a year, possibly two for a full recovery, hopefully.

Mel Carriere from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on March 03, 2019:

Interesting. Are there any theories on why smoking alleviates the ulcer symptoms? Bless you for caring for your husband like this. Remarkable odyssey.

RoadMonkey (author) on January 20, 2019:

Thank you Flourish. He is still not smoking and is now enjoying the special diet, which is helping him.

FlourishAnyway from USA on January 20, 2019:

I hope your husband is able to continue on his diet and smoking cessation plan so that he can continue to do well. Although fairly radical it seems like a very productive approach for him.

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