Does anyone have a theory as to why smoking cessation often precedes a flare-up of autoimmune conditions?
After I quit smoking last year and went 100% paleo, I started having more health problems and was eventually diagnosed with gluten intolerance and then later rosacea. Doing a little research, I found it is very common for conditions like rosacea, celiac, acne, digestive issues, etc. to flare up after someone quits smoking. Was smoking MASKING the underlying condition or was it the stress of quitting that caused the presentation of the condition?
asked byViolet9 (2063)
Get FREE instant access to our Paleo For Beginners Guide & 15 FREE Recipes!
on June 04, 2012
at 11:18 PM
Tobacco suppresses the immune system - http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12033743
Probably not the best idea to take up smoking again though.
on September 09, 2015
at 07:08 PM
People make me absolutely insane. Every time someone points out that they developed (or experienced initial onset of) an autoimmune disease shortly after smoking cessation, a hundred people say either:
1. Smoking is bad. Mmmkaay...
2. Perhaps smoking was masking they symptoms, but you should stay quit.
The level of brainwashyness here is nuts. Tens of thousands of people are diagnosed with autoimmune diseases within' 2 weeks to 6 months after smoking cessation. The odds of this being coincidence (having nothing to do with smoking) are ridiculously low. Suggesting that smoking masked the disease/progression but that continuing to stay off tobacco, despite half a sentance earlier acknowledging that it was probably keeping you alive, just astounds me.
I'll add my story here just for the sake of data.
I had fairly severe asthma and allergies when I was very young. I started smoking when I was around 13, but at the time I did not realize that the day I started smoking, was the first day of my life that I hadn't needed a bronchiodialator. I only realised this nearly 20 years later. I smoked roughly 1pack/day until I was 24 or 25. At that point, I was 195lbs, weight training, running, biking, climbing, doing yoga, etc... for a minimum of 5-6h/day. I was in peak physical condition (despite smoking 1pack/day) and could run a marathon (40km) without breathing hard. I was eating between 5000 and 8500 calories/day, and burning almost exactly that.
Met a girl and quit smoking for her. Two weeks later I woke up with bloodshot, itchy eyess. Doctor said it was not bacterial nor viral but gave me topical ABX anyway, which had no affect. This continued for about a week before my gut distended (overnight) by about 10 inches. I was on vacation at the time. During the drive home (16 hours), I felt a pop in my abdomen and nearly passed out at the wheel. ER said nothing wrong. Family doc said to eat healthier and get more exercise (despite my insistance that I was burning 5000-8500 calories per day... *sigh*).
From here, the disease progressed very quickly. Within' 2-3 days I had no energy. I could no longer walk to work, and I could barely climb a half flight of steps to my office. I never recovered. That was 7 or 8 years ago. At the time, I chalked it up to severe nicotine withdrawl and decided to ride it out for a few months, but after a year I was still getting worse and none of my doctors could figure out why (though most insisted nothing was wrong, despite the fact that I was now bleeding out of my eyes on occassion, had lost most of my spatial awareness and could barely stand up most days, and didn't have the energy to walk to my truck to drive to work. It took me 2 years before I caved in and started smoking again as a test. Had a few smokes one evening, woke up the next morning and felt better than I had in 2 years. I continued smoking for about a year and continued to improve. I never got back to better than 20 or 30% my previous function, but it was a big step up from roughly 5% on a good day. I could now walk to work, jog occassionally (once a week or so), and lift weights every two weeks.
Then I second guessed myself due to all the BS surrounding smoking and decided I was fooling myself, so I quit again. This time it hit me neurologically much harder and it took me several years before I had the intelligence to realize how far my health had declined. Two years ago I was back to being unable to get around the house. I work from home, but I could not sit at my desk for more than 15 minutes at a time due to not having the muscular endurance. I had to nap 2-3x per day and could only stay awake for around 5 or 6h/day. I suffered severe anxiety, asthma (20 puffs of salbutamol/day was insufficient and ended up on corticosteroids, which also did not help), excruciating gastrointestinal issues, extreme fatigue, and started developing vasculitus in my legs.
6 months ago, I started smoking again, and as always, health massively improved. The first day smoking, the anxiety disappeared almost entirely (for the first time in a year). The second day, I no longer required a bronchodialator (and I've only needed maybe 3-4 puffs in 6 months). Within' a week, I was able to go for a walk again, and do basic yard work. Currently, I'm back to smoking a pack a day. My lungs aren't happy about it, but it beats life threatening asthma that was previously so severe that fast acting bronchiodialators no longer worked.
People who see this story and say "sure, but smoking has to be worse for you" are fucking idiotic. When myself, and many others do not smoke, we teeter on the verge of death. When we smoke, we recover dramatically (though never fully). Which is worse to you? An increased lifetime risk of lung cancer when you're 60, or being unable to live from today until you probably die from heart failure when you're 35?
Also, it's probably NOT about nicotine. The issue is almost certainly to do with another alkaloid foud in tobacco, which acts as a potent Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitor (MAOI), which decreases the rate at which Monoamines (Serotonine, dopamine, etc) are degraded and cleared. Low levels of MAO's could very easily account for the wide range of long term, chronic symptoms experienced by many ex-smokers who've developed autoimmune diseases, post-smoking-cessation. Sure, I'd love to get ahold of some MAOI's from a cleaner source than tobacco, but unfortunately no doctor will prescribe them because as soon as you tell them you started smoking again and feel BETTER, they automatically assume you are batshit insane, despite numerous studies to the same affect.
Did smoking increase my pre-disposition to the development of autoimmune disease? Perhaps, but it's worth noting that myself (and many others) clearly had autoimmune issues (ie: asthma, allergies) prior to smoking and they were resolved after we began smoking. There is a tonne of research on this and there is some very good science explaining the physiological and bio-chemical mechanisms to explain what's going on.
I also want to point out that nearly everyone in my paternal family has the same disease, with the exception of those who never quit smoking. I don't mean that "many" of my paternal family suffer the same symptoms. I mean "ALL". The only exception being those who started smoking at an early age and never quit. 100% of my family who did not start smoking, or those who quit smoking, developed the disease either by age 15, or within' weeks of smoking cessation.
There's something to this.
on May 01, 2014
at 06:23 PM
I gave up smoking and less than 12 months developed rheumatoid arthritis. Up until then I still played veteran cricket and football matched. I am convinced that quitting smoking triggered this disease. To me it now makes perfect sense, all the years you smoke you immune system is combatting all the c!!p that it causes. When you stop the immune system has nothing to combat so it decides to attack you body. I am now 61 and have had RA for 5 years now. I would be very interested in other peoples view. My wife's father developed motonuerone disease at 70 after quitting a life long habit.
on May 02, 2014
at 02:11 AM
As mentioned in the abstract that Karen linked to, nicotine has therapeutic medical uses. I have been known to carry nicotine gum when travelling because I have celiac disease and if I get glutened somehow but I still need to function, it's either that or steroids. more good paleohacks stuff here:
on June 04, 2012
at 06:18 PM
I'm not positive on this but smoking can induce the cytochrome p450 system. Cytochromes have a role in steroid synthesis. For instance, smokers who take theophylline for COPD often have to take higher doses than non-smokers because smoking increases the clearance of theophylline from the system. Quitting might down regulate the cytochromes that were helping keep the autoimmune condition in check. Like I said, not exactly positive on this.
on June 04, 2012
at 06:10 PM
I think it might have something to do with the thyroid, since low thyroid function goes hand in hand with autoimmune problems, and stopping smoking slows down the thyroid.
Or it could have something to do with the hormesis effect smoking has on the body.
Just guessing though, also, I don't really think that smoking is as harmful as we are led to believe per se, but it seems to be harmful in conjunction with other western lifestyle habits. It might have some benefits to it too, like the immunosupressive quality it seems to have for example.
on February 21, 2018
at 12:14 AM
I abruptly quit smoking 7 years ago after a dear friend of mine -a smoker- died of lung cancer. Within six months I started to have episodes of diarrhoea, which soon became permanent. to cut a long story short, I had three consecutive 45-day episodes in a year and my condition had gone from bad to appalling.
I did some web search and suggested my doctor that it might be related to my quitting of smoking but he dismissed it with sarcasm. Diagnosed with ulcerative colitis (UC), I struggled for three years with the hideous symptoms including passing of blood, constant bowel inflamation, noise and disfunction, anaemia, constant stress caused by the simple act of eating and ever-present physical limitation. I was eating 3 or 4 kinds of food, my sex life was non-existent and I could hardly sleep for more than half an hour all at once. One night, I counted: I woke up 42 times just to sit on the toilet and nothing... it was a daily torture of night pain, noise, gas, blood and despair.
Three years into it and being 1.79 m tall (5'11''), I was weighing 54 kg (roughly 120 lbs) and I just wanted to die. One of my friends who's into shamanism, a sort of flower child, advised me to approach my situation from a different angle and try ayahuasca, a strong psychedelic brew. I did.
The initial ceremony included a tobacco prayer which included puffing at a raw tobacco rollie while the shaman explained that we can find power plants in nature, such as tobacco, brugmansia, mushrooms and the like, from which we can get insight and power. I'm not really sure what happened that evening belongs in this forum, but that changed my mind about tobacco and I started to smoke it again.
Within a month, I was back to normal. No pain, no blood, no swelling, no noise no hell!
on May 30, 2017
at 01:20 AM
Reassuring to see so many with same experience. I quit and held off for 2 years. My bloodwork was out of whack, I felt horrible. Started back and although not back to previous healthy state, feel much better than before. People think I am crazy. So many feel so much better when they quit. Exercise routine more energized, cognitive ability and mood improved, wellness bloodwork back in line. I may die of lung cancer, although my exercise and eating habits geared towards fighting that as well, but after so many years f smoking that's already a risk. I just know what works for e and my body. Get tired of overweight sedentary big Mac eaters telling me I should quit again :-/. You do your thing I'll do mine right? Haha
on June 20, 2016
at 10:13 AM
Really interesting, I quit smoking late 2014, 6 weeks later had damb near akathisia, tremors, poor balance, cold extremities, hot face, anxiety, jerks, brain fog, twitches , restless legs,headaches, fatigue. I went searching for answers down the dopamine/serotonin line, supplemented with tyrosine, small improvement.
12 weeks later waking up with dry eyes, dry nose, joint pain and muscle cramps, bed ridden with massive fatigue .
Sjogrens seems most likely diagnosis but blood work shows nothing to date.
I had dental work done in those 6 weeks too, people have suggested mercury poisoning from the fillings being drilled out.
Will be watching this with interest
on April 02, 2016
at 05:23 PM
It is very similar here. However, there are also studies that apparently show that smoking, maybe via the nutrient depletion route, triggers autoimmune diseases. I am struggling for years now and I really would like to quit. I actually hate every cigarette, however, if I quit the not smoking part is easy, while my "physical" condition becomes worse every day. I also noticed that each time after quitting smoking something seems to remain. In my case - I take Levothyroxine because of hypothyroidism - I already know that smoking influences the hormonal status in the body. While in healthy people the thyroid takes something like 6 weeks to 3 months to recover and fully do its job, people who are treated for hypothyroidism most likely have to increase their dose. I had to remain on that higher dose. I couldn't go back to the lower dose I had before smoking cessation even after I started smoking again, that is one point where I feel that I know for sure that something changed in a way which seems irreversible.
My antibodies against the thyroid are very low, below the threshold of being diagnosed as relevant. There are however articles that show that "Subsequent studies indeed demonstrated clearly that smoking protects against autoimmune hypothyroidism" in "Smoking and thyroid" by Wilmar M. Wiersinga. Since I don't have the needed number of reputation points, I cannot include links. But a google search should bring you to the article as well.
However the same article also references studis that show that for autoimmune hyperthyroidism an inverse relation between smoking and the onset of Graves disease exists.
I want to quit again. But next time it has to be the last time. I try to prepare myself and maybe there is some way to find out in what way smoking relieves symptoms of autoimmune disease or how smoking cessation triggers worsening of symptoms. I am sure that there is a biochemical mechanism that can be understood.
One problem seems to be the thyroid hormone smoking relation.
Another idea I had recently is the way by that smoking enhances Cortisol secretion at the adrenal glands. So maybe quitting at once sets up the body to a relative Cortisol deficiency which then might trigger symptoms of autoimmune diseases. So quitting smoking slowly might be the best advice. People who are because of an autoimmune disease on Cortisol have to decrease there dosis slowly over a longer period of time since when the quit immediately then it can trigger the onset of the disease again.
Google for smoking cessation and cortisol gives you some articles and then googling for Cortisol withdrawal will provide you with additional information. Maybe that is the link we are looking for.
Other mechanisms I found are Niacin (Nicotinic Acid, not the amide version) and magnesium. Magnesium deficiency triggers inflammatory responses, as well as additional magnesium can suppress inflammatory processes. Nicotine is reduced to Niacin and Pyrrol when it burns (simple oxidation) and there are some people that think that the addictive part of Nicotine is actually related to an underlying Niacin deficiency.
I am putting this here for discussion. Maybe it is of help to someone maybe with joined forces we can find out more.
on April 07, 2013
at 01:18 AM
Hi, I may be way off the mark, but it might have something to do with the release of epinephrine. I read somewhere that the reason that smoking increases fat burning is due to release of epinephrine (adrenalin). It's the same stuff that is in the epi-pens for severe allergic reactions. Auto-immune conditions are to do with an immune system problem, as are allergies. (overactive i think.) So, I'd say underlying allergies/ auto-immune things were being masked by the smoking as you were thinking. You could get one of those IgG food allergy tests to find some odd thing you're allergic to as well as the gluten, and look at all the other auto-immune protocol advice. Not smoking reduces inflammation so that's a plus for your immune system. And unmasking problems means you can deal with them rather than continuing to stress your system. Yay.
on June 04, 2012
at 11:11 PM
I would to love to see more posts on this matter. This is interesting.
on May 02, 2014
at 11:50 AM
Cigarette smoke contains hundreds of potentially toxic components that contain carbon monoxide, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, tars, and nicotine among others. These toxins and free radicals can interact with DNA, which causes gene activation and genetic mutations, which contributes to the development of autoimmune disease. The pro-inflammatory effects of cigarette smoke have been well studied in relation to the risk of cardiovascular disease and emphysema.