Does smoking have an effect on Crohn's disease? My father has Crohn's disease and smokes cigarettes. He says smoking makes him feel better by lowering his stress. Is this possible?

Answers from Michael F. Picco, M.D.

Smoking is a risk factor for Crohn's disease. It can also lead to additional health concerns. The long-term health problems caused by smoking cigarettes far outweigh the temporary stress relief tobacco might provide. Even smoking just a few cigarettes a day or smoking only occasionally can cause problems.

People with Crohn's disease have higher rates of tobacco use than the general population. Smokers with Crohn's disease are also more likely to be hospitalized and experience more flare-ups, relapses and complications than do non-smokers who have the condition. For some reason, women with Crohn's disease are more vulnerable to the negative effects of smoking.

Urge your father to quit smoking. Suggest that he speak with his doctor about programs that can help. Also, encourage him to try stress-relieving techniques that don't pose a health risk, including relaxation and breathing exercises such as meditation, yoga and tai chi, resistance training, or low-intensity aerobic exercises such as walking and swimming.

Aug. 13, 2014 See more Expert Answers