I Quit Smoking / IBS

Update 2011: Please read the comments below — they are more informative & helpful than this original post I wrote over 6 years ago.


I quit smoking a few weeks ago.

I bought a pack of nicotine gum, which doesn’t taste like butt anymore… as I recall it did years ago. The gum did help the cravings.

I think the reason I was able to quit for real this time while failing at the 5 or so times in the past, was that this is the first time in my life that I don’t live with a smoker. I remember taking vacation a few years and never really craving a cigarette too badly, but as soon as I got home to my yellow nicotine coated walls… I needed a nic-fix.

Quitting was the easy part. Nic-fits and psychological cravings ceased to be powerful within just a couple days. A few days after my last peice of nicotine gum I started having severe hunger pains.

Online research told me that nicotine actually supplies your body with little sugar fixes…as smoking a cigarette releases stored sugars into your blood stream. This is why smokers often don’t need to eat until late afternoon without feeling hungry.

However, when you no longer have this artificial feeding of sugar into your bloodstream after quitting smoking your body can freak out a bit that it has to get sugar the old-fashion way. I had to learn how to eat breakfast and lunch again. It wasn’t too difficult to start eating 3 meals a day because I felt hungry, but my hunger pains were not going away with food … not even after eating a large meal.

These hunger pains soon turned into intense stomach cramps that I imagined would be what someone who is on the edge of dying from starvation would feel. The doc says its IBS… irritable bowel syndrome. Sounds awesome, eh?

Q. How did I, a relatively fit and healthy 26 year old woman get a disease that sounds like something only old men named Chuck or Ron in a nursing home would have?

A. Mostly from quitting smoking. The shock to my digestive system from the sudden lack of lovely cigarette chemicals and general body stress is what the doc explained as to reason for my IBS.

The doc prescribed some little pills that stop the stomach cramps but make me sleepy in a happy/stupid kind of way :D
A diet of fruit and veggies seems to have helped and I think I am on the verge of getting rid of the IBS and getting back to normal.

You might be wondering why I wrote this? The reason is that I could not find anything online about a connection between IBS and quitting smoking, although the way my doctor explained things…it sounded like it’s a somewhat common occurance.

And for those of you that stumbled upon this post from a search engine, I feel ya, really… and don’t worry… it will pass. :)


Update 2011 PS: IBS is what doctors say you have when they don’t know what else is wrong with you. IBS is not a disease. It is a set of symptoms. Don’t feel like a “victim of disease” when you get diagnosed with IBS. <– totally my own opinion, I am not a medical professional.

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89 Responses to I Quit Smoking / IBS

  1. Ron says:

    Hey folks,
    i am 22 years old and i have smoked for like 3 and a half years. smoked 8-10 cigarettes a day.. i quit cold turkey 22 days ago.. Initially i had those hunger cramps and felt like eating all day, and i did.. my diet improved magnificently but for the last one week i haven’t felt good. i feel bloated all day long, feel like farting all day.. i have never felt so bad in my life.. It’s like i am writing my heart out today.. i went to the doctor and he prescribed me a few pills.. i got to know that the pills he has prescribed me are for treating IBS… I was feeling very low that day, but i kept myself going.. I wondered that if i picked up smoking it might help me out.. but it’s the conscience that doesn’t let me pick that ciggy up..
    I wonder when will i get well… i have never felt so alone and horrible in my life.. i wish i could get well soon.. But i won’t let the will die… maybe there is some sunshine at the end of the tunnel…:D

  2. Toni says:

    Thanks for your comments Ron. It does get better — Congrats on quitting young!

  3. Toni says:

    Ouch — I feel ya! Yeah, I think changing the diet really helps. Nicotine let me be lazy with my eating habits — after quitting I had to change my diet, adding a lot of fiber, cutting out junk foods, eating less processed crap, etc.

    The biggest help for me: eating a bowl of cereal before bed.

  4. Ron says:

    How long have you been having this thing??? i mean i hope it’s not a forever thing…

  5. Alex says:

    IBS is omething that is very different n different people. I diagnosed with IBS about a year ago. after all tests such as blood, urine, upper endoscopy, colonoscopy, a few different X-rays, etc. I used to smoke so a few weeks ago finally I decided to quit and just after two weeks the IBS is almost gone!!! at least I can say 80% improvement. My IBS was everyday pain in the last 6 years. and I never tried to quit in these years! Finnaly I did it and it worked!

  6. Scooter says:

    Hi. I have similar problems with this. I have smoked for 27 years and finally decided to quit for good on New years. Tried the Chantix thing and made me too sick to my stomach. I finally quit cold turkey 3 weeks later….but then started having weird pains in my chest….then in the back where my right lung is. I waited for about a week to see if it would go away and started freaking out a little. I wanted to make sure there was nothing like a tumor or something growing there in my lungs since I smoked like 1 to 1 and a half packs a day for the last 27 years. I had a chest x-ray and it was clear, but the dr wanted to rule out a possible blood clot in the lungs so he sent me for a ct scan of my lungs. All clear. Within 1-2 days all pains in chest were gone. But I thought from all the worry my stomach problems were the result. So now its been 3 more weeks and my stomach is just getting worse and worse. Everytime I eat I am severely bloated, have gas coming out both ends….I can eat a can ov Ravioli and feel like I just had Thanksgiving dinner. Even a cup of coffee does this to me. I am getting wooried all over again because I have no fever or anything else to suggest an infection. Feels like a blockage either where the stomach empties into the small intestine or a blockage in the small intestine. Very disheartening for someone whos mom died of colon cancer. I just just dont believe its that though. Everything seems to be centered to immediately after I quit smoking. I ts been three weeks now totally smoke free and I feel great for doing that, empowered really, but this whole thing going on with the gut has really got me down and I am really seriously thinking about picking the habit back up. I dont have a loss of appitite, infact I feel hungry. But I dread these times now that knowing what happens when I eat. I see the dr again today and hopefully he may be able to shed some light on this as well. Hes the one that convinced me to quit smoking in the first place.

  7. Callum says:

    Damn IBS. I have suffered from IBS from a very young age (7ish). I started smoking at 16 and now I am quitting at 23.

    It has only been a couple of day but I have definitely noticed an increase in my IBS. Lots of stomach aches, and my bowl movements are all over the place (metaphorically speaking). I used to take mebeverine which helped the pains but recently (after I have quit) it dosnt seem to be helping as much as usual. I have switched to a tablet called colpermin which I would advise anyone with IBS to try. I wont put the details down here just look it up if you are interested.

    I was really considering smoking again just to try to get back to being able to control my bowls. However after reading what you guys have written I will hang in there for a couple of weeks and see how it goes. I will post once more in that time and note down how I am doing.

    Hopefully this helps people as your posts have given me the motivation I need to hang in there.

  8. Debbie says:

    I smoked for 40 years and finally quit about 6 months ago. For the past 2 months, my stomach hurts so bad, it’s unbelievable. How long does it take to get better? I’m considering taking smoking back up since I never felt this bad when I was smoking!

  9. Brad says:

    I started smoking at 10 years old and quit at 55, it’s been 27 months now smoke free. Over the last 15 years of smoking I cut down to approx 10 a day. I never really had any stomach issues, kind of ate what I wanted but ever since I quit smoking I’m having stomach cramps, aches, gas and worst of all diarrhea. At times I’ll be in the washroom minutes after finishing a meal. I haven’t officially been diagnosed with IBS however I suspect that I do now have IBS and that smoking kept it at bay all those years. I have read that cigarettes can be an antidepressant, I’ve also read that antidepressants can subside IBS.

    I’m glad that I found this link, I thought that I may be the only one with this situation. This now kind of confirms the suspicions that I’ve had over the past couple of years. I forgot to mention that there have been periods, months, at a time when I don’t really show signs of IBS however when it hits it can go on for weeks. In addition I won’t be taking up smoking again to solve this problem, I feel it’s the stomach issues are the lesser of two evils.

    Google search criteria that I used:
    antidepressants and ibs
    cigarettes are an antidepressant
    smoking stop ibs

    An interesting statement at this link, even if it is from a cigarettes information website, that states:
    “Interesting is that researchers are actually documenting neurochemical effects which says that cigarettes may actually be a drug that smokers are using to treat their underlying chronic depression.”


    T.I.A. for listening to my rant.

  10. sabrina says:

    Toni, Your post made me sane again. I quit smoking one week after I had a DNC and I kept telling my doc I was still in horrible pain. So i proceeded to take all the narcs she gave me which i later read give you constipation. I thought I had a perforated bowel (one of the possibilities of a bad DNC). I found your post and although the horrible pain is still with me I now no longer think I’m dying.
    Debbie- hang in there, we can do this!!

  11. Logan says:

    Hey guys, I’m also experiencing this same upset stomach crap after quitting smoking! I’m actually sitting on the toilet now at four in the morning because of it! Lol
    I quit about a month ago, and I swear about two days after I quit, I started getting serious gas every day. Not only am I getting the painful gas, but I am also experiencing irregular bowel movements as well.(explains why I’m in the John at such a random time)
    I figured this was all due to quitting smoking, and I had the temptation to start up again just to cure me of this crap but stuck to my guns. This is starting to get a bit ridiculous though….it got so bad tonight that I felt like I had to puke.
    Good luck everyone! Hopefully this will all be over soon…..

  12. hailey says:

    Just wanted to let others know that I quit smoking too…..its been a couple of weeks and I am sure I have IBS. I have had a colonoscopy, cat scan on my abdomin and the doctors can not figure out what is wrong with me. I have had the blood tests, stool tests and other test but they don’t have a reason or a clue what I have. At first they thought it was ulceritive collitus and then something else and then I didn’t have anything…….I hope this all goes away soon.

  13. Shirl says:

    Holy Crap, I knew it!!!

    I have had issues with digestion, constipation, gas, abdominal pain ever since I was a little kid. I noticed after I started smoking that the abdominal pain ceased. What a relief!
    Six and a half months ago I quit smoking using Chantix. About 2 weeks after I quit Chantix, the pain returned. I had forgotten all about that pain. When it returned I was so disheartened. Now several months later, my symptoms have amplified tenfold to the point that I suspected colon cancer. Horrible pain keeping me up at night. Can’t eat hardly at all without terrible suffering.
    I too consider taking the habit back up again but I am trying to hang in there. It helps to see this is not my imagination ! Thanks.

  14. George says:

    It’s all in your head. You are all looking for a reason to start smoking again. Be strong!

  15. Kevin says:

    This is so true. It wasn’t the cigarette cravings that were most difficult in the weeks following cessation, it was the diarrhea/constipation combination that I suffered for four weeks after. Seriously, my BMs JUST got back to normal, and I’m seeing it as a point of no return. There’s no way I want to repeat that month of poop purgatory. No siree.

    Regardless, I’m over a month free of cigarettes! Hooray!

  16. Shirl says:

    Thanks George, but no it is not in my head. My doctor has helped with the IBS and you are inaccurate in assessing that I am looking for an excuse. Really, had I desired to smoke, I would not require an excuse. I am happy to say that I am feeling better though I have to be ever so careful with what and how I eat. Still cannot eat much and many of my fave foods are just not possible right now. A friend told me that eventually this will go away like hers did after quitting. Don’t accuse people of imagining things, we have plenty of politicians already doing that. Thanks.
    Thank you Kevin for understanding. My feelings exactly, there is no way I would want to have to redo this past month and I am at 8 months now! Good for us!

  17. santy says:

    yes i have same symptoms & i can tell one thing that IBS is related to smoking & it’s start after you quite smoking,so don’t be worry all is well & it will be gone within few months .

  18. unforgiven says:


    don’t shoot me over this, just felt like sharing my prob.

    age 21 I quit smoking.Didn’t have any trouble / symptoms at the time. Age 26 I had a very serious case of IBS, not just D, just water running out of my body. I lost 35 kg of weight in 1 month simply by not receiving nutrition anymore. I had been running to hospitals and docs at that point for 2 years, no medication seemed to help, only made it worse.

    I lost my job, got divorced, tried any stupid diets people proposed. It was stress, I was depressed. Well you know yes I was stressed and depressed after 2 years of being sick. They started giving me antideps, I felt even worse, and started having very violent outbursts. Moment of weakness I picked up smoking again after I had quit 5 years, and soon after marihuana, the “natural” drug.

    I had never felt better in my life obviously. But what was more, I could go to the bathroom like a normal person. 10 years later now, still using the same treatments, I understand it’s not healthy, I honestly thought this would be a temp solution. I tried to quit smoking again now, and am obviously having the same issues. The fear of reliving what happened 10 years ago is so strong… well needless to say I was quick to pick up a pack of tobacco.

    Explained this to a doc once, he looked at me like a cow looks at a glas of water.
    Really reaching a point

  19. Shirl says:

    Dear Unforgiven,
    I will write more later as I am running out now. Just know, I would never pass judgment over you on returning to tobacco. I know that I am but one cigarette away from the same. Do not down yourself.
    More later.

  20. Shirl says:

    I like what you said about telling the doctor, I know what you mean but I told the nurse and she said that could be. Much of the issue is the feeling it’s imaginary. It truly is not, I am too busy with my job and my family to be throwing $ away at the doc to get ridiculed. I promised myself I would make it a year and then decide what I want to do. I figure if I make it a year, I am probably good for life. So far urges to smoke are behind me even under incredible stress a fraction of which would’ve sent me rushing for a fix before. Anyway, the urges behind me, the problem is knowing I would likely feel relief from the stomach issues is another matter.
    I am sorry that you have had so much stress, it seems to have been a vicious cycle for you for quite awhile. You named yourself unforgiven and I feel sad for you feeling that way. I wondered have you not been able to forgive yourself or are you looking to others for forgiveness. I will keep you in my prayers.

  21. Lenny Gengaro says:

    I have had IBS for five years quitting smoking does help I’ve noticed that my ibshas gotten worse since I started smoking again please everybody do your self a favor and quit smoking immediately I did notice that peppermint oil does also help IBS all symptoms of IBS should go away 3 to 6 months after quitting smoking I was totally George and now my IBS is back with a vengeance after starting smoking again

  22. louisedaniels says:

    hi i have suffered with ibs and constapision all since i was 7ish i have recently tryed to giveup smoking i am a week into it and my ibs is horrible i take mebevine all the time but it is not helping any more and conspision has got alot worse its really hard not to have a fag just to stop the pain sorry if there are spelling mistakes terrible at spelling

  23. HeBeGB says:

    Just stumbled across this sight and i would just like to add something to the feed.
    i have had IBS for about 20 years, the Docs put me on Co-Codamol i quit smoking about 4 years ago (cold Turkey, never wanted to smoke in those 4 years)and with out realizing the connection my pain has increased 10 fold. I was in a shop 4 days ago and and an electronic cigarette caught me eye, and it dawned on me that when i was smoking i was in far less pain.
    I am on my third day smoking my electronic cigarette (as an experiment) so far so good no pain at night less prescription drugs (mebevarin, Co-Codamol).
    I will wright again and up date on my experiment.

  24. wendy says:

    its not IBS its withdrawal from the drug nicotine.

  25. S says:

    I’m so glad I found this blog post. I quit smoking in February (after seven years) and have had steadily worsening and constant problems with digestion since, including constipation, diarrhoea, aching in the abdomen generally and pain disrupting sleep. Doctors have suggested modifying my diet (which I’ve tried to do, getting more soluble fibre and veg and fruit etc), but a food diary for the last few months has shown no pattern with the symptoms I’ve experienced. A possibility suggested is coeliac disease, but I haven’t seen a pattern with wheat products either.

    I can get quite stressed, so from reading the thread above, possibly that is a factor?

    I’ve managed to not smoke at all since quitting – and like @Shirl said, I now feel no urge to pick up a cigarette – but the thought that having one might stop these problems is a hard idea to get rid of.

  26. Kyriakos says:

    I was a smoker for 14 years. Quit 40 days ago and my i definitely get all the IBS symptoms. Doctor thought that it was a bug, had antibiotics, didn’t help at all. I have also been taking anti-acids since I have occasional acid reflux problems.

    I quit 40 days ago because I had a panic attack for the first time in my life and after that smoking was making it worst. I don’t have panic attacks anymore but my stomach and acid reflux have been really bad.

    I also found out that I can’t eat wheat bread, beer, garlic, onions and other stuff. Can anyone please advice me what I should say to the doctors because I getting really frustrated with my health. I am in constant agony, afraid to eat outside the house.

  27. Helen says:

    It has been 19 days since I quit smoking and I have all the IBS symptoms as well. I’m just wondering if anyone knows how long after quitting does it take for the digestive track to get back to normal functioning? I’ve been trying to eat really healthy…but I have bags under my eyes and feel like malnourished maybe because the nutrients are getting flushed out instead of absorbed which sucks. The gas is sooo terrible too…like yuck… everyday bloated and gassy no matter what I eat. I want my stomach to work properly again!

  28. Psycho says:

    Always had stomach issues when I was quitting smoking
    And as new year resolution I promised to quit again hopefully forever this time – I’m starting from tomorrow – I’m off on weekend so I can hide away from the world with tantrums and stomach problems
    But I’m petrified cause I’ve been there before and a thought of being horrible moody cow full of gas and constant pains, bloated, constipated and worried about bowel movement is hunting me

    But I really want to quit I’ll keep you updated with a progress

    Tips I can give you for now from previous experience is that eating lot of apples helps due to good portion of fibre

    And you can consider cutting down or getting rid of cow’s milk from your diet – try soya milk and products instead – milk is generally causing digestion problems and health issues in many people but it’s a different story

    Probiotics might also help to keep your guts under control

    I’m glad that I found this topic I always new that quitting smoking is causing IBS and other stomach problems And thanks to all of you for sharing info and well done for quitting ! Keep fingers crossed for me

  29. Chantell says:

    I have smoked 1 pack a day for at least 10 years and I had quit smoking in the past a few times. Note it was unsuccessful long term due to extreme cravings and irritability. The longest I had quit for was 8 months. Now that I am older I chose to stop smoking for good. It has only been 3 days and I am having extreme stomach pain and my stomach is making very loud digestive noises. I am not hungry. I actually have to force myself to eat after becoming shaky from lack of nutrition. I know it’s only been a few days but never experienced this when eliminating tobacco in the past. I’m wondering if it is IBS, withdrawal, a bad reaction to the nicotine patch, or just the fact that I am over 30 now and sent my body into full defense mode. Some of the comments say it can take weeks to years to feel better. I hate that because to me stomach pain and nausea is the worst feeling in the world. Hopefully I can report sooner with news of feeling better. I’m not going to cave though because I keep trying to convince myself the pain is actually from smoking.

  30. Dawn says:

    It has been 2 years since I have quit smoking… The severe stomach pain (IBS) will stop, believe me! Mine lasted for about 7 to 8 months. I know it is terrible but it does get better. Mine was so bad I thought I had cancer. After many Doctor visits I realized that I was either nuts or just going through the worst withdrawal symptoms ever recorded! The Doctor will tell you “No it’s not from withdrawal symptoms”! Oh but yes it is! You know your body so don’t listen to anyone else!

    Do positive affirmations as much as possible! I walked around most of my days talking to myself and saying over and over again “My body is restoring itself to its natural state!” This helped so much! I think my first year was the worst I have ever seen or heard of. But now I am glad it was so terrible because It makes me scared to death to go back to smoking! I had quit before but this was the worst… I personally think it is because they have added so many new chemicals to the cigs… Like the fire retardant… We actually ingested this crap! Know wonder we are all going through such a nighmare after we quit! But you either suffer now or later so make up your mind!

  31. Turkey says:

    Yes I stopped smoking and it will 8 weeks Wednesday after being a smoker for 28 years. I have had constant stomach trouble since. I remember having trouble when trying to quit in the past. I no this will pass in time and it will be worth it. However the stomach issues it seams are disregarded by most people and anywhere there is information on stopping smoking. So glad I found this site and I am not the only one.

  32. august says:

    Thank you so much for this site. There is not enough info out there for us. I found it so comforting to find others going through the same thing!

  33. Will says:

    Shortly after giving up smoking (cold turkey) I got so ill I ended up in hospital, the doctors could not find a reason for my swollen stomach, bloody stools, major weight loss, stomach cramps every 5 min, man I was ill. Even after a million blood tests, colonoscopy , xrays etc they still had no answer, it was put down as IBS, I lived with it for years, eventually succumbing to the ciggies again and gone was the IBS, Well two years ago I gave up smoking again (cold turkey) and low and behold the IBS is back, the gut pain, the diarrhea, the stencing farts and bloating, can’t eat this can’t eat that etc etc. Life’s a bitch then you die.

  34. anned says:

    I quit 4 months ago after smoking for 40 years and have been living on Imodium and Simethicone

    I smoked about 40 strong home rolled pipe tobacco cigs a day and then through a special stop smoking program.
    They started me on patches and lozenges at the same time.

    My IBS started a couple weeks later and got so bad i was thing about wearing diapers just to be safe.

    A lot of gas and diarrhea so bad i could not pass the gas without running to the bath room. And i do mean running.

  35. paul.coulter. says:

    Thanks for the info been alot of help been having alot of the same pains and Problems
    As other posters I have been smoke free for 4weeks today

  36. Johnno says:

    I quit smoking for good at the beginning of this year, I was fine for the first 3 months then I remember waking up in the middle of the night with stomach pains and from that point on I’ve had IBS. It was pretty painful and debilitating for the first month then I found out about the over the counter remedies and they’ve helped a great deal, I tried them all and found Colofac was the best for me. Throughout this time my GP was worse than useless. After 5 1/2 months I’m no longer taking any remedies, the IBS is still irritating but I eat cornflakes for breakfast and make sure I only ‘go’ once a day at a regular time no matter how much the IBS plays up and I think I’m getting a handle on it :) I think the symptoms are fading very gradually, I’ve got my fingers crossed anyway. Good luck to everyone both in staying quit and getting over the IBS.

  37. Michelle says:

    I am 34. I started smoking at the age of 5 believe it or not. I quit smoking for 14 months when I was 20 and had no side effects other than the cravings but I was pregnant at the time. Then i quit again at 24 and same situation no problems. I recently quit 3 months ago and started having constipation problems and then when I had to go it was either diarrhea or a hard movement. Nicotine is also a stimulate. It only makes sense that your body would go crazy after quitting. Nicotine has aided in the bowl movement process for years. I have been going back and forth smoking or not smoking. I want to quit but fear that this will be a forever problem because I have ruined my body’s natural ability to produce it’s own stimulant.
    Signed Back and Forth and frustrated with myself and nicotine.

  38. Caroline says:

    I stopped smoking 3 months ago and for last week have had severe stomach problems. Came home early from work today because stomach upset and I have severe wind. Glad to have come across this web site and will definitely try some of the tips. Will post progress

  39. Marjolein says:

    This is very very interesting ! I have just been diagnosed with IBS. Had all the usual tests that showed nothing was wrong other than a small hernia. Also have reflux nd am on nexium 40 for that since a few months ago. I quit 22 months ago after 20 Years and smoking around 30 a day. I used to be healthy. Since quitting I seem to catch every bug going. A friend of mine was similar , she went back to smoking and many of her medical issues stopped I haven’t and won’t … like the freedom and the cash too much…though I still would like a cig most days and think about smoking every day….but in a mild way, rarely crave. Dr and surgeons tell me that smoking causes theses thinks and quitting fixes them…not the other way around. Next breathe the Dr just says to cut back on stress and that will fix I. Sure will get right on that Dr dear. If only! So glad I found this blog, shows that my friend and I are not alone in thinking IBS may be related to quitting smoking. My IBS only started three or four months ago no relieve . Thinking back I think some of the illnesses I had since quitting may have been I b s but not diagnosed as it settled within a week or so.

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