Smoking and Celiac Disease

by | G+ Amy Leger

As we all know gluten pops up where we least expect it.   Of course as time goes on with the gluten-free diet, nothing really surprises us any more right?

This weekend I started wondering about cigarettes and their gluten status as well as impact on celiac disease.  I have never smoked, but it just struck me as something that gets put in the mouth and inhaled — so it better be checked out!  There are definitely a few interesting “takeaways” from what I found, along with some still-unanswered questions.

Celiac Disease and Smoking Cigarettes: The Research

I was very surprised to actually discover that there has been research in this area.  In 2001 there was a study about the relationship between the two using patients and control subjects. The study published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology concluded, “…a significantly lower proportion of patients with celiac disease were current smokers at the time of diagnosis, and that cigarette smoking delayed diagnosis of celiac disease.”  Huh?  Interesting.  So a follow up to this study looked at whether smoking cigarettes actually cause celiac using the Bradford Hill Criteria of Causation.  In 2003, the research showed,

“…cigarette smoking truly protects against the development of adult coeliac[sic] disease.” – September 2003 European Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology

From that research it sounds like smoking can delay the onset of celiac disease.  Does it say that everyone at risk  of  getting celiac should go out and start smoking?  No.

Is there Gluten in Cigarettes?

So if you’re already diagnosed with celiac and your a smoker– what does this mean for the gluten free status of your cigarettes?  As I eluded to at the beginning…this appears to be a very gray area.  Phillip Morris has an ingredient listing for all of its cigarettes, after looking over several products– one consistent area is the natural flavorings that you would want to be cautious of when looking for “gluteny” ingredients.

One forum discussion on brought this issue up earlier this week– brought into question not the ingredients of the tobacco mixture, but the other “incidental” parts.  The person asked the maker of Natural American Spirit Tobacco if their cigarettes were gluten free.  The company response the forum participant posted, stated, “While there is no gluten in our Natural American Spirit tobacco, it is possible that trace amounts of gluten are present in our paper and adhesive materials. Our cigarettes are no more or less likely to contain gluten than other cigarette brands.”

Another forum discussed this topic as well.  Some saying their symptoms worsened with different brands of cigarettes.


Clearly cigarette smoking brings on a host of other health concerns not related to celiac disease.  I think virtually all medical professionals would recommend any patient quit smoking –whether they are at risk of developing celiac disease or not.

If you’re not going to quit — you at least need to take care of your celiac disease– which if untreated will lead to an additional host of other serious health issues– like cancer, osteoporosis, anemia and more.  So you must take it upon yourself to ensure what you’re smoking is gluten-free.  Because nickel and “dime-ing” yourself with gluten-contaminated cigarettes would likely negate the gluten free diet you’re working so hard to achieve.

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12 Responses to “Smoking and Celiac Disease”

  1. Very informative. Can’t say I’ve ever heard of how cigarette smoking affects Celiac disease. Will pass this along to a few of my friends who smoke. Thanks. Angie.

  2. Thank you! Finally, something I can use to defend myself. I quit smoking 10 months agao and since had a host of GI isues. I started the GF diet before being tested so I guess I may never really know but at least I’m not crazy. Quiting smoking made me sicker

  3. Celiac decease and gluten intolerance, Are they similar? Why there are many foods nowadays content gluten or celiac? I thought they are part of the food I mean are they harmful now? Why cook if they will harm us lol!

  4. According to this list, cigarettes contain modified food starch. MFS is gluten,in disguise, so they are not gluten-free.

  5. Yaeh not sure if cigarettes themselves contain gluten but the filters do. when made they were prepared by kneading a mixture of gluten and wheat flour with water. Not to mention carpet glue to make them fire safe. (bleh) American spirit filters are supposed to be, for the most part, gluten-free. They may contain trace amounts tho.

  6. Hi. Not sure if this means anything but…I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis 4 years ago and am questioning my diagnosis now (the reason I am reading more about Celiac). I don’t know too much about Celiac but know a fair amount about UC. There are many studies about smoking and the GI response. Smoking has always helped control my UC (but is of course terrible for you). The studies are looking in to the nicotine and the carbon monoxide and the fact that they cause the body to coat the intestine with a protective mucous lining. I know that each time I have quit I have had a flare up and when I start back up the flare subsides…I am about 13 weeks into this flare up from quitting but am determined to no longer rely on smoking for control of my symptoms…

    Just thought I would add my 2 cents..

  7. Blogs that have quality information like this are as precious as gold. You have given me much to think about in this blog. Thank you.

  8. If you have any kind of digestive disorder of ANY KIND… I recommend going gluten free as I was tested many times & never came up showing positive. A small percentage of people do not test positive. I was altho diagnosed with Colitis of the colon & even lost 14 inches of my lg colon due to perforation & I believe the damage was caused from the many yrs of eating gluten w/out knowing I was allergic. I kept telling the Dr.’s I felt like I was being poisoned…. Low & behold I literally was poisoning myself. I continue to research & learn as I go but am here to tell you that I also believe cigs DO contain gluten & as a person who has smoked for many yrs. it is another thing I must give up to truly see if I can continue to get better. This healing process has taken me a yr already but the longer you go undiagnosed or eating gluten the more damage it does, therefore a longer time to heal. So… I will report back here to post my results as I battle the challenge of quitting. I too want a better quality of life from this devastating allergy. Thanku & goodluck to ANYONE who may also have this happening to them.

  9. I quit smoking 4 1/2 years ago. Ever since then I have been sick with something or the other. Am now being tested for Celiacs. It will be nice to know I am not crazy. Chalked it all up to ageing.(64)

  10. Ive been suffering gor well over 2yrs. Scopes and this Dr and that Dr. Uggh. Came up with irritable bowel syndrome. Saw u of m gi doc. Did a special gene test on me. Celiac disease. No gluten. Tricky at first. Also borderline lactose intolerant. Uggh. Following it and reading everything. 1 wk into it. Trial and error. If i smoke i visit the toilet alot and have abdominal pain. If i dont smoke, i dont go at all. Still learning.

  11. you’d think some company would jump all over this and make a gluten free cig….huge market for it!

  12. I have been so sick for a month straight. Have IBS ulcerative colitis and now celiac. Seems every time I smoke I puke terribly so yes I think there is gluten in cigarettes. I also have copd so I guess my hand is forced time to quit. Thanks for the information. Good luck to all cause this is bad!#

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