More and more patients are turning to alternative and natural treatments for various conditions and illnesses, such as cancer, arthritis, seizures, and even the common cold. Some patients find that alternative treatments are just as, if not more effective than traditional therapies and medications. Oftentimes alternative treatments come with less side effects as well. As with many other medical conditions, ulcerative colitis can be effectively treated with alternative treatments. One of these alternative treatments is the use of nicotine.
Smoking and Ulcerative Colitis Treatments
We all know that smoking and nicotine can have negative effects on our health. It can increase the risk of cancers, wrinkle skin, put us at greater risk for heart disease and stroke, as well as many other diseases. However, connections have been found between the use of nicotine and UC. For patients suffering with ulcerative colitis, nicotine has proven to be an effective alternative treatment, and is a godsend for many.
Nicotine as a Treatment for Ulcerative Colitis
The one thing that nicotine will not do, is increase the risk of ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease. There is a large amount of evidence suggesting that people who smoke have a lower risk of developing ulcerative colitis and other similar intestinal issues. Patients who have been diagnosed with ulcerative colitis and resume or start smoking experience an improvement in their symptoms. Some ulcerative colitis patients who smoke have had reduced rates of hospitalization, and a decreased risk of needing a colectomy, corticosteroids, and immunosuppressants. All of this information has led to further research to investigate nicotine’s effects on ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. (11)
Studies on treatment with nicotine verses traditional treatment methods for ulcerative colitis have revealed some interesting, yet promising news. One study indicated that nicotine is not effective at preventing ulcerative colitis relapses, but epidemiological evidence reveals that smoking can prevent healthy individuals from developing ulcerative colitis. In another study, patients treated with nicotine patches had a decreased amount of flare-ups, as well as more time in between flare-ups, compared to those patients treated with traditional steroid course. With all of this evidence, there is no denying that there is some link between smoking or nicotine use and ulcerative colitis. (12) (13) (14)
How Does Nicotine Treat Ulcerative Colitis?
Extensive studies and research has been done to try to determine why nicotine is an effective treatment for ulcerative colitis. It is thought that the nicotine can cause the colonic mucous to be thicker, which causes increased protection to the mucosal tissues of the intestine. However, this has not been scientifically proven. It is also known that nicotine decreases the blood flow to many organs and tissues, including the intestines. Since rectal blood flow and supply is already decreased in patients with ulcerative colitis, this action is not thought to improve the symptoms of ulcerative colitis. Other theories suggest that nicotine interferes with the inflammatory response and possibly causes a natural steroid or hormone release. (15) (16) (17)
In addition, Nicotine can affect the rate of metabolism and can change gut motility. Unfortunately, it has yet to be determined how this can play a role in nicotine’s therapeutic effect on ulcerative colitis. This makes it difficult to develop pharmacological agents with nicotine to aid in the treatment of or a cure for ulcerative colitis and other intestinal conditions.
Although there is still a lot of research to be done surrounding the actions of nicotine and UC, there is no denying that smoking and nicotine use can bring relief and better quality of life for many patients suffering with ulcerative colitis. Discovering more about the actions of nicotine on ulcerative colitis can pave the way to the development of better medications to treat and prevent ulcerative colitis symptoms and flare-ups.
Risks of Using Nicotine
When deciding whether to use Nicotine as an alternative treatment, take all risks into consideration. Smoking cigarette increases the risk of lung and other cancers. Nicotine also causes an increase in heart rate. If you have a heart condition talk to your doctor before using Nicotine as a treatment. Most cigarettes contain other ingredients to slow the rate of burn. These are most likely harmful. Nicotine is also highly addictive.
An alternative to smoking cigarettes is the Nicotine Patch. This may be a better route to consider. Tell your pharmacist or doctor what medications you are taking both drugs and alternatives, caffeine, diuretics (‘water pills’), insulin, imipramine (Tofranil), oxazepam (Serax), medications for high blood pressure, pentazocine (Talwin, Talwin NX, Talacen), propranolol (Inderal),propoxyphene (Darvon, E-Lor), theophylline (Theo-Dur), especially acetaminophen (Tylenol), and any vitamins/supplements. (18)
Many people have found relief in using Nicotine to treat symptoms of ulcerative colitis. My son however, found that smoking cigarettes or cigars would set off a flare. Every body is different. Weigh the risks before you try Nicotine as an alternative treatment