Heartburn When Quitting Dip

HeartburnI get asked on the forums quite often about heartburn when quitting dip.  Is it normal?  Does it get better after you quit?  Does it get worse when you quit?  What’t the deal?

NOTE: This article talks about some pretty serious stuff (chest pains).  I can speak only from my experience and the experience of our forum members.  Consult your doctor with additional questions. 

If you’re not familiar with what heartburn really is, its a burning or tightening sensation in the chest just behind your breastbone.  This pain/burning for some people can go up into their throat and jaw.  In addition, it can be a symptom of GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) and on top of everything, someone having a heartburn flareup can also mimic the symptoms of a heart attack!  For someone quitting chewing tobacco (IE, someone who’s hyper-sensitive to changes in their mouth/throat) this can be a scary thing when it’s not something that you’re familiar with.

Without getting too technical, heartburn (or GERD) occurs when acid “refluxes” back up into your throat or esophagus.  This acid (which is meant to stay in your stomach and break down food) irritates these parts of your body where it’s not meant to be and quite frankly is really uncomfortable.  From personal experience, I can tell you that and acid reflux episode can range from mild discomfort to chest pains that make it difficult to take a deep breath.  The “burning” that I get in the back of my throat is akin to having hot wings followed by a shot of Listerine.  (Hey… I’m not a doctor, but its the best description I can give).

There have been studies done that show there IS in fact a link between tobacco and heartburn / GERD:

There are countless others as well.  Bottom line is there are studies out there that show a link.  That said, I’ve never been a big fan of citing a study to prove my point.  I can tell you from experience…

When I quit dipping, my acid reflux went off the charts.  It was terrible.  I’d been dealing with reflux for a few years prior to my quit and at the time was taking daily medication to curtail it.  When I quit things got MUCH worse for quite some time.  I’ve said in my HOF Speech that I took myself to the ER twice during my quit cause I thought I was having a heart attack… this is why.  I remember it very vividly.  I was laying on the floor watching TV and my chest was on fire from reflux.  In addition, my left arm/hand was numb (which as you know is a classic symptom of a heart attack).  Naturally, at this point I started to freak out and took my pulse, which at this point was through the roof as well cause I was stressing out.  Took myself to the ER, got an EKG and everything checked out perfectly.  They gave me some stuff to get the reflux attack under control and sent me home.  This was the first of two such episodes.

This goes against all medical findings because tobacco is supposed to make the condition worse.  Why AFTER I quit would it get ratcheted up a notch?  My guess is stress.  When you first quit dipping your body goes through some serious withdrawal which is to be expected.  You’ll in all likelihood be amped up about your quit and really worried about all these changes.  This will equate to stress which can equate to heartburn.

I will tell you that while my heartburn got worse when I quit, as time has gone by it’s gotten much better to the point where I no longer take any daily medication.  At this point (nearing 6 years quit) I have acid reflux / heartburn no more than a couple of times a month and the only medication I take is an antacid now and again.

So… to answer the question “Is heartburn normal when you quit dipping?” I’d say absolutely yes.  It’s normal.  But it’s also normal that it’ll go away with time.

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9 Comments

  1. It’s because nicotine is a stimulant, and not only to the brain – it stimulates every body system, including the digestive system. This is why you feel like going to the bathroom after you’ve been dipping for a bit, because it accelerates digestion. When we quit, the reverse occurs and muscles relax, and digestion slows. The result is a buildup of acid in the stomach and the relaxation of the muscle at the top of the stomach, which causes heartburn. I’ve noticed this symptom every quit attempt.

  2. Warm lemon water . Kills the build up of uric acid. Wich causes alot of issues not to mention rehydration. And detoxifys you. And boosts immune system good old vitamin c . I’m tired can’t sleep. Maybe you should do alil research on warm lemon water sounds crazy but the citric acid kills the uric acid. Wich is bad for you.

  3. a friend of mine found this and forwarded me to it. this is exactly what i am going through. started months ago. i went on welbutrin to quit. was successful for about 3 weeks – a month, then one day im just sitting in front of the computer reading espn, and then a sharp pain, my limbs go numb, i had tunnel vision and lightheaded. my bp went to 180/120. scary.i was given prilosec incase it was heart burn. months later i still have chest trouble and BP issues so we thought it was something else. recently i took a tums and noticed i had significate reduction in pain, so doc is trying me out on nexium to see if that will help. i will let you know if these help or not. but it’s good to know others went through what i did because its been months and everything we tried hadnt worked.

  4. @Cole – from what I’ve read, part of the issue is that tobacco relaxes the esophagus which allows stomach acid to come UP rather than stay where it belongs (in the stomach).
    I have a feeling that additional EATING when I quit caused my increase in symptoms.

  5. Hmm.. strange stuff. It does seem to contradict what’s written in the scientific literature. But, all of those studies concentrated the effect of “nicotine” or “smoking” on LES pressure and gastric motility. I wonder if there’s some byproduct in chewing tobacco, other than nicotine, that’s contributing to the problem?

  6. I too, have had many troubles with heartburn and also went to the ER a couple times thinking it was a heart attack. I had the same squeezing in the chest and numb, tingling hands. I just want to say I asked the doctor about all this, because it happened when I wasn’t doing any nicotine and then seemed to go away when I started chewing(!). The doctor said that nicotine has a way of masking pain in our bodies. I don’t know if that helped, but I know one thing, since I have quit tobacco, I don’t get that pain behind the breastbone on my left side (a sharp pain), which I think is associated with erosion on my esophagus. Also, I know my blood pressure and heart rate are alot lower.

    • Can you please tell me how you quitted chewing tobacco ..actually i am also using dip tobacco calles as naswaar ..and today was the first day i tried not to use it and in the night time i was in the bed and slowly slowly something started coming upwards to my chest ..and then i feel that its collecting in my chest i dont know what was that ..it get worse in few minutes and then i thought to use again dip tobacco ..after using it everything was again normal ..i have acid reflux problem also and i want to leave tobacco also but i am not able too leave it ..can you please help me ..my whatsapp 015217253175 harry is my name ..i would be really thankfull if you give me some advice

  7. I have issues with heartburn too. If you are in a jam, add a spoonful of Apple Cider Vinegar to a pint glass of water, and chug it. It will put the fire out. It sounds like it would make the situation worse, but it does not. It balances out stomach acids.

    • Thanks Mike – I tried this particular method once. Honestly it wasn’t all that helpful for me, but I know that a TON of people subscribe to it who it’s been very helpful.

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