I 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:
- The Heartburn-Tobacco Connection
- Is there a link between smoking and heartburn?
- The Link Between Acid Reflux & Smoking
- What Causes Heartburn?
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.