Smoking Alters Bacteria Balance In the Mouth and Gut Microbiome


By Heather Callaghan

Researchers find that smoking alters crucial mouth and gut bacteria

According to Gerry Curatola, DDS who spoke at the recent Microbiome Medicine Summit, everything you ingest or use to rinse or brush can disrupt the delicate flora of your mouth. Yes, even antibacterial essential oils and health food store toothpastes, which he recommended against using, can eradicate or wash away the friendly bacteria balance needed to keep optimum mouth and gum health.

If this counter-intuitive (or should we say intuitive?) information is accurate, than it stands to reason that cigarettes and other chemical-ized tobacco products could alter the microbiome of the mouth. This might explain the undesirable side effects of smoking such as significantly bad breath, tooth decay, lesions, periodontal disease and heart disease. In fact, a recent discovery by researchers is raising eyebrows about that theory.

New York University School of Medicine reports on the first-ever study to suggest that smoking has a profound impact on the oral microbiome:

Smoking drastically alters the oral microbiome, the mix of roughly 600 bacterial species that live in people’s mouths. This is the finding of a study led by NYU Langone Medical Center and its Laura and Isaac Perlmutter Cancer Center to be published online March 25 in the ISME (International Society for Microbial Ecology) Journal.

The researchers say their analysis is the most comprehensive to date to examine the effects of smoking on the make-up and action of bacterial species in the human mouth based on precise genetic testing.

Recent work in the field links imbalances in microbial populations in the gut to such immune disorders as Crohn’s disease, as well as to some gastrointestinal cancers. Experts estimate that more than three-quarters of oral cancers are tied to smoking, but it remains to be seen whether smoking-related microbial differences in the mouth contribute to disease risk.

The NYU Langone team relied on mouthwash samples from 1,204 American men and women whose health is already being monitored as part of larger ongoing cancer risk studies funded by the National Institutes of Health and the American Cancer Society. Study volunteers were all age 50 or older and included 112 smokers, 571 former smokers (among whom 17 percent had quit within the past 10 years), and 521 people who never smoked. The team then used genetic tests and statistical analyses to tell apart the thousands of bacteria in each study participant’s mouth.

Researchers claim that more research would be needed to confirm the theory that it’s the bacteria alteration that is leading to the health problems caused by smoking.

Quitting Can Restore the Bacteria Balance

Importantly, the investigators found that the oral microbiome of smokers differed significantly from that of people who had never smoked and those who had quit smoking. The team also found that the oral microbiome of smokers bounces back after they quit smoking, with all former smokers (who had not smoked for at least 10 years) showing the same microbial balance as nonsmokers. The actual time it takes to start restoring friendly bacteria after quitting smoking is currently unknown.

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Researchers note:

More than 150 bacterial species showed significantly increased growth in the mouths of smokers, while another 70 showed sharp decreases in growth. For instance, smokers had relatively fewer species of Proteobacteria (at 4.6 percent of overall bacteria in the mouth), than nonsmokers (at 11.7 percent), with Proteobacteria shown to be involved in the breakdown of toxic chemicals introduced by smoking. By contrast, smokers had 10 percent more species of Streptococcus than nonsmokers, with Streptococcus known to promote tooth decay.

If you are serious about quitting smoking please read The Easy Way to Stop Smoking and consider King Bio’s homeopathic spray to help with all withdrawal symptoms. I don’t endorse smoking but I always tell people who refuse to quit that they can cut all the added chemicals (and extra taxes) if they buy organic tobacco leaves and grind them ( People report feeling much better and are better able to transition away from cigarettes as they have then broken dependency on all the chemicals and harmful fillers added by Big Tobacco. Plus, they save many hundreds each year.

Back to Curatola’s recommendations against typical toothpastes, mouth rinses etc. In order to refrain from harsh detergents or even bacteria-killing health store pastes, he only recommends two brands – Auromere and Weleda toothpaste. Otherwise, bentonite clay can serve as a toothpowder or you can make a sea salt rinse.

Photo via Visual Hunt

This article (Smoking Alters Bacteria Balance In the Mouth and Gut Microbiome) can be republished under a Creative Commons license, with attribution to author and Natural

Heather Callaghan is an independent researcher, natural health blogger and food freedom activist. She is the editor and co-founder of Like at Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Check out our recommended Reading List.

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