Sometimes, things that don’t seem to have any connection actually do. This might be the case with cigarette smoking and liver problems – including non-alcoholic fatty liver aka NAFLD.
As we’ll see in today’s article, smoking is bad for the liver in general, which includes a fatty liver.
Even passive smoking increases the risks for fatty liver, due to the plethora of chemicals and unhealthy elements contained in the cigarette smoke.
Smoking has been frowned upon for years now and fortunately more and more people manage quit this nasty habit… but there are still many who find it relaxing and enjoy smoking on a daily basis. Or just find it difficult to quit.
I used to be a smoker as well, but fortunately managed to stop back in 2008, well before being diagnosed with a fatty liver.
Therefore, I don’t think that in my particular case, smoking contributed to my fatty liver – although you can never know for sure.
But with more and more people asking me whether smoking is bad for fatty liver or not, I did some comprehensive research and decided to share the results and hopefully motivate you to quit smoking.
Does smoking affect your liver / NAFLD?
Yes, smoking is associated with the development and progression of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). For example, those who smoked for more than 20 years can have up to 36% higher chances of developing a fatty liver and complications.
These were the findings on a study made on 200,000 adults in South Korea, so we can agree that it was pretty extensive. You can read the full study for all the medical data here.
Another interesting study that collected data from 20 other studies made on the matter, found out that passive smokers are actually at an even higher risk of developing fatty liver than active smokers are.
It is true that the didn’t mention how long the active smokers have been smoking for, but the conclusion is pretty obvious, in my opinion: smoking is bad for the liver and increases the chances of developing NAFLD, while also increasing its progression in those who already have it.
Should you stop smoking if you have a fatty liver?
Based on the studies presented above, it is clear that it is indeed a good idea to stop smoking if you have been diagnosed with a fatty liver.
The sooner, the better as the number of years you spend smoking also seems to be associated with increased risks.
Even though we might believe that it’s just the lungs that are affected by cigarettes, that’s not true although probably our lungs are the ones that suffer the most.
However, the cigarette smoke that we inhale (as active or passive smokers) is filled with toxins and since the liver is responsible with removing most toxins from our bodies, you can easily see why the two are connected…
The consensus in the medical world seems to be that indeed even a few cigarettes per day can do a lot of harm to liver that’s already suffering.
One of the studies that I came upon dates from 2010 and was only made on rats. (You can read more about this study here).
It proved that obese rats suffering from fatty liver who were exposed to cigarette smoke (2 cigarettes per day, 5 days per week for 4 weeks) showed an increase in severity of their NAFLD.
The study concluded: “Cigarette Smoke causes oxidative stress and worsens the severity of NAFLD in obese rats. Further studies should assess whether this finding also occurs in patients with obesity and NAFLD.“
Apart from that, various other medical sources like the ones mentioned above claim that smoking is bad for our livers and can cause a fatty liver to worsen.
Why is smoking bad for the liver?
My original assumption, that the toxins from the smoke inhaled from cigarettes, pass through the liver, therefore adding extra stress and harming it more seem to be confirmed by experts in the field as well.
But it’s not just the toxins that matter now! Apparently, cigarette smoke – especially the Nicotine that cigarettes have – can also be connected to high levels of fat in our blood.
Smoking causes our blood vessels to constrict, raising blood pressure and the levels of fat in the body, increasing the risk of other health problems such as increased blood pressure, heart attack or stroke.
If this doesn’t seem to be connected with the liver – it could be, because it’s the liver that produces cholesterol and a sick liver has an impaired ability to produce both the good and the bad cholesterol that have to be balanced in our bodies.
Finally, it is known that smoking has a carcinogenic effect and even though I wasn’t able to find any studies linking smoking – or its carcinogenic effects – to the liver itself, I believe that it’s always better to play it safe and consider the worst.
And remember: since your liver is already sick, it is more sensitive to harmful substances and behaviors than a healthy one is!
Some people claim that smoking helps them to lose weight, and this is what prevents them from stopping, but even if true, it still won’t beat a healthy and balanced diet. So that excuse shouldn’t work here!
Smoking also drains your energy and makes it difficult for you to keep exercising. Since you need to add exercising to your new lifestyle, after being diagnosed, in order to regain health, cigarettes will make things more difficult for you.
Since I did smoke in the past and managed to quit, I know how difficult it is to stop.
But I can assure you that once you get past that horrible initial phase of withdrawal – which lasts for 2 to 4 weeks – you will be so happy with yourself for managing to quit harming yourself by smoking.
You will feel much, much better in all areas and you will see immediate improvements in your overall health.
Plus, it probably helps you a lot in your fight to reverse fatty liver, so it’s a win on all fronts.
It is difficult, I know, but it has to be done! You are strong enough to do it so don’t waste time and just stop! For your health. For your happiness. For giving you a lot more time to spend with your loved ones!
And I guess this answers the burning question in the title: Yes, smoking is bad for fatty liver (and general health) so you should stop ASAP. I managed to do it, many others did it as well, so it is possible.
I was diagnosed with a fatty liver back in 2014 and managed to reverse it by mid 2015. Since then, I’ve been studying NAFLD and I have decided to share everything I have learned over the years to help you reverse your condition.
I am also the admin of the Fatty Liver Support Group on Facebook and the Fatty Liver Subreddit.