Drop that e-cigarette right away, if you want to avoid gut inflammation

American researchers have linked smoking e-cigarettes to inflammation in the gut and disrupted bowel movements.
Smoking e-cigarettes are injurious for your gut. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
ANI Updated: 14 May 2021, 15:48 pm IST
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If you think that smoking e-cigarettes is a safe bet then you are sadly mistaken. Just like a normal cigarette, an e-cigarette can also have harmful effects in store for you. In fact, according to some experts it might cause more harm than your regular sutta. Studies even suggest that smoking and e-cigarette can trigger gut inflammation. 

A new research indicates that the chemicals found in e-cigarettes disrupt the gut barrier and trigger inflammation in the body, potentially leading to a variety of health concerns.

An e-cigarette can give you a leaky gut, says study

In the study, published in the journal iScience, Soumita Das, PhD, associate professor of pathology, and Pradipta Ghosh, MD, professor of cellular and molecular medicine at UC San Diego School of Medicine and Moores Cancer Center at UC San Diego School of Medicine, with colleagues, found that the chronic use of nicotine-free e-cigarettes led to a “leaky gut,” in which microbes and other molecules seep out of the intestines, resulting in chronic inflammation.

Such inflammation can contribute to a variety of diseases and conditions, including inflammatory bowel disease, dementia, certain cancers, atherosclerosis, liver fibrosis, diabetes, and arthritis.

“The gut lining is an amazing entity. It consists of a single layer of cells that are meant to seal the body from the trillions of microbes, defend our immune system, and at the same time allow absorption of essential nutrients,” said Ghosh.

“Anything we eat or drink, our lifestyle choices in other words, has the ability to impact our gut microbes, the gut barrier and overall health. Now we know that what we smoke, such as e-cigarettes, negatively impacts it as well,” added Ghosh.

The researchers found that two chemicals used as a base for all e-cigarette liquid vapour — propylene glycol and vegetable glycerol — were the cause of inflammation.

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“Numerous chemicals are created when these two are heated to generate the fumes in vaping that cause the most damage, for which there are no current regulations,” said Ghosh.

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The carcinogens in an e-cigarette are the main cause for gut inflammation

“The safety of e-cigarettes has been debated fiercely on both sides. Nicotine content, and it’s addictive nature, has always been the major focus of those who argue against its safety; whereas lack of chemicals in the carcinogens that are present in cigarette smoke has been touted by the makers of e-cigarettes when marketing these products as a ‘healthy alternative.’ In reality, it’s the chemicals making up the vapour-liquid that we should be more concerned about as they are the cause of gut inflammation,” added Ghosh.

For the study, the team used 3D models of human intestinal tracts generated from patient cells and stimulated what happens when e-cigarette vapours enter the gut lining.

They noted that epithelial tight conjunction markers, which are zipper-like proteins that form the gut’s first physical barrier, began to break or loosen, causing pathogens from the vapor to seep into the surrounding immune system, wreaking havoc on protective epithelial cells that lie just beneath.

Such cells act as a defence against infection by clearing pathogenic microbes and initiating certain immune responses in the body. When exposed to the e-cigarette liquid, the cells were quickly overwhelmed, unable to effectively clear pathogens, resulting in gut inflammation.

High consumption of e-cigarettes makes the gut prone to bacterial infections

The study is part of the HUMANOID Center of Research Excellence, a core facility based at UC San Diego School of Medicine led by Ghosh and Das, who was the senior author of the study. Scientists at the centre use a variety of human organoids and other tools to model diseases and effects.

“This is the first study that demonstrates how chronic exposure to e-cigarettes increases the gut’s susceptibility to bacterial infections, leading to chronic inflammation and other health concerns,” said Das.

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“Given the importance of the gut barrier in the maintenance of the body’s immune homeostasis, the findings provide valuable insight into the potential long-term harmful effects of chronic use of e-cigarettes on our health,” added Das.

Ghosh said damage to the gut lining may be reversible over time if the inciting factor, in this case, e-cigarette use, is eliminated, but the effects of chronic inflammation upon other organs, such as the heart or brain, may be irreversible.

So, it’s time to call it quits!

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