Does smoking, alcohol, or coffee put you at risk for Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis?

Many people enjoy a nice cup of coffee to get started in the morning, or a nice glass of wine with dinner, but overdoing it can cause health issues. While smoking has been widely associated with IBD, there is conflicting information about alcohol and coffee. A new study published in Inflammatory Bowel Diseases looked at smoking, alcohol usage, and coffee consumption to determine whether they are causally related to Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis (UC). 

The study shows that there’s no clear evidence that either smoking related to genetics, coffee consumption, or alcohol consumption are causally associated with the risk for Crohn’s or UC. However, results suggest a potential link between the age of smoking initiation and UC, and between early alcohol use and Crohn’s disease.

The researchers looked at genetic variations to examine the potential causal effect of an exposure on a disease. It utilized 540 of the most common genetic variations for the three potentially addictive substances—nicotine, alcohol, and caffeine—to determine its effects on Crohn’s and UC (12,194 CD cases, 12,366 UC cases, and 25,042 controls of European ancestry). 

The study found the following:

  • There is no evidence for a causal association between coffee consumption and risk of Crohn's or UC
  • There is only suggestive evidence for a link between genetically predicted age of smoking initiation and UC risk, and between genetically predicted alcohol use and CD risk.
  • Negative health impacts linked to smoking and alcohol consumption at a young age should be taken into account.

According to the study, more research needs to be conducted to determine whether the age someone started smoking, or smoking alone, is mostly affecting the risk for developing UC. The Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation is currently funding a study that is focused on evaluating whether smoking exposure correlates with severity of disease course. 

Additionally, a recent study published in Clinical Gastroenterology & Hepatology and presented at the 2021 Crohn’s & Colitis Congress® showed that there is an increased risk of colorectal neoplasia development in Crohn’s patients who are actively or passively exposed to cigarette smoke, and an increase among UC patients who smoked previously.

If you do take part in smoking, coffee drinking or alcohol consumption, you may want to keep a journal of how you are feeling after doing so. If your Crohn’s or UC symptoms worsen, it may be best to eliminate these from daily living. It’s important to speak with your healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns regarding smoking or coffee or alcohol consumption and your IBD.