Nicotine is a highly addictive compound found in tobacco products and has long been associated with negative health effects. While most people are aware of the risks of smoking, the rise in popularity of vaping has raised questions about the effect of nicotine on our overall well-being. Understanding how nicotine affects different parts of the body is crucial for making informed decisions about its use. In this article, we will delve into the ways nicotine can influence our gut health and explore potential strategies for mitigating these effects.

The Difference between Smoking and Vaping in terms of Nicotine Consumption

Before diving into the effects of nicotine on gut health, it’s important to understand the differences between smoking and vaping in terms of nicotine consumption. Traditional cigarettes contain tobacco, which, when burned, releases nicotine along with thousands of other harmful chemicals. When smoking, nicotine is absorbed through the lungs and quickly enters the bloodstream, affecting various organs in the body including the gut.

On the other hand, vaping involves using electronic cigarettes or similar devices that heat a liquid containing nicotine. While vaping eliminates combustion and many of the harmful chemicals associated with smoking, it still delivers nicotine to the body along with its own set of potentially harmful chemicals. However, the absorption of nicotine through vaping is typically slower and less intense compared to smoking.

The Effects of Nicotine on Gut Microbiota Composition

Our gut plays a vital role in our overall health and well-being. It is responsible for digesting food, absorbing nutrients, and maintaining a healthy immune system. Several studies in mice and humans have shown that nicotine can disrupt the delicate balance of the gut microbes (microbiota) which consist of a diverse array of bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms that interact with each other and with our body [1-4]. These microorganisms help break down complex carbohydrates, produce essential vitamins, and support the development and function of our immune system. A healthy gut microbiota is crucial for maintaining proper digestive function and overall well-being.

Research has shown that nicotine can alter the composition and diversity of the gut microbiota [1-4] with evidence that certain types of diets can exacerbate these effects [1]. Nicotine exposure has been linked to a decrease in beneficial bacteria, such as Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus [2], and an increase in harmful bacteria, such as Enterobacteriaceae. These changes in gut microbiota composition have been associated with various gastrointestinal issues, including inflammation, increased intestinal permeability, and an increased risk of developing conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

Sex Differences in how Nicotine Affects Gut Health

Interestingly, there are sex differences in how nicotine affects gut health. In general, the current findings suggest strong sex-dependent effects of nicotine on the gut microbiota and its metabolic functions [3,4]. More specifically, studies have shown that female mice exposed to nicotine exhibit more severe gut dysbiosis and gut barrier dysfunction compared to male mice. However, further research is needed to fully understand the underlying mechanisms and to determine if similar sex differences exist in humans.

The Potential Benefits of Probiotics in Mitigating the Negative Effects of Nicotine on the Gut

Probiotics, which are live microorganisms that confer health benefits when consumed, have gained attention for their potential to mitigate the negative effects of nicotine on the gut. In fact, some studies suggest that certain strains of probiotic bacteria may be able to degrade nicotine in the gut [5]. Several studies have shown that certain strains of probiotics, such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, can help restore gut microbiota balance and improve gut health. These beneficial bacteria can help strengthen the gut barrier, reduce inflammation, and promote overall digestive wellness.

How to Support Gut Health while using Nicotine Products

While quitting nicotine products altogether is the best way to support gut health, there are steps you can take to minimize the potential negative effects if you choose to continue using them. First, maintaining a healthy diet rich in fiber and fermented foods can help promote a diverse and balanced gut microbiota. Additionally, considering the use of probiotic supplements or consuming probiotic-rich foods like yogurt, kefir, and sauerkraut that can help support gut health. Lastly, managing stress levels and engaging in regular physical activity can also contribute to a healthy gut.

Final Thoughts 

In conclusion, nicotine can have a significant influence on gut health, disrupting the delicate balance of the gut microbiota and potentially leading to various digestive issues. It is essential to understand the complex relationship between nicotine and gut health to make informed decisions about its use and prioritize our overall well-being. As with any health-related issue, if you’re concerned about your gut health or considering using nicotine products, consult with a healthcare professional for personalized advice and guidance.



[1] Ohue-Kitano, R., Banno, Y., Masujima, Y. et al. (2024). Gut microbial metabolites reveal diet-dependent metabolic changes induced by nicotine administration. Sci Rep 14, 1056.

[2] Gui, X., Yang, Z., & Li, M. D. (2021). Effect of Cigarette Smoke on Gut Microbiota: State of Knowledge. Frontiers in physiology, 12, 673341.

[3] Whitehead, A. K., Meyers, M. C., Taylor, C. M., Luo, M., Dowd, S. E., Yue, X., & Byerley, L. O. (2022). Sex-Dependent Effects of Inhaled Nicotine on the Gut Microbiome. Nicotine & tobacco research : official journal of the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco, 24(9), 1363–1370.

[4] Chi, L., Mahbub, R., Gao, B., Bian, X., Tu, P., Ru, H., & Lu, K. (2017). Nicotine Alters the Gut Microbiome and Metabolites of Gut-Brain Interactions in a Sex-Specific Manner. Chemical research in toxicology, 30(12), 2110–2119.

[5] Chen, B., Sun, L., Zeng, G., Shen, Z., Wang, K., Yin, L., Xu, F., Wang, P., Ding, Y., Nie, Q., Wu, Q., Zhang, Z., Xia, J., Lin, J., Luo, Y., Cai, J., Krausz, K. W., Zheng, R., Xue, Y., Zheng, M. H., … Jiang, C. (2022). Gut bacteria alleviate smoking-related NASH by degrading gut nicotine. Nature, 610(7932), 562–568.