Antacids really are drugs although we don't treat them as such. Like any drug, they can have dangerous side effects.

Antacids are drugs and you should be concerned about any chemicals or unnatural substances that you put into your body on a consistent basis. They are used so commonly for heartburn and acid reflux that we tend to think of them as harmless.

Look at this photo, it looks like a bottle full of candy, doesn't it? Why do you think they make them look like that?

Antacids have been around for a long time and we’re all familiar with them. They work on the principle that alkalis cancel out acids. In other words, they are stomach acid neutralizers. They are only effective until the alkalizing ingredients are used up, a couple of hours.

If used only occasionally they probably do no real harm, but if you’re living on them, they can have serious side effects.

Ingredients

Each type of antacid utilizes different active ingredients. Check the labels on what you are using. Following are the most popular ingredients and some common side effects:

  • Calcium Carbonate – May cause constipation or if over used may actually increase acid reflux instead of reducing it.
  • Aluminum Hydroxide – Can cause constipation. Don’t take it if you have kidney problems. May also reduce phosphates in your blood required for energy. Aluminum is also coming under suspicion as a factor contributing to Alzheimer’s disease although this is far from conclusive.
  • Magnesium Hydroxide and Magnesium Oxide – Diarrhea is a possible side effect. Don’t take it if you have kidney problems.
  • Sodium Bicarbonate – Can change the salts in your blood changing its chemistry.
  • Bismuth Salts – May cause Encephalopathy, a disease of the brain commonly called dementia.

The Drugs

  • Sodium Bicarbonate (Bicarbonate of soda, Alka-Seltzer®)
  • Calcium Carbonate (Alcalak®, Calcium Rich Rolaids®, Quick-Eze®, Rennie®, Titralac®, Tums®)
  • Magnesium Hydroxide (Phillips’® Milk of Magnesia)
  • Aluminum Hydroxide and Magnesium Hydroxide (Maalox®, Mylanta®)
  • Aluminum Hydroxide (Amphojel®, AlternaGEL®)
  • Bismuth Subsalicylate (Pepto-Bismol®)

Basically, if your body can’t get rid of the chemicals in these things, like if your kidneys are weak, or you are taking a lot of them, these chemicals can accumulate in the body causing serious health problems.

One of the worst side effects of antacid overuse is milk-alkali syndrome.his is where excess calcium accumulates in the blood and can lead to kidney failure. You can most easily get this by drinking lots of milk while taking these acid neutralizers over a long period of time or eating large amounts of antacids by themselves.

Reduced Stomach Acidity

Any time the acid level of the stomach is reduced you run the risk of not digesting food properly (causing more digestive problems) and of nutrients from the food not being absorbed by the body.

The natural acid levels in the stomach also kill off the bacteria, viruses and germs that we ingest everyday. This means low levels of stomach acid can lead to increased infections.

In Summary

Although we tend to take these drugs lightly, they are real medications with real consequences. In the end, they just mask the symptoms of acid reflux or heartburn and do nothing to fix the underlying problem, in fact, they make the problem worse in the long run.

Just like there may be health effects from the over use of antacids, acid suppressing drugs have similar and potentially worse side effects.

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