What Are The Side Effects Of Antacids?

Antacids are medications which brings immediate relief from symptoms of heart burn and intestinal gas. It is a substance which counteracts stomach acidity with a neutralizing action. It increases the pH of the gastric juices to reduce stomach acidity. The mucous lining of the gastrointestinal tract reacts adversely to the presence of excess acids in the stomach. The hydrochloric acid erodes the stomach wall and causes discomfort. In conditions like gastric ulcers, where nerves in the lining of the stomach are exposed, it can cause a lot of pain.

Antacids are widely available over the counter. Some people have the habit of randomly popping them without understanding the

long term side effects of antacids

. As much as they do good, they need to be taken with caution and as prescribed by the health care provider. They come with a disclaimer which makes them suitable for use for a period of only 14 days.It needs to be understood that antacids suppresses stomach acids temporarily. This may reduce the discomfort, pain and esophageal irritation and inflammation but does not address the underlying root cause.

Side Effects of Antacids

What are the side effects of Antacids?

Calcium Based Antacids

: Most over the counter antacids like Tums, Pepto Bismol comes fortified with calcium carbonate. Excessive intake of chewable antacids can cause a calcium overdose. Taking calcium supplements above the recommended dosage of 1200 to 1500 mg daily, can lead to eventual renal failure, hypercalcaemia and alkalosis. Episodes of vomiting and stomach pain are also reported from antacid overdose. Excessive calcium compounds can lead to the presence of excess calcium in urine. This condition has been linked with kidney stones. Food based calcium is best absorbed by the body. These in no way improve bone health. Rather acid neutralizing drugs promote malabsorption of food based calcium in the gastrointestinal tract and increase the risks of osteoporosis, hip fractures etc.
Some of the published adverse effects of calcium based antacids are as follows:

  • Constipation
  • Head aches
  • Pain while urinating
  • Loss of appetite
  • Altered mental status
  • Unpleasant taste
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle pain
  • Nervousness

Magnesium based Antacids

: Antacids like Milk of Magnesia are magnesium based. They have compounds of magnesium carbonate and magnesium hydroxide. The magnesium based antacids have almost all the side effects of calcium based antacids. It is more prone to cause diarrhea than constipation. It can cause hypermagnesemia in patients with renal failure. The adverse effects are as follows:

  • Pain while urinating
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Appetite loss
  • Mood changes
  • Fatigue
  • Unusual weight loss
  • Muscle weakness

Sodium Bicarbonate based Antacids

: This category of antacids has a lot similar side effects like the other two categories. The symptoms of the adverse effects of these drugs are as follows:

  • Hypertension
  • Eventual heart failure
  • Frequent urge to urinate
  • Headache
  • Low appetite
  • Muscle pain and weakness
  • Nervousness
  • Swelling of feet
  • Unpleasant taste
  • Nausea

Aluminium based Antacids

: Aluminium based antacids in the form of aluminium hydroxide can cause the symptoms discussed below. It can form insoluble aluminum phosphate complexes and can accumulate in the body especially in patients of renal failure. This category of antacids cannot be taken by pregnant women.

  • Bone pain
  • Constipation
  • Appetite loss
  • Altered mental status
  • Swelling in wrists or ankles.
  • Unusual weight loss.

Side effects of lowering stomach acids with antacids

Apart from the malabsorption of calcium as discussed earlier there are some

general side effects of antacids

which are as follows:

  • Low gastric acids are associated with malabsorption of other nutrients like vitamin B-12 (required for brain and nerve functioning). Other mal absorbed nutrients are vitamin A, iron, magnesium, zinc, folic acid, selenium, thiamin (B1), riboflavin (B6) etc.
  • Prolonged use results in the over secretion of the hormone gastrin. This hormone in turn signals the brain to increase the production of stomach acids. Increased levels of acids has been linked with gastric, pancreatic and esophageal cancers.
  • The stomach acids are part of the natural protective mechanism of the body. They kill harmful bacteri and fungi. Low stomach acids can help bacteria and fungi harbor in the gastrointestinal tract. It is linked with yeast infections like candida overgrowth and bacterial infections like that of helicobacter pylori. The latter is linked to serious health conditions like ulcers, gastritis, stomach cancer etc.
  • Low stomach acids increases the susceptibility for food poisoning and food borne illness like salmonella infection. The people who are mostly at risk are the immune compromised, the elderly, expecting moms and children.

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