Antacids are drugs designed to treat conditions caused by stomach acid. The body naturally includes a mechanism that produces hydrochloric acid in the stomach to help in the breakdown of proteins. This means that the PH level in the stomach is usually between 2 and 3 (PH is a measure of acidity or alkalinity; the lower it is, the more acidic an environment is). The stomach, esophagus, and duodenum have mechanisms that protect them from damage by the acid. When these mechanisms are inadequate or the acid is too much, it can result in inflammation or other conditions.
Antacids come in different forms including gums, dissolvable tablets, and liquid forms and they are used to treat conditions caused by high stomach acid levels including:
- Acid reflux – Can manifest in symptoms such as a bitter taste, pain when lying down and trouble swallowing.
- Heartburn- A burning sensation in the throat or chest
- Indigestion – Pain in the upper gut which feels like bloating
Are Antacids safe?
For most people, antacids are safe. However, people who suffer certain medical conditions should seek doctor’s advice before taking them:
- A person with heart failure may have restrictions when it comes to sodium consumption and sodium is a common ingredient in antacids.
- For people with kidney failure, Aluminium in the antacids can cause them develop a buildup of the same which can lead to toxicity.
- Additionally, when it comes to children, one should see a doctor before administering them because children hardly develop conditions as a result of excess stomach acid and so the symptoms maybe of something else. There are also specific antacids that are not recommended for children.
- Even though the effects of using antacids are rare, the risk can be increased when they are not taken as instructed by the physician
- Taking a larger dose than instructed can result in a buildup of calcium in the body which can cause nausea, vomiting, kidney stones and even more seriously, a change in the mental status of the patient. It can also interfere with the functioning of other drugs and therefore, people taking other drugs should not start taking antacids without a doctor’s prescription
Even though antacids are relatively safe to use and are available over the counter, talk to your doctor before using them and especially so if you are pregnant, have a history of stomach ulcers, are older than 60 years old and if you take more than 3 alcoholic drinks per day, it may be an issue of life and death. See a doctor also if after 2 weeks of taking a prescribed dose you get no relief.