What are antacids?
They are a class of medications that are used for neutralizing the acid in the stomach. The scale of pH can range from 1 to 14 where 7 is neutral, above 7 is alkaline and below 7 is acidic. A normal gastric acid pH ranges from 1.5-3.5. These medicines are used to relieve symptoms of acid reflux, indigestion or heartburn.
How do antacids work?
By neutralising the acid in the stomach, they help relieve symptoms like burning in the throat or chest, a persistent dry cough, a bitter taste in the mouth, regurgitation and pain when laying down. These medications are available in three forms: liquid, chewable gummies or tablets and tablets that can be dissolved in water. Some of the most popular brands you can find in pharmacies are Alka-Seltzer, Maalox, Mylanta, Rolaids, Tums and others.
What are some ingredients found in antacids?
Most antacid drugs contain at least one of these key ingredients: magnesium hydroxide, calcium carbonate, sodium bicarbonate and/or aluminium hydroxide. While they are all known for their ability to neutralize stomach acid, it’s very important to know more about each of these ingredients so you can find the one that will work best for you.
- Aluminium and magnesium – Aluminium salts dissolve slowly in the stomach, thus they slowly relieve symptoms. But, they may also cause constipation. On the other hand, magnesium salts work quickly but they can cause diarrhea. A mix of both of these salts can make a balance of the side effects. So, using them together is often considered an effective treatment.
- Calcium carbonate – This is a fast-acting and strong antacid which has been used for centuries. Due to its great effectiveness, many products have it in their content. Antacids that contain calcium carbonate can have longer effect compared to those that contain magnesium or sodium bicarbonate. These drugs usually contain between 500-1,000 milligrams of calcium carbonate per tablet. However, make sure you’re using this drug as directed. Do not exceed the recommended dosage!
- Sodium bicarbonate – This ingredient is usually found in products like Alka-Seltzer. It is known for its quick effectiveness, but it is also quickly eliminated from the stomach, so the results may not last long. Because it can produce a great amount of carbon dioxide gas, this ingredient may cause flatulence or belching. Since it has high sodium content, sodium bicarbonate may not be appropriate for people who have congestive heart failure, kidney issue, high blood pressure or people who are on a salt-restricted diet. Also, it’s not recommended for pregnant women either, so it’s important to consult with your doctor before taking it.
The overall effectiveness of stomach ache tablets usually depends on how much was ingested. The relief will also depend on your gastrointestinal tract. Pharmacists would probably recommend you to take it 1-3 hours after meals with water, juice or milk. Also, you can read the label and follow the directions on it. If you still feel discomfort after you’ve already taken a few doses of the stomach antacid, you may have some more serious problem and the smartest thing to do in this case would be consulting with your doctor.
Although these medicines typically relieve symptoms, behind them might be some other serious condition. So, it’s important to know how to recognize these symptoms and how to respond to them. Antacids can only soothe and not cure more serious conditions. For example, some heart attack symptoms can also mimic stomach pains. Lightheadedness, shortness of breath, pain that radiates to your arms, shoulders and jaw, back or neck pain, nausea or vomiting are all symptoms that show you should visit a doctor.
Antacids may interfere with other drugs, so always consult with your pharmacist or doctor first. For example, if you are taking some other medication that increases the risk of bleeding, then you shouldn’t take antacids with aspirin. If you still decide to use aspirin-containing antacids and you have a history of a bleeding disorder or stomach ulcers, you are older than 60 or you drink three or more alcoholic drinks per day – you should mandatorily consult with your doctor.
On the other hand, people who suffer from high blood pressure should avoid antacids that contain sodium bicarbonate, while those with kidney stones should avoid antacids with calcium carbonate. Kidney stone sufferers should also avoid antacids with aluminium and magnesium unless recommended by a doctor. So, remember, these medications are great for quickly relieving heartburn symptoms but they don’t treat underlying conditions. So, if you are suffering from heartburn for more than two weeks, talk to your doctor as soon as possible.