An antacid is an over-the-counter medication mainly used for treating excess stomach acid and heartburns. Heartburn is the discomfort and burning pain that usually appears in the centre of the chest or in the throat due to stomach acid. It’s a common symptom of indigestion, however, it can also be a chronic problem resulting in GERD.
How Antacid Tablets Work?
These tablets are designed to treat the overproduction of stomach acid, the main cause of heartburn. Generally speaking, there are two types of antacids. The first type is based on ingredients such as calcium carbonate, sodium bicarbonate, magnesium trisilicate or aluminium hydroxide. These types of antacids help neutralise the stomach acid so that it doesn’t cause the painful burning feeling. However, they don’t do anything to reduce it.
The second type of this medication uses H2 blockers and the proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs) that work by decreasing the acid secretion in the stomach. The main reason why they are the least commonly used is that they take more time to work. However, they are used as prevention therapy for chronic stomach acid problems.
The Main Benefits of Using Antacids
Although antacids can come in liquid form, the antacid tablet products are the most commonly sold and the simplest to take. Additionally, the antacid tablet solutions can come in two forms: ones that are designed to be swallowed with water, and others that are designed to be dissolved in water to drink.
Whichever type you choose, the effect (benefit) will be the same because they are designed to treat:
- Acid Reflux – This medication is great in treating acid reflux that can include: bitter taste, pain when laying down, regurgitation, persistent dry cough and trouble with swallowing.
- Indigestion – Taking an antacid can also help with the pain you might be feeling in the upper gut. This pain can feel like gas or bloating, which is why antacids are also commonly used as stomach pain medicines.
- Heartburn – Treating heartburn with an antacid is maybe one of the most common reasons why people use them.
Important Piece of Information
Generally speaking, antacids are safe to be used by anyone, even by children. However, people with certain medical conditions should consult with their doctors before taking an antacid that contains magnesium carbonate or aluminium hydroxide.
- People with cardiovascular problems may have sodium restrictions to reduce fluid buildup. And since these neutralizing tablets may contain a lot of sodium, consulting with a doctor before using them is paramount.
- People with kidney failure can develop an aluminium build up after using antacids which can lead to aluminium toxicity. Unfortunately, people with these conditions also have electrolyte disorder. And since all antacid medications contain electrolytes this can create additional problems.
- Although these medications are safe for children, it’s best first to consult with a doctor. This is because children don’t typically develop excess stomach acid, which means that their symptoms could be related to something else.
Can You Take Antacid Tablets When Pregnant?
If pregnant, you may use antacids containing calcium, aluminium and magnesium as they’ve proven to be effective in treating pregnancy heartburn. However, the tablets that contain magnesium should be avoided during the last trimester of pregnancy as it could interfere with uterine contractions during labour. Before taking any form of antacids, it’s best to consult with your doctor.
Can You Take Too Many Antacid Tablets?
Serious side effects can happen if you take too much of this medication. Some of the side effects include constipation, change in the colour of the bowel movement, diarrhea, stomach cramps, etc. The tablets that contain calcium can also cause kidney stones, nausea, constipation, vomiting and mental status changes. Thus, if you feel like the prescribed antacid medication doesn’t work and you need more of it, it’s better to consult with your doctor. Don’t take more of the recommended daily dose listed on the product.
If you are taking other medications, you should consult with your doctor before taking antacids as they can interfere with them. For instance, if taking medications that increase the risk of bleeding like anticoagulant or antiplatelet drug, you should avoid taking stomach acid regulating medications. You should also consult with your doctor before taking aspirin-containing antacids if you are older than 60, if you drink more than three alcoholic drinks per day and if you have a history of bleeding disorder and stomach ulcers.
When to Call Your Doctor?
Although, antacids can relieve the symptoms of excess stomach acid, sometimes these symptoms can mean something more. If you have used such medications for a longer period of time and there are no improvements, you should immediately contact your doctor. Sometimes, an upset stomach can actually be a peptic ulcer or gastroesophageal reflux (GERD) and these medications can only soothe but not cure.
Unfortunately, some heart attack symptoms can also mimic stomach pain. For instance, if having a severe chest pain that lasts longer than two minutes and is followed by lightheadedness, shortness of breath, pain that radiates to the arms, shoulders and jaw, vomiting, nausea, neck or back pain, you should immediately call 000.