Antacids can disrupt regular bowel movement, which may lead to either diarrhea or constipation. Antacids also have an unpleasant taste, which may cause nausea.
Antacids are oral medications often recommended in the treatment of heartburn and stomach ailments like ulcers and gastritis. It is observed that the production of stomach acids worsens the pain associated with digestion problems. In such cases, antacids are prescribed that neutralize stomach acids, which help to relieve stomach irritation. Like any other medication, antacids too are not free from side effects. It is discussed below:
Types of Antacids
Before knowing about its side effects, it is necessary to know the different options available when it comes to buying antacids. The classification of antacids is based on the ingredients used in preparing these medicines. Commonly known antacids sold under various brands are Mylanta, Maalox, Titralac and Milk of magnesia. Following are the substances that come in the list of antacids:
- Sodium bicarbonate
- Aluminum hydroxide
- Calcium carbonate
- Magnesium hydroxide
To be honest, short-term use of antacids will rarely cause any trouble. The question of side effects usually arises when the prescription dosage is not followed or the medication is taken on a long-term basis. Be it any type of antacid, some common side effects that can occur from taking this medicine are given below:
Bothersome Side Effects
Antacids may interfere with normal bowel movement. People taking antacids may suffer from irregular bowel pattern (constipation) while some complain about frequent bowel movement (diarrhea). Antacids can trigger feeling of vertigo and cause minor to moderate headache. There have also been reports of nauseating feeling in people who are put on antacids. Persistent nausea due to antacid can lead to loss of appetite. Fatigue that doesn’t go away even after taking rest, has also been linked to intake of antacids. Consuming antacids can also lead to mood swings and tendency to urinate frequently.
Some side effects are specific to the type of antacid that is being taken. For instance, people put on sodium bicarbonate based antacids may experience muscle twitching (abnormal contraction of muscles) while those taking magnesium antacids may complain about irregular heartbeat.
Worrisome Side Effects
Long-term use of antacids is indeed worrisome. Frequent use of antacids, triggers decline in digestive health. They are as discussed below:
Malabsorption of Nutrients
The main function of stomach acid is to promote absorption of nutrients from ingested food. It achieves them by stimulating certain stomach acids that absorb essential nutrients like proteins, minerals, and vitamins from the digested food. However, the neutralizing effect of antacids can deprive the body of essential nutrients. This happens because the stomach acids are no longer able to work efficiently and so absorption of nutrients take a backseat, thanks to too much use of antacids. This can weaken the immune system and make a person susceptible to wide range of infectious diseases. So, one of the worrisome side effects that can occur due to inadequate absorption of nutrients like calcium is deteriorating bone health, which may lead to rickets or osteoporosis.
Frequent use of antacids defeats the purpose of using this medication as the person is bound to suffer from stomach problems. Stomach acids also prevent overgrowth of bacteria that can cause wide range of digestion problems. However, as antacids neutralize stomach acids, their effectiveness to control bacteria growth diminishes. This can cause gastritis, a condition caused by invasion of H.pylori bacteria. With the increase in population of bacteria, the person may also suffer from stomach ulcers.
Abnormally High Calcium Levels
This can occur with long-term use of calcium-based antacids. When calcium levels deviate from the normal range resulting from abuse of antacids, it can lead to the formation of calcium-based kidney stones, which if not treated can damage the kidneys permanently. Hypercalcemia has also been associated with intake of antacids containing calcium.
Going for natural antacids instead of synthetic ones, greatly reduces the risk of side effects. Fruits like bananas and dairy products like milk, ice cream, and yogurt act as natural antacids and certainly help to relieve discomfort associated with heartburn and stomach ailments.
Many people ask, ‘Do antacids and pregnancy go well together?’ They are safe, provided pregnant women are taking it in the right dosage and for a short duration. Using antacid for not more than a week is the best way to prevent its side effects from occurring. Many a time, reducing the dosage works in favor of the patient. However, if the side effects keep on bothering you and do not improve after lowering the dosage, it is time to consult a doctor to resolve the issue.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.