Antacids – The Good and Bad of It


Antacids are medicines taken when there is an acute burning sensation in the middle of chest or upper part of stomach accompanied by acidic regurgitations. In a layman’s saying, when “acidity” strikes, antacids are taken.
This inexpensive, OTC medicine works wonders in providing some quick relief from the discomfort of heartburn.
Antacids neutralises the pH balance in the stomach and bring down the acid level that is being produced in the stomach or one can say they make the digestive juices of stomach less acidic. Indications: Antacids can be taken in the following conditions.

  • Heartburn
  • Indigestion or gastritis
  • Mild gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Peptic/duodenal ulcer

Limitations: Antacids should not be given without a physician’s recommendation to,

  • Children under 6 years of age
  • Patients suffering with ulcerative colitis
  • Old age people with bone problems or Alzheimer’s disease (as the aluminium content in antacids may worsen the condition)
  • People suffering from heart or liver diseases, rectal bleeding or inflamed bowel

Antacid usage: How and when?

  • Antacids can be taken when the symptoms are “expected”, usually after a spicy and greasy meal, overeating or along with heavy dose of certain antibiotics
  • Chewable antacids should be chewed thoroughly and then swallowed with a glass of water
  • For liquid antacids, shake the bottle well before consuming
  • Liquid forms work faster

Harmful effects of overuse It’s not always a good idea to pop an antacid just like that. Like several other medications and drugs, it too has certain side effects. The side effects can range from,

  • Based on the ingredient, magnesium in the antacid can cause diarrhoea and calcium or aluminium can cause constipation. Often brands with calcium are also responsible for causing kidney stones
  • When large amounts of aluminium based antacids are consumed, there is a risk for calcium loss, which can lead to weak bones or osteoporosis
  • Chalky taste, increased thirst, whitish or pale coloured stools or stomach cramps can also be experienced

Contraindications of antacids

  • Though some brands of antacids are considered safe but during breastfeeding and pregnancy, consulting a physician is advisable
  • Kidney or other chronic illnesses
  • Symptoms indicating appendicitis
  • If someone is on low sodium diet or already taking calcium

Please note that, antacids

  • Give only symptomatic relief
  • If the heartburn is a regular condition, consult a doctor to find out the underlying problem
  • Meant to be consumed occasionally and should not be made a habit
  • Should not be taken continuously for more than 15 days without consulting a doctor
  • Antacids can delay the absorption of other medicines
  • If you are on any other medication, take it either one hour before or four hours after you take the antacid

Antacids are only a quick fix, not a permanent cure.