Millions of people take antacid medications either over the counter or prescribed by their physician to quell what they believe to be is excess acid in their stomach contributing to their heartburn and acid reflux pain. The numbers of people relying on these medications are rising every year. Experts are concerned that there is daily overuse of these medications. So, do antacid tablets work, why and how?
What are Antacids and Proton Pump Inhibitors?
Antacids are acid neutralizing products. Conventional thought is that your stomach is producing too much stomach acid and it needs to be neutralized. For the desired effect, they will do the job. Antacids come in tablets, liquid or chews. Some dissolve in water. Each of the below antacids has their own acid buffering ingredient. It’s important to know the differences of the active ingredients to make sure you are taking something that won’t aggravate a health condition or cause one.
Examples of popular over the counter antacids are:
- Milk of Magnesia
Brands, Ingredients, and Warnings:
- Alka-Selzer – contains sodium bicarbonate or baking soda. It also contains aspirin. If you suffer from high blood pressure, this is not the acid neutralizer you need. If you are taking blood thinning medication you’ll want to avoid Alka Seltzer due to the aspirin. Children below the age of 18 should never take aspirin as it can bring on a serious condition called Reye’s Syndrome.
- Tums, Maalox, Mylanta, Rolaids – contains calcium carbonate. Because Tums contains calcium, some doctors recommend taking Tums or these other brands as calcium supplements. NEVER do this! Calcium can only be absorbed if it is accompanied by Vitamin D, K2, and magnesium. Tums does not contain either of these vitamins. Free circulating calcium is not healthy and can be damaging to organs and contribute to artery plaque. Calcium carbonate can also cause constipation.
- Amphojel – This product contains Aluminum Hydroxide. Aluminum is a highly controversial mineral. If it’s not eliminated via the kidneys, it will store in the bones, liver, muscle, and brain. Adverse health effects have been shown in studies on animals. Aluminum is found in our environment and our food, but the biggest amounts consumed are in the form of antacids. Experts believe the true dangers of long term aluminum containing antacid use is seen over a period of time. Most studies have not followed up to reveal these long term effects. Aluminum based antacids are also not as effective or strong as other antacids and are less potent. They can cause constipation and calcium loss. If you suffer from kidney disease, do not take aluminum based antacids.
- Gaviscon – If you’re looking to protect the esophagus, an antacid like Gaviscon contains a foaming agent, alginic acid, that blocks the stomach acid from entering it.
Proton Pump Inhibitors/H2 Blockers
Antacids neutralize the acid in your stomach, proton pump inhibitors reduce the amount of stomach acid produced in the wall of the stomach. If you are suffering from ulcers in the stomach or esophagus, or if you suffer from GERD, your doctor may recommend Proton Pump inhibitors in order to heal the ulcers or reduce heartburn.
Examples of H2 blockers and proton pump inhibitors:
- Nexium, Nexium IV, Nexium 24 hr.
- Prevacid, Prevacid IV, Prevacid 24 hr.
Proton Pumps are similar in action and there is no evidence to suggest that taking one over the other is more effective. However, they differ with how they are broken down by the liver and each may have their own and different drug interactions. The effects of some may last longer than others too.
It’s important to take the lowest dose possible and for the shortest duration of time to avoid vitamin deficiencies and health problems.
Reducing stomach acid with proton pump inhibitor use is not good for future digestive health. Our bodies need strong stomach acid to digest our food and assimilate certain vitamins for proper absorption. Use with caution and care and always under the supervision of your doctor.
A More Natural And Effective Approach
Using an antacid product or proton pump inhibitor product may be useful and in some cases necessary in the short term, but clearly, long term use can cause worse digestive issues. It is always best to find the root cause of your stomach issues and heal them naturally. For more natural heartburn remedies that are effective read here.
Antacids are used to neutralize stomach acid for the occasional discomfort of heartburn. These products do what they are intended to do. The ingredients in antacids can be dangerous for the young and contraindicated for others. For instance, any antacid with aspirin cannot be taken by those under the age of 18 or those on blood thinning medications.
Antacids that contain calcium should never be used as a supplement, although many are, due to the danger of free calcium in the bloodstream.
Antacids that contain aluminum are not well studied to be harmless to toxicity in the human body. If you suffer from kidney disease, these should be avoided.
Antacids are different than Proton Pump Inhibitors. Proton Pump Inhibitors reduce stomach acid. Reducing stomach acid has long range health implications and should only be used for a very short duration of time.
Finding the root cause of your digestive issues is important. Future health problems are implicated in ignoring or masking heartburn, reflux, and other stomach issues. If you are serious about getting off the OTC antacid or Proton Pump Inhibitor train, sign up for this free webinar to get to the root of your problems and finally get the healing you need.