Side Effects of Antacids and Acid Blockers

To understand the side effects of antacids and acid blocking drugs it is useful to examine why they exist, how they work and what they do to the gastric system. Antacids are basically alkaline substances in pill form that directly neutralize the acid in the stomach but do not necessarily affect the secretion of new acid, whereas acid blocking medication such as proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) work by suppressing the body's natural secretion of gastric juice into the stomach. The importance of stomach acid in the digestive process has been described elsewhere. While suppression of stomach acid does temporarily reduce pain and esophageal inflammation it does little to address the underlying root cause of reflux. Most antacids include a disclaimer on their packaging that consumers should not use them for longer than 14 days while acid blocking medicines are to be discontinued after at most 8 weeks. There is a good reason for this.

When stomach acid is removed either by neutralizing it or by blocking it's production, the body experiences a gradual health decline due to mal-absorption of nutrients. For instance, low stomach acid impairs the body's ability to absorb calcium and can lead to rickets (a softening of the bones). In one study acid blockers were linked to a 160% increase in osteoporosis related hip fractures in the elderly. Mal-absorption of vitamin B12 (cobalamin) has also been linked to impaired nerve and brain function. Other nutrients that are mal-absorbed due to low stomach acid levels include: iron, magnesium, selenium, zinc, folic acid, vitamins A, thiamin (B1), riboflavin (B6), riboflavin (B6), and E.

Pathology of Low Stomach Acid Related DiseasesPharmaceutical drugs operate like low grade poisons by interrupting or altering the natural chemical processes of the body thereby suppressing symptoms but leaving the underlying causes of reflux unresolved. In the case of acid blockers this is achieved either directly or indirectly by interfering with the factory (parietal cells) which produce the stomach's vital gastric juices. These artificial chemicals can inadvertently have effects which go beyond digestion however, altering chemical processes in the body that regulate neurological or immune function for instance.

For people taking other medications the chance of drug interactions increases were one drug alters or amplifies the effects of another.

Long-term use often leads the body to compensate by producing more of the hormone "gastrin". This hormone signals the stomach to increase acid production acid. Excessive levels of gastrin have been linked to the growth of esophageal, pancreatic, and gastric cancer cells.

Most dangerous of all is the weakening of the natural anti-microbial action of stomach acid which normally kills most bacteria and fungi as soon as they enter the gut. When this natural defense mechanism is compromised bacterial and fungal colonies can flourish. Low stomach acid levels have been linked to candida overgrowth and bacterial infections in severe cases leading to health problems such as gastritis, ulcers, stomach cancer or even heart failure.

Testimonials

I have been implementing a few steps in your guide such as the biomechanical items; smaller meals, sitting up after meals and changing my diet a bit. I had been on the ACV as well but this hadn't been helping much. One thing I have done which had very positive results so far is the diaphragm exercises. This has been great and within only a few days I had noticed a significant difference. My reflux now appears to be well under control again so thanks very much.

Allan W.
Sydney, Australia

I was diagnosed with LPR in September 09. After implementing your program my symptoms have been reduced significantly. I still have occasional cough but otherwise feel fine. Best of all I'm no longer taking meds.

William S.
Venice, Florida

Your site is one of the best I have ever seen - and I spend a lot of time on my computer. It is very instructive. Most of us do not know or care to know the side effects. I don't understand why other sites claim antacids are harmless. Thanks a lot. May God bless you and your team.

Birbad S.
Mumbai, India

Another risk is that antacid drugs can facilitate a common food borne illness including salmonella infection. Acid lowering drugs significantly increase the risk of food poisoning. About 3% of food poisonings are potentially life threatening and require hospitalization. Those most at risk are the pregnant, children, the elderly and the immune-compromised or immune-suppressed.

Side Effects of Antacids

Common US brands of over the counter antacids include: Pepto-Bismol, Milk of Magnesia, Rolaids, Tums, Alka-Seltzer, Mylanta, Rolaids, Maalox, and Gaviscon. Natural antacids may also be present in your grocery cart in items such as sodium bicarbonate (baking soda).

Calcium Based Antacids

Excessive calcium levels from prolonged use of calcium-carbonate based antacids have been linked to renal failure, alkalosis, hypercalcemia and milk-alkali syndrome, which has serious toxicity and can be fatal1. Compounds containing calcium may also increase calcium output in the urine. A condition that has been linked with kidney stones2. When calcium based antacids were first introduced they were marketed with a curious side benefit, namely that they supplemented the bodies calcium supply. This turned out to be false because the body needs stomach acid to absorb calcium in the first place and the form in which calcium is delivered is not food based and thus is very difficult to absorb as a nutrient. The manufacturers have since removed these claims. In fact acid reducing drugs have been linked in several studies to hip fractures and other osteoporosis related injuries, particularly in the elderly.

Here is a list of the published side-effects of antacids containing calcium:

  • Constipation (severe and continuing)
  • Difficult or painful urination
  • Frequent urge to urinate
  • Headache (continuing)
  • Loss of appetite (continuing)
  • Mood or mental changes
  • Muscle pain or twitching
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Nervousness or restlessness
  • Slow breathing
  • Unpleasant taste
  • Unusual tiredness or weakness

Magnesium Based Antacids

Some brands of antacids use magnesium instead of calcium with the generic names magnesium carbonate or magnesium hydroxide. Published side effects include:

  • Difficult or painful urination (with magnesium trisilicate)
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Feeling of discomfort (continuing)
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Loss of appetite
  • Mood or mental changes
  • Muscle weakness
  • Unusual tiredness or weakness
  • Weight loss

Sodium Bicarbonate Based Antacids

Some brands of antacids use sodium bicarbonate. The published side effects are:

  • Frequent urge to urinate
  • Headache (continuing)
  • Loss of appetite (continuing)
  • Muscle pain or twitching
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Nervousness or restlessness
  • Slow breathing
  • Swelling of feet or lower legs
  • Unpleasant taste
  • Unusual tiredness or weakness
  • Chalky taste
  • Constipation (mild)
  • Diarrhea or laxative effect
  • Increased thirst
  • Speckling or whitish discoloration of stools
  • Stomach cramps

Aluminum Based Antacids

Some brands of antacids use aluminum in the form of aluminum hydroxide. The published side effects are:

  • Bone pain
  • Constipation (severe and continuing)
  • Feeling of discomfort (continuing)
  • Loss of appetite (continuing)
  • Mood or mental changes
  • Muscle weakness
  • Swelling of wrists or ankles
  • Weight loss (unusual)

Side Effects of Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPI)

Proton Pump inhibitors block the H+/K+ ATPase enzyme reaction (or proton pump) in the final phase of acid secretion by the parietal cells. PPIs are the most potent of all acid blockers on the market. In the US this class drugs includes; Prilosec, Prevacid, Aciphex and Nexium or generically Omeprazole.

The published side effects include:

  • Anxiety
  • Diarrhea
  • Skin rash or itching
  • Abdominal or stomach pain
  • Increased or decreased appetite
  • Joint pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Cold or flu-like symptoms
  • Constipation
  • Increased cough
  • Mental depression
  • Muscle pain
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Unusual bleeding or bruising
Incidence unknown:
  • Abdominal tenderness
  • Back, leg or stomach pains
  • Bleeding gums
  • Blistering, peeling, loosening of skin
  • Bloating
  • Bloody, black, or tarry stools
  • Change in mental status
  • Chest pain
  • Chills
  • Clay colored stools
  • Constipation
  • Cough or hoarseness
  • Dark or bloody urine
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • General body swelling
  • High fever
  • Hives
  • Indigestion
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lower back or side pain
  • Nosebleeds
  • Painful or difficult urination
  • Pains in stomach, side or abdomen, possibly radiating to the back
  • Pale skin
  • Puffiness or swelling of the eyelids or around the eyes, face, lips or tongue
  • Red irritated eyes
  • Pinpoint red spots on skin
  • Red skin lesions, often with a purple center
  • Seizures
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sore throat
  • Sores, ulcers or white spots on lips or in mouth
  • Swelling of feet or lower legs
  • Swollen or painful glands
  • Tightness in chest
  • Unusual tiredness or weakness
  • Wheezing
  • Yellowing of the eyes or skin
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Bleeding, blistering, burning, coldness, discoloration of skin
  • Feeling of pressure, hives, infection, inflammation, itching, lumps, numbness, pain, rash, redness, scarring, soreness, stinging, swelling, tenderness, tingling, ulceration, or warmth at injection site
  • Mild nausea
Rare:
  • Acid or sour stomach
  • Bad, unusual or unpleasant (after)taste
  • Belching
  • Burning, crawling, itching, numbness, prickling, "pins and needles", or tingling feelings
  • Change in taste
  • Feeling faint, dizzy, or light-headedness
  • Feeling of heat or warmth
  • Flushing or redness of skin, especially on face and neck
  • Heartburn
  • Indigestion
  • Mild diarrhea
  • Mild headache
  • Mild vomiting
  • Stomach discomfort, upset or pain
  • Sweating
  • Incidence not known
  • Difficulty in speaking
  • Decrease in frequency of urination
  • Decrease in urine volume
  • Decrease in passing urine [dribbling]

Side Effects of H2 Antagonists

H2 antagonists (aka. H2 receptor antagonists) operate by blocking chemical pathways that allow histamine to trigger the parietal cells to initiate stomach acid production. In the US, these drugs have been largely superseded by the PPI class of drugs which are more effective at blocking acid secretion. This drug class includes US brands such as: Axid, Pepcid, Tagamet, and Zantac. Their generic equivalents are: Cimetidine, Famotidine and Ranitidine. The published side effects of H2 antagonists include:

  • Constipation
  • Decrease in sexual desire
  • Decreased sexual ability (especially in patients with Zollinger-Ellison disease who have received high doses of cimetidine for at least 1 year)
  • Diarrhea
  • Difficult urination
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Dryness of mouth or skin
  • Headache
  • Increased or decreased urination
  • Increased sweating
  • Loss of hair
  • Ringing or buzzing in ears
  • Runny nose
  • Swelling of breasts or breast soreness in females and males
  • Trouble in sleeping
Rarely:
  • Abdominal pain
  • Back, leg, or stomach pain
  • Bleeding or crusting sores on lips
  • Blistering, burning, redness, scaling, or tenderness of skin
  • Blisters on palms of hands and soles of feet
  • Changes in vision or blurred vision
  • Confusion
  • Coughing or difficulty in swallowing
  • Dark-colored urine
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Fast, pounding, or irregular heartbeat
  • Fever and/or chills
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • General feeling of discomfort or illness
  • Hives
  • Inflammation of blood vessels
  • Joint pain
  • Light-colored stools
  • Mood or mental changes, including anxiety, agitation, confusion, hallucinations (seeing, hearing, or feeling things that are not there), mental depression, nervousness, or severe mental illness
  • Muscle cramps or aches
  • Nausea, vomiting, or loss of appetite
  • Pain
  • Peeling or sloughing of skin
  • Red or irritated eyes
  • Shortness of breath
  • Skin rash or itching
  • Slow heartbeat
  • Sore throat
  • Sores, ulcers, or white spots on lips, in mouth, or on genitals
  • Sudden difficult breathing
  • Swelling of face, lips, mouth, tongue, or eyelids
  • Swelling of hands or feet
  • Swollen or painful glands
  • Tightness in chest
  • Troubled breathing
  • Unusual bleeding or bruising
  • Unusual tiredness or weakness
  • Unusually slow or irregular breathing
  • Wheezing
  • Yellow eyes or skin

Educate, Don't Medicate

More Testimonials

I have found the guide very useful, both because it describes GERD in great detail and also because of the "natural" alternatives it offers to medication. I have just recently weaned myself off Prevacid after 8 years. Your guide has given me lots of ideas which I am gradually implementing.

Linda H.
Niagara Falls, Canada

This is very good information here. I wish it were available to me 15 years ago. I had my gall bladder removed because of gallstones. I believed I had too much acid because that's what doctors told me. I could have prevented that surgery.

Sylvia W.
Berkeley, California

Your content is excellent. I am so pleased I purchased the package.

Isabel D.
Sydney Australia

I have purchased other reflux remedy products online from other companies. I was pleased to find such high quality content like posture exercises and natural remedies here that I have not found elsewhere. The physiological explanations seem to make good sense as well. I look forward to using the site more.

Herb F.
Portland, Oregon

Your package really helps my daughter to understand her problem and suggests how to help her.

Raymond L.
Gainesville, Florida

The digestive system is at the very core of our well-being. Every part of the body is affected by what we eat and how the digestive system absorbs the nutrients from our foods.

Every year, millions of unsuspecting consumers start a regimen of acid blocking drugs and antacids that suppress symptoms but do nothing to treat the underlying causes of disease. For most this will become a lifelong habit with a high cost; not only in monetary terms, but also through the long list of side effects and gradually declining overall health.

Thankfully, there is an alternative. The Reflux Defense System Guide is based on proven natural solutions that are customized to your individual dietary habits, physical condition and lifestyle. The guide is the most comprehensive resource to treat reflux, cure GERD and improve digestive health available on the web or anywhere. No other resource can offer the breadth and depth of proven drug-free solutions.

References

  1. Gabriely, I.; Leu, J. P.; Barzel, U. S. (May 1, 2008). "Clinical problem-solving, back to basics". New England Journal of Medicine 358 (18): 1952–6. doi:10.1056/NEJMcps0706188. PMID 18450607.
  2. Cooke, N.; Teitelbaum, Ss; Avioli, L. V. (1978). "Antacid-induced osteomalacia and nephrolithiasis". Archives of Internal Medicine 138 (6): 1007–9. doi:10.1001/archinte.138.6.1007. PMID 646554.