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What are Antacids? Uses, Side Effects and Precautions

Aug 9, 2022


Sometimes, humans experience stomach discomfort and pain due to excessive acid production. This can also result in stomach ulcers. Antacids are chemicals that help neutralize gastric acids.

Acid reflux or heartburn is caused by stomach acidity. Antacids are used to reduce this discomfort. They are used orally to counteract the effects of acidity. So, what is an antacid exactly? Antacids are alkaline ions that immediately counteract the stomach’s excessive gastric acids.


When the stomach secretes too much acid, it produces discomfort, bloating, a loss of appetite, and various other health issues. Acid overproduction might potentially result in life-threatening conditions such as stomach ulcers. So, how would you keep the acids under control? 

What are Antacids?

You come across this word, antacid, often. What is an antacid? They are a type of medication that neutralizes stomach acids. These pills include magnesium, sodium bicarbonate, aluminum, and calcium, which function as alkalis or bases in the gut to neutralize the pH.


The pH scale measures the concentration of hydrogen ions in every solution and indicates how alkaline or acidic it is. The pH scale has a minimum value of one and a high maximum of fourteen. A substance is neutral if its pH is seven, alkaline if it is greater than seven, and acidic if it is below seven. Usually, the pH of stomach acid ranges between 1.5 and 3.5.  

Commonly Used Antacid Medicines

Following are some of the most commonly used antacids:


Sodium Bicarbonate (NaHCO3)

It is a mild and short-acting antacid. Even though it is a safe household treatment, the salt level is harmful. NAHCO3 is also known as baking soda. Although physicians do not normally advocate sodium bicarbonate as a treatment, it is a popular constituent in various patent medications. Bicarbonate has an effervescent property, which explains the existence of commercial pain relievers/antacid mixes such as Bromo-SeltzerTM and Alka-SeltzerTM. This property combines with the stomach’s hydrochloric acid (HCl) to produce carbon dioxide (CO2), which is quickly absorbed but sometimes causes a pleasurable burp.

Bicarbonate misuse may induce severe alkalosis (abnormal pH levels in the human body). People with hypertension, who  are advised to limit their salt intake, should avoid bicarbonate.


Aluminum Hydroxide (Al(OH)3)

Aluminum Hydroxide is weak and has a gradual effect on the human body. Furthermore, the efficacy of neutralization differs among commercial varieties of Al(OH)3.

Aluminum may protect the mucosal lining from the damaging effects of toxins such as alcohol.Al(OH)3 has a lot more uses. It aids in the adsorption of phosphate in the intestinal lumen, resulting in indissoluble aluminum phosphate. This medicine is effective for renal failure in case of increased serum phosphate levels and for those who develop phosphate-containing kidney stones.


Prolonged usage of this component may result in brain damage, bone diseases such as osteoporosis and osteomalacia, and an increased chance of fractures, especially in impoverished persons.

Magnesium Hydroxide (Mg(OH)2)

It is also known as milk of magnesia. Magnesium hydroxide is an effective laxative, much like its counterparts; magnesium sulfate and magnesium citrate. Pharmaceutical companies often combine this component with the aluminum hydroxide to reduce diarrhea it causes. However, the medication cost rises, and aluminum hydroxide reduces the effectiveness of antacids.


In the gut, when Magnesium hydroxide comes into contact with gastric acid, it produces magnesium chloride, which is absorbed. Magnesium performs several activities in the body tissue. However, if Mg levels in the blood rise, it has a negative effect. People with kidney failure should also limit magnesium.

Calcium Carbonate (CaCO3)

Calcium carbonate, commonly known as chalk, is the most readily accessible antacid. It can completely neutralize the acid in the stomach. Unfortunately, it may not be the best option for everyday usage. 


One main adverse consequence of antacids is that stomach acid output may increase after taking this medication. The daily dose of commercial calcium-containing antacid tablets should not exceed 3g.

The table below represents the most often used antacids.

Antacid IngredientFormula 

Neutralizing Power

Sodium bicarbonate

Aluminum hydroxideAl(OH)3


Magnesium hydroxideMg(OH)2


Calcium carbonateCaCO3

Very high

What do antacids do?

Next, let’s discuss what antacids do. All antacid pills function in two ways:

Antacids provide a protective barrier on the esophageal surface against stomach acids.

They produce a film on the stomach’s mucosa that aids in the prevention of acid leaking into the esophagus. This can help to avoid heartburn problems.

Uses of antacids

Aside from heartburn, antacids are commonly used to treat Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), burp, bloating, indigestion, and a sense of irritation in the gut or stomach. These medications can help treat heartburn symptoms such as burning in the throat or chest, a lingering aftertaste in the mouth, discomfort while lying in bed, vomiting, and a persistent dry cough by neutralizing stomach acids. These acid pills work effectively with other tablets to relieve acid reflux symptoms. 

Acid reflux occurs when contents of the gut enter the esophagus. It is also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease. If the acid reflux occurs more than twice a week, then there’s a possibility that the person may be suffering from GERD. Furthermore, GERD can cause swallowing difficulties and breathing problems such as asthma. 

Treatment for GERD: When an individual is diagnosed with GERD, doctors typically urge them to adjust their eating habits and lifestyle. Aside from antacids, physicians may also recommend two types of medications: H2 receptor blockers and proton pump inhibitors.

Commonly Utilized H2 Receptor Blockers:

  • Cimetidine 
  • Famotidine 
  • Nizatidine
  • Ranitidine

Commonly Utilized Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs):

  • Lansoprazole 
  • Pantoprazole sodium
  • Omeprazole 
  • Rabeprazole sodium 

Other Uses of Antacids

Aside from the disorders mentioned above, several antacids can aid in the treatment of associated health issues, such as: 

  • Calcium deficiency
  • Stone formation in the kidneys
  • High phosphate levels in the blood
  • Magnesium (Mg) deficiency

Everyone should be acquainted with what antacids do. Also, keep in mind that all medications have adverse effects. The next section discusses antacid side effects.

Antacids Side Effects

In general, taking antacids can have adverse effects if used excessively or for an extended period without a prescription. For example, since magnesium may produce diarrhea and aluminum can cause constipation, a pill combining these two ingredients has a more balanced impact on the gut.

Common Side Effects of Antacids:

  • Constipation
  • Aluminum toxicity
  • Low levels of blood phosphate
  • Osteomalacia
  • Kidney stones
  • Nausea
  • Alkalosis
  • High magnesium level in blood
  • Increase in blood pressure, etc. 

Precautions for Antacid Consumption

  • Antacids generally have no negative effects on users. 
  • On the other hand, those with certain medical conditions should consult their doctors before using antacids that include magnesium carbonate and aluminum hydroxide.
  • Antacids typically include a lot of salt. People with hypertension and cardiac conditions should speak to their doctor before using antacids.
  • Those who have renal failure may develop an aluminum buildup after using antacids. There is a chance that this will cause aluminum toxicity. People with renal failure frequently experience problems with electrolyte balance. 
  • All antacids include electrolytes, which might make electrolyte balance problems worse. 
  • It is mandatory to check with the pediatrician before consuming antacids. 


A class of medications known as antacids functions by reducing the acid content in the gut. This will ease indigestion, heartburn, and stomach reflux problems. These medications could be sold without the need for a prescription over-the-counter. Antacids are available in pill or liquid form. They might include components like: 

  • Aluminum
  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  • Bicarbonate of sodium

For instructions on how much and how often to consume the antacid, refer to the packaging or leaflet of the drug being consumed. Antacids should be eaten whenever the patient has symptoms or anticipate that they may experience the symptoms soon. For most people, the best times to take them are with or quickly after meals and just before bed. This is because they are most likely to feel heartburn or indigestion at these times. Remember that doses for children may be less than those for adults.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. What are antacids? Name some naturally occurring antacids.

Antacids are drugs that neutralize stomach acids to ease symptoms including heartburn, sour stomach, stomach upset, discomfort, etc. Baking soda, sometimes called sodium bicarbonate, is a naturally occurring antacid. Heartburn caused by acid reflux can be temporarily treated by consuming one teaspoon of baking soda diluted in eight ounces of water.

Q2. What is antacid used for?

This medication treats acid indigestion, GERD, and other indications of having too much stomach acid. Additionally, it is used to lessen the signs and symptoms of excess gas, including bloating, abdomen pressure, and burping. Simethicone helps the intestines dissolve gas bubbles.

Q3. What should you avoid following an antacid dose?

If the medication is taken with food, its effects could also last longer. Do not take medications within 2 to 4 hours of taking an antacid since this can influence how well they function. Although alcohol is permitted while taking antacids, it might upset the gut and exacerbate the symptoms.



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