Antacids are medicines that reduce the amount of acid in your stomach. Their purpose is to relieve indigestion and heartburn. Antacids are highly popular, and it’s estimated that approximately 37% of adults take at least two doses every month. Though these products can temporarily relieve heartburn and other associated symptoms, their long-term use could be detrimental to your health.
Research shows that extended use of antacids is linked to an increased risk of bone fractures and premature death. Long-term use of antacids can also lead to a deficiency in vitamin B12, which can increase dementia risk and cause nerve damage if it is not treated.
How Much Is Too Much?
Now that you know it’s unhealthy to take too many antacids, it’s time to delve into how much is too much. How can you tell if your antacid use is harming your body? Well, here are a few indications that it’s time to cut back or eliminate your antacid use altogether.
Constipation or Diarrhea
Antacid overuse most commonly leads to constipation. This is especially true for antacids that contain aluminum or calcium. But in some cases, you may experience diarrhea instead of constipation when you take too many antacids. You may even cycle between diarrhea and constipation.
The acid in your stomach is important for killing microbes that enter your body through the foods you eat. When you take antacids too frequently, you can neutralize the acid and cause it to be ineffective at killing germs. When this happens, your body becomes more susceptible to infections that may not always be limited to your intestinal tract but could spread to other parts and organs in your body.
When you consume too many antacids, you can disrupt the balance of electrolytes in your body. This can, in turn, lead to muscle problems. Some of the common symptoms associated with antacid overuse include muscle pain, weakness and twitching.
Here are a few additional symptoms to watch out for if you suspect you may be consuming too many antacids:
White spots in feces
Some people also experience mood changes, abnormal urinary changes and a chalky taste in their mouths when they’ve been taking antacids too frequently. To avoid these types of symptoms, it’s important to avoid antacids unless you really need them. If you use them more than once per week, it may be time to change your diet, eat dinner earlier or see a healthcare provider.
Alternatives to Antacids
It’s natural to feel helpless if you frequently suffer from heartburn or indigestion and don’t know how to treat it. While it may be tempting to reach for a bottle of antacids for quick relief, there may be some alternative treatments you can try first. Here are some suggestions for managing your heartburn without reaching for antacids.
Avoid eating triggering foods such as tomatoes, chocolate and fried foods
Eat a healthy diet that’s rich in fibrous foods such as oatmeal, sweet potatoes, asparagus and carrots.
Take supplements that heal the gut, such as aloe vera, chamomile, slippery elm and marshmallow root
Eat small meals throughout the day instead of large meals
Avoid caffeine and alcohol
If you’re overweight, you may also want to drop a few pounds. Many people find that their acid reflux symptoms are much worse when they gain weight. You can also wear clothing that’s loose around the waist to minimize pressure on your stomach and intestines when you eat.
Antacids are no substitute for a healthy lifestyle. Most people find great success minimizing or getting rid of their heartburn altogether when they eat healthy foods, exercise regularly and maintain a healthy weight.