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Do Antacids have Side Effects?

Antacids are medications, and even though they are available without a prescription, you should be advised that they too can cause side effects and have adverse effects. Antacids are drugs that contain multiple ingredients in addition to the active agent that neutralizes acid. There are dyes for coloring, flavors, fillers to form the actual tablet or pill, and other additives. Any one of these can cause problems in certain people.

Some antacids are mixed with aspirin to act as a pain reliever, for example, Alka Seltzer. As noted previously, aspirin can also cause stomach irritation and generally should be avoided in those with bad reflux disease. Aspirin can increase risks of ulcers or bleeding and should not be mixed with certain medications such as warfarin.

Other antacids are composed with sodium, a salt that is bound to the base used to neutralize the acid. The inadvertent ingestion of extra sodium can cause fluid retention. Many people with high blood pressure and/or a heart condition called congestive heart failure are on low-sodium diets. Consumption of sodiumcontaining antacids can increase blood pressure or aggravate heart failure in predisposed individuals.

Some antacids are mixed with calcium or magnesium as a binding agent for the base that is used to neutralize acid. These two elements can cause different side effects with respect to the bowels. The easily absorbed calcium can cause constipation. On the other hand, the magnesium is poorly absorbed and can cause diarrhea. A hint you can use to distinguish whether the antacid contains magnesium is that most magnesium-containing antacids begin with the letter M such as Maalox (aluminum) or Mylanta (magnesium/ simethicone). Milk of magnesia and magnesium citrate, two potent laxatives used to help alleviate constipation, contain magnesium because magnesium is a great laxative.

Antacids can interact with other medications, and it is important to read the label of any medications you are taking to see if antacids should be avoided. To work, some medications require acid and taking an antacid may reduce their activity or effects. Others interact directly with agents in the antacids. Again, examples are the calcium-containing antacids. Some antibiotics used to treat infection interact with calcium and should not be taken at the same time as antacids. Commonly used medication for high blood pressure called calcium channel blockers also interact with calcium-containing antacids and should be avoided.

Fillers or binders are compounds added to medications so that they can be pressed into a tablet or can dissolve appropriately. Sugars commonly added to drugs can be a source of added calories if taken in large quantities. Sorbitol is a sugar that adds sweetness without calories that is occasionally added to pills, but it can also be a laxative and cause diarrhea. Lactose is another sugar binder that can cause gas, bloating, and diarrhea in those with lactose intolerance.

The preceding are only a few examples of side effects and drug –drug interactions. It is very important to read labels on both your medications and antacids. If you are not sure, your pharmacist will know or can look up the drug interactions or adverse effects.

By Mortin - Copyright 2009
Last modification 31/12/2009

Do Antacids have Side Effects? References