When You Take Antacids Every Day, This Is What Happens
Many people have made a habit out of popping antacids every day, but is it healthy to take these over-the-counter medications long term? In most cases, no, according to WebMD. The website recommends taking antacids only as directed by your doctor, because long-term use can cause negative side effects. First, it helps to understand what antacids are. Antacids, which can contain ingredients including aluminum, calcium, magnesium, and sodium bicarbonate, are used to neutralize the pH in stomach acids when a person experiences symptoms caused by stomach, esophagus, or intestinal irritation. Symptoms often include heartburn, indigestion, or acid reflux.
Dr. Robert Glatter, a professor of emergency medicine at Northwell Health and emergency physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, revealed to Prevention what happens when a person takes too many antacids. “They are not intended for daily and ongoing use,” Glatter said. “Long-term use of antacids can lead to effects on the digestive system, along with other organs as well.”
Taking too many antacids can make symptoms worse over time
According to Dr. Glatter, you should only use antacids as needed or as prescribed by a doctor, because overuse can actually aggravate your existing symptoms and make them worse (via Prevention). Some of the most common signs that you should stop taking the medicine include constipation or diarrhea that doesn’t clear or worsens. Many people also experience muscle twitches, weakness, or soreness when overusing antacids, because of higher levels of “calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus in the bloodstream,” Glatter said. The medicine can also affect the pH in your bloodstream, affecting your breathing. “When breathing slows excessively, it could lead to a buildup of carbon dioxide, leading to fatigue or sleepiness,” Glatter added.
According to Dr. Glatter, long-term antacid use can also allow unwanted bacteria found in food and beverages to thrive in the gastrointestinal tract, weakening your immune system and allowing you to experience more frequent infections. Osteoporosis can develop from aluminum antacids while kidney stones can also occur with use of calcium-based antacids.
According to WebMD, antacids can also interact with other medications — another reason to consult a physician before adding antacids to your daily intake.
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