What are Antacids?

Jessica Hobby

Antacids refer to substances that are used to neutralize acid that is produced in the stomach, which causes indigestion, heartburn, sour stomach and stomach ulcers. There are a variety of different types of antacids and most of them are permitted to be purchased over-the-counter. It is also important to note these products usually provide symptomatic relief to an underlying issue and also have their own list of side effects.

An antacid.
An antacid.

When there is too much hydrochloric acid in the stomach, an antacid neutralizes the acid through a chemical reaction where the pH is increased, which reduces the acidity in the stomach. Antacids are made of many different substances, but all forms contain magnesium, calcium or aluminum. They are most often in pill or tablet form but some are liquid.

Antacids can cause headaches in some people.
Antacids can cause headaches in some people.

The primary use of an antacid is to relieve heartburn, which is a burning feeling in the chest. Heartburn occurs when gastric acid starts to back up in the esophagus. Victims of heartburn will find relief, however, heartburn may be an indicator of a larger problem, such as an ulcer. Heart attacks have similar symptoms to heartburn, so it is necessary to discuss all symptoms thoroughly with a doctor.

Antacids may react poorly with other prescription drugs, and mixing drugs can cause a variety of symptoms.
Antacids may react poorly with other prescription drugs, and mixing drugs can cause a variety of symptoms.

Although antacids offer welcome relief for victims with gastrointestinal discomfort, they come with minor side effects. Increased thirst, decreased appetite, diarrhea and constipation are the most reported side effects. However, nausea and headaches are also possible side effects. Most side effects go away without medical attention, but if they persist it is necessary to visit a physician.

In addition to causing side effects, these products may react poorly with other prescription or OTC drugs. Mixing drugs can cause a variety of side effects, ranging from minor side effects such as nausea to serious conditions that may cause organ failure or in rare cases, death. People who are taking medication for asthma, diabetes, heart problems, depression, gout, arthritis or seizures should never take an antacid without speaking to their physician first.

Certain people should never take any kind of antacid. It is important to read the list of active ingredients on all antacid labels for people who have drug allergies to avoid ingesting something that would cause an allergic reaction. Additionally, people on low sodium diets should avoid antacids that contain sodium bicarbonate or aluminum hydroxide and magnesium carbonate because of the high sodium content. People who are suffering from kidney problems should also avoid these products without their doctor’s approval.

Antacids can be taken to help relieve sour stomach.
Antacids can be taken to help relieve sour stomach.

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Discussion Comments


Yes It is safe for pregnant women, but talk to your doctor about it first.


@SailorJerry - Congrats on the baby! You seem like a very involved, caring dad.

Different providers have different stands on antacids. My doctor told me I could basically take all the Tums I wanted to, while my sister's homebirth midwife told her that they would make the placenta "crunchy" in texture, whatever that means. (For what it's worth, I took five a day for the last couple of months and had no problems.)

I have heard of people getting kidney stones from taking too many Tums--no one I know personally, just "a friend of a friend" kind of thing--so I stopped my other calcium supplement and tried to sort of balance my Tums with my calcium consumption.

Basically, your wife's doctor is the person to ask, but there may indeed be relief that s/he feels is safe for your wife. Hope she feels better soon!


Is it safe to take Tums or other antacids during pregnancy? My wife's heartburn is truly, truly awful. Sometimes she wakes up at night to throw up from the stomach acid backing up in her throat. She doesn't want to take anything, but I hate to see her suffering like this.

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