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What are the Different Types of Antacid Medications?

By K. Gierok
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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In order to make a good choice when it comes to selecting antacid medications, it is important first to understand what the various types of antacids are. In general, there are four basic types of antacid medications. These include sodium bicarbonate, calcium carbonate, and aluminum and magnesium compounds. While each of these provides relief of the symptoms of stomach acid, some may not be recommended for those with particular health conditions.

One of the most common types of antacid medications is sodium bicarbonate, otherwise known by its common name as baking soda. Typically, sodium bicarbonate is only recommended for use for a short period of time, as its very high sodium content can be dangerous for individuals who have previously been diagnosed with high blood pressure. Those who do use sodium bicarbonate for an extended period of time may also experience an increase in urinary tract infections, heart and kidney dysfunction, and the development of other serious health conditions that can require long-term treatment.

Calcium carbonate is another of the common antacid medications available for use. Due to its proportion of calcium, which results in speedy relief, calcium carbonate is a popular choice for many. Unlike sodium bicarbonate, which should not be used for an extended period of time, calcium carbonate can actually be taken every day, if need be. It is important to understand, however, that long-term use of calcium carbonate can result in the development of moderate to severe constipation, and in some cases can even lead to the formation of kidney stones, or kidney dysfunction.

Aluminum compound is sometimes recommended for those looking for good antacid medications. While aluminum compound has been found to be highly effective when it comes to treating symptoms of stomach acid, it may be slower-acting than other forms of antacid medications. Like calcium carbonate, long-term aluminum compound use can result in constipation. In addition, this antacid has been linked to decreased levels of calcium in the body, suggesting that those who use it may be at an increased risk for the development of osteoporosis or osteoarthritis. Those who us aluminum compound, therefore, should consider supplementing this diet with over-the-counter calcium pills.

Magnesium compound is another antacid which is commonly used in the treatment of stomach acid. Unlike calcium carbonate and aluminum compound, magnesium actually appears to have laxative properties. Because of this, magnesium is often recommended for the elderly, individuals who have been previously diagnosed with diabetes, or other similar conditions.

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Discussion Comments
By lluviaporos — On Mar 07, 2012

Heartburn medication can be dangerous in other ways as well. I've heard of people who took too much of it and managed to neutralize the acids in their stomachs to a bad extent.

The acid is there not only to digest your food, but also to help stop bacteria and things getting into your system through your mouth. I've heard of people getting fungal and bacterial infections through taking too many antacid pills.

Of course, this is if they don't follow the instructions and instead take the medication whenever they think they should.

By pleonasm — On Mar 07, 2012

@umbra21 - That's a bad way to behave towards anything that you use to medicate yourself. Even though antacids aren't affecting your cells or blood or whatever, they are still going into your body, and really most things that go into your stomach are going to be affecting the rest of you. They can try to make them benign, but if they can affect acids, they can affect other things as well. After all, there are some parts of your body which need to be acidic in order to function.

And most medications are made up of more than one thing.

I imagine there aren't many antacids that are made up of merely baking soda (not least because it tastes terrible by itself).

The doctors do their best to make everything benign but you have to do yourself a favor and read the warnings on the label of any medication you take, even the ones you think are absolutely safe.

Even aspirin can be dangerous to some people, after all.

By umbra21 — On Mar 06, 2012

Wow, I had no idea that antacids had so many side effects. The way some people seem to chug them down every day, I thought they were mostly benign, and when you think about what they do, you'd think there would be a way of making them pretty benign.

I mean, it's not like they perform a complicated act on the body. They don't even need to be absorbed or anything like they. They are only really used to neutralize the acid in the stomach.

I suppose some of the more advanced ones might claim to stop your stomach from becoming too acid by working on the causes of the acid rather than on the acid itself, but generally, I thought they simply turned the stomach juices more alkaline so that you don't get heart burn from them.

It's good that I learned this, as I think I would have not been very cautious with them if I hadn't.

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