What are Antacids?

Sometimes due to overproduction of acids, we feel an irritation in the stomach which causes pain. This sometimes leads to ulcers in the stomach. The treatment of acidity was found in 1970 by the action of antacids.

The substances which neutralize the acids of the stomach are called antacids. Acidity in the stomach causes the sensation of heartburn, antacids are taken to relieve this sensation. They are taken orally to suppress the effects of acidity. Antacids are actually alkaline ions that directly neutralize the gastric acids of the stomach.

Substances such as sodium hydrogen carbonate or a mixture of aluminium and magnesium hydroxide are used as antacids. When we use an excess of hydrogen carbonate, the stomach gets alkaline which further induces the production of acids. Therefore we use metal hydroxides which are insoluble and they do not increase pH value above neutrality.

These treatments are used to control the symptoms and not the causes. Hence the patients cannot be treated with such metal salts. If the acid is not treated properly then in advanced stages ulcer formation takes place which can be life-threatening and the only cure to this is the removal of the affected part of the stomach.

GERD / acid reflux:

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), also known as acid reflux, is a long-term condition where stomach contents come back up into the esophagus resulting in either symptoms or complications. Symptoms include the taste of acid in the back of the mouth, heartburn, bad breath, chest pain, vomiting, breathing problems, and wearing away of the teeth. Complications include esophagitis, esophageal strictures, and Barrett’s esophagus.


Histamine was a major breakthrough in the treatment of hyperacidity. Histamine stimulates the secretion of pepsin and hydrochloric acid in the stomach. The drug cimetidine (Tagamet) was designed in order to prevent the interaction of histamine with the receptors present in the stomach wall. This led to release of lesser amounts of acid.

Tagamet was the largest selling drug in the world until the discovery of another similar drug ranitidine (Zantac).

Side Effects:

Antacids are very useful drugs but they also accompany some side effects. The versions of antacids which contain magnesium may cause diarrhoea, whereas the ones which contain calcium or aluminium can cause constipation.

In long term, the use of antacids may even cause kidney stones. The versions which contain aluminium, if used for a long-term may increase the risk of osteoporosis.