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How Antacids Work
There is a certain level of acid in your stomach. A system called the pH (potential of hydrogen) system measures this level on a scale from 0-14. The normal acid level in the stomach is about 2 or 3 on this scale. A pH of 7 is neutral, below 7 is acid and above 7 is alkaline. When there is excess acid in your stomach, the pH level has probably dropped below the normal level of 2 or 3, and the job of the antacid, which is a base (the opposite of an acid), is to neutralize some of the excess acid.
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Components of Antacids
An antacid is a base and usually comprises at least one of the active chemical ingredients of magnesium, sodium bicarbonate, calcium carbonate and aluminum hydroxide. Antacids are available in various forms, such as tablets, liquid and foam. They are also available in regular and extra-strength formulations.
When you suffer from heartburn and reach for an antacid, the active ingredients serve as buffers for the accumulated acid in the stomach, bringing relief almost instantly. The burn that is felt in the esophagus is either reduced or eliminated. However, that’s all the antacids do; they do not act on any further acid buildup, either to reduce it or even to remove any feelings of fullness in the stomach. They simply provide temporary relief. An antacid dose can remain effective for a few hours, but the stomach continues to produce acid.
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The dosage is important since the overall effectiveness of the antacid used depends on how much was ingested. Relief also depends on the overall sate of the person’s gastrointestinal tract. Your pharmacist would probably recommend a dose to be taken 1-3 hours after meals with water, milk, or juice. You may also read the label and follow directions. Do not use in either larger or smaller amounts nor for a longer period than recommended. Instant. If you continue to feel discomfort after a few doses, you should consult a doctor; because the problem may be a more serious one.
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Caution in Taking Antacids
There are certain disadvantages to taking antacids for people who suffer from high blood pressure or kidney stones. Those suffering from high blood pressure should avoid antacids which contain sodium bicarbonate due to their high sodium content. Those who have kidney stones should avoid antacids with calcium carbonate as the calcium can aggravate the problem. Kidney stone sufferers should also not use antacids containing aluminum hydroxide and magnesium carbonate, unless recommended by their doctor.
Caution should be taken if you take medications such as tetracycline, indomethacin, buffered and non-buffered aspirin, corticosteroids, quinidine, iron supplements digoxin and Valium. These drugs can adversely mix with antacids and cause more serious problems than heartburn. If you take regular medication and think you need to use an antacid, you should check first with your pharmacist.
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Some familiar antacids include the brand names of Tums, Maalox, Mylanta and Rolaids. They are known to bring relief in minutes. How do these antacids work? They neutralize the excess acid produced by the stomach, and eliminate the burning sensation in the condition known as heartburn.
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1. Health Encyclopedia - Diseases and Conditions