One in four people buy an indigestion relief product every year with antacid sales reported to be worth $10 billion worldwide. Yet antacids should only be use at full therapeutic doses for short periods, a research study has warned.

Antacids work by neutralising the acid in gastric juice and increasing the pH of the stomach thus putatively reducing the impact on the oesophagus when gastric juice is refluxed but may also neutralise acid in the oesophagus.

The aim is to provide instant relief but should not be used for longer than two weeks. However, in a review published in the Journal of Pharmaceutics and Therapeutics, researchers including Professor Peter Dettmar, identified that ‘long-term use is common, as is overuse and abuse’.

Professor Dettmar says: “Antacids may be cheap and easily available over the counter remedies for symptoms such as heartburn, regurgitation and indigestion but they are real medicines that must be taken seriously.”

“Due to their innocent nature, people do not treat them with the respect that is necessary for a medication. Antacids have an instruction that usage should not be maintained for longer than two weeks but compliance with this is not often upheld.”

According to the study, antacids are quick acting to control symptoms, but the effect lasts for less than two hours. It warns that there is little evidence to show that long-term use provides any additional benefit.

In fact, common overuse, and sometime abuse, of antacids increases the likelihood of side effects.

Researchers identify that all types of antacid type have some form of side effect and have many drug-drug interactions, mainly as a consequence of altered gastric pH.

Side effects may just be bowel habit changes but could also be more serious metabolic conditions or mineral accumulations or deficiencies.

You can read the full report here – The Antacid Efficacy of Maalox in Comparison to a Range of Antacids.