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You take Tums to ease or stop acid reflux. But here’s the kicker, antacids can actually make acid reflux worse! And even more, they have a plethora of hidden side effects. 10 of these Tums side effects we’ll talk about in a moment. But first, let’s talk about how Tums work to better understand their side effects.
In this article:
- How Tums Work
- The Problem is Not Enough Acidity
- 10 Side Effects of Tums
- What Causes These Side Effects?
- Apple Cider Vinegar Can Help
- Final Thoughts on Tums Side Effects
How Tums Work
- Key Point
Stomach acid needs to stay in your stomach where it belongs. If strong stomach acids begin to splash up into the esophagus, it causes pain. Tums will help the situation because of its active ingredient calcium carbonate. But, overall, antacids may cause more harm than good.
When your digestive system is working properly, the stomach acid stays in your stomach. But when your stomach acid pH level is off—due to a number of factors including stress, eating and drinking too much, and smoking—it can splash up into the esophagus.
This isn’t a good thing since the esophagus is not equipped to handle stomach acid. So what happens is, the gastric acid penetrates the esophagus lining and activates nerves which causes the pain we know as heartburn.
Tums help relieve this pain with its active antacid ingredient called calcium carbonate. Calcium carbonate is the carbonic salt of calcium and what this does is it neutralizes acidity. When the acid in the esophagus is neutralized by the calcium carbonate in Tums, the pain goes away almost immediately.
Unfortunately, as many know, the relief is short-lived. In a few short hours, stomach acid splashes back up into the esophagus and starts the painful cycle all over again. But what you may not know is that continually taking antacids for heartburn can make heartburn happen even more often in the long run.
The Problem is Not Enough Acidity
- Key Point
Many people are surprised to find that the stomach actually needs to be highly acidic. Problems will begin to arise when your stomach acid pH levels rise. At a normal dosage, antacids can make your stomach less acidic, which is only contributing to the problem.
The reason you experience acid reflux is not because your stomach has too much acid, but because it doesn’t have enough acid. Your stomach acid pH is naturally between 1 and 3. This is highly acidic—much like car battery acid.
When your stomach acid is at the correct pH balance, it breaks down food and provides the body with essential nutrients, as it should. However, when your stomach acid pH level rises—meaning your stomach is less acidic—you run into a number of problems including heartburn.
This is because the valve at the top of your stomach known as the esophageal sphincter only works correctly when your stomach is at the right acidity. When your pH level is high, the valve can fail to close which allows stomach acid to flow up into the esophagus.
While antacids neutralize the stomach acid in your esophagus and relieve pain, they also seep down into your stomach. When this happens, it makes your stomach more alkaline—meaning less acidic.
Since this is the problem to begin with, you experience more acid reflux. So, while you may experience immediate relief, it’s short lived and makes for an even bigger problem in the long run.
Keep in mind that I’m not just talking about an antacid overdose or Tums overdose symptoms causing this issue; I’m talking about the normal recommended antacid dosage.
10 Side Effects of Tums
We’ve already talked about how Tums can make heartburn worse, but there are also many other side effects that come along with them. Most of these Tums side effects are due to the decrease in stomach acidity.
The symptoms vary from affecting not only your physical health but your mental health as well. Some of these adverse effects can even be pretty dangerous if not treated correctly.
Let’s take a look at them.
- Higher risk of stomach bugs
- Heart Arrhythmia
- Kidney Stones
- Abdominal pain
- Increased urination
What Causes These Side Effects?
Some of these adverse effects almost seem made up—after all, some people take antacids after every meal. I can remember popping Tums like they were candy. Back when I was in college, I would keep a mega pack in my pocket and consume them all day long. I had no clue that there were could be so many adverse effects until later on when I realized that my heartburn was caused by my Tums habit.
Let me explain what causes some of these side effects.
Low acidity causes poor digestion
When your stomach doesn’t have enough acidity, it has a difficult time digesting food properly. This leads to some inconvenient symptoms. The first of these symptoms is constipation.
Without the proper stomach acidity, food goes undigested which can cause blockages and constipation. Along with constipation, improper digestion can cause excessive gas, burping, and abdominal pain.
Low acidity causes nutrient malabsorption
Since an alkaline stomach doesn't digest food properly, the body doesn't absorb all of the nutrients in that food. What this means is that your body doesn't get the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients it needs to function properly. Electrolytes are one of many essential minerals for the proper functioning of the body. Without good electrolyte levels, you may experience heart arrhythmias, dehydration, and other symptoms.
Low acidity also decreases your ability to breakdown and absorb proteins which would normally turn into amino acids. These amino acids are converted into neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine. This leaves your brain prone to mood disorders including depression and anxiety.
Too much calcium carbonate and milk-alkali syndrome
Tums can raise your blood calcium level to a point of essentially overdosing on calcium. When you have too much calcium in your blood, some of it may be deposited into your kidneys. The calcium in your kidneys can trigger a plethora of symptoms including increased urination and kidney stones.
Low acidity can weaken immunity
Think of your stomach acid as a filter. When you consume harmful microbes, normal acidity helps filter many of them out. However, when you use calcium carbonate, your acidity is lowered which ruins your natural built-in bad microbe filter. This leaves you at a higher risk for stomach bugs and other illnesses.
Apple Cider Vinegar Can Help
While Tums lower stomach acidity, apple cider vinegar can actually improve the stomach acidity. So instead of contributing to the problem, it helps the stomach return to the correct pH level. Apple cider vinegar also helps restore proper functioning of the valve keeping the stomach acid in your stomach. Just be sure not to take too much apple cider vinegar.
- You can take some apple cider vinegar straight if you’re brave, or you can mix it with a drink. Mixing apple cider vinegar with some water or hot tea is a great way to make it easier to take.
Final Thoughts on Tums Side Effects
In the moment, when you are desperate for relief, antacids like Tums may seem like a great idea. But, are they really worth it? They may actually cause your body and mind more harm than good in the long run. With symptoms like kidney stones and heart arrhythmias among others, it may be best to put the mega pack of Tums down and step away.
But, there is no need for you to suffer from pesky heartburn. Mixing some apple cider vinegar in a glass of water and taking that instead will help with your heartburn. Apple cider vinegar even comes with a long list of added benefits instead of adverse effects. It is the perfect natural alternative.
Give it a try and see how it works for you.