An antacid is any substance, generally a base or basic salt, which neutralizes stomach acidity.
Mechanism of action
Antacids perform a neutralization reaction, i.e. the buffer gastric acid, raising the pH to reduce acidity in the stomach. When gastric hydrochloric acid reaches the nerves in the gastrointestinal mucosa, they signal pain to the central nervous system. This happens when these nerves are exposed, as in peptic ulcers. The gastric acid may also reach ulcers in the esophagus or the duodenum.
Antacids are taken by mouth to relieve heartburn, the major symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease, or acid indigestion. Treatment with antacids alone is symptomatic and only justified for minor symptoms. Peptic ulcers may require H2-receptor antagonists or proton pump inhibitors.
Excess calcium from supplements, fortified food and high-calcium diets, can cause the milk-alkali syndrome, which has serious toxicity and can be fatal. In 1915, Bertram Sippy introduced the "Sippy regimen" of hourly ingestion of milk and cream, the gradual addition of eggs and cooked cereal, for 10 days, combined with alkaline powders, which provided symptomatic relief for peptic ulcer disease. Over the next several decades, the Sippy regimen resulted in renal failure, alkalosis, and hypercalcaemia, mostly in men with peptic ulcer disease. These adverse effects were reversed when the regimen stopped, but it was fatal in some patients with protracted vomiting. Milk alkali syndrome declined in men after effective treatments were developed for peptic ulcer disease. But during the past 15 years, it has been reported in women taking calcium supplements above the recommended range of 1200 to 1500 mg daily, for prevention and treatment of osteoporosis, and is exacerbated by dehydration. Calcium has been added to over-the-counter products, which contributes to inadvertent excessive intake. The New England Journal of Medicine reported a typical case of a woman who arrived in the emergency department vomiting and in altered mental status, writhing in pain. She had consumed large quantities of chewable antacid tablets containing calcium carbonate. She gradually recovered.
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