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Essay on Antacids
An antacid is a medication taken by mouth for the purpose of relieving pain associated with acid indigestion, ulcers, and heartburn. The name anti-acid literally means opposite acid ; with respect to the pH scale (which will be discussed later), the opposite of an acid is a base, so it is not surprising to learn that commercially sold antacids are basic, or alkaline. They work by neutralizing excess stomach acids created during the digestive process. Although over-the-counter antacids are generally free from side effects, a small percentage of people may experience a chalky taste, constipation, diarrhea, increased thirst, or stomach cramps. Since many antacids coat the stomach as part of the acid-neutralization process, they often interact with and prevent the proper absorption of some other medications. To prevent this from happening, a person should take the antacid at least one hour before or after taking the other medication. Some common household antacids include Tums, Rolaids, Maalox, Mylanta, and Baking Soda. All alkaline antacids possess at least one of the following active ingredients: aluminum, calcium, magnesium, sodium, or simethicone. Although some newer antacids (like Zantac and Pepcid) work by suppressing stomach acid secretion instead of altering its pH, the aim of this experiment is to evaluate the efficiency of alkaline antacids. The three antacids to be used in the experiment are Quick-Dissolve Maalox (Regular Strength, with active ingredient calcium carbonate), Phillips Milk of Magnesia (with active ingredient magnesium hydroxide), and everyday Arm & Hammer Baking Soda (with active ingredient sodium bicarbonate).

Your complete digestive system is known as the Alimentary Canal, or the GI Tract. From start to finish, it is approximately thirty feet in length, which is about the height of decent-sized house. The Alimentary Canal consists of many parts, including the mouth, the esophagus, the stomach, the small intestine, and the large intestine (or the colon). The mouth softens and grinds up the food you take in; the food is then swallowed and travels to the stomach with the help of hundreds of involuntary muscles that line your esophagus. The stomach serves as a sort of holding tank for the food before it is passed on to the small intestine. The stomach is also where the digestive process begins; when food enters the stomach, your body releases very strong corrosive juices along with an enzyme called pepsin to break down the food particles into simpler compounds called polypeptides. The leftover particles and polypeptides are passed on to the small intestine, where the rest of the process occurs. After your small intestine finishes digesting the usable portions well, everyone knows what happens then. Anyway, the juices that are secreted by the human stomach consist almost entirely of a chemical called hydrochloric acid (one of the strongest acids on Earth!). On average, the hydrochloric acid in a person s stomach has a pH of 2 to 3. The pH system is a 0 to 14 scale that measures the acidity or alkalinity of a given environment (7 indicates a neutral environment-H20); stomach irritation can occur when the pH drops below 2 to 3. Antacids work by increasing the pH balance of these acids, which decreases GI mucosal inflammation.

Antacids are used to treat a plethora of gastrointestinal ailments. Doctors often use the term non-ulcer dyspepsia when diagnosing someone with stomach pain, bloating, nausea, or vomiting. This is basically a catch-all term for anybody with a non-ulcer-related stomach problem. And the number one recommended medication for non-ulcer dyspepsia . you guessed it, antacids! Indigestion is another incredibly vague, yet exceedingly common stomach ailment for which antacids are used. Indigestion can mean anything from heavy belching to a feeling of discomfort after a large meal, but it usually refers to something called gastritis. Anybody who has ever eaten too much or enjoyed a late-night snack has probably experienced mild gastritis. Technically, gastritis simply refers to a burning or uncomfortable sensation caused by irritation of the stomach lining from excess stomach acid. Another common use for antacids is to alleviate the pain caused by a phenomenon known as heartburn . Heartburn occurs when the digestive juices from the stomach shoot up into the esophagus, causing a burning sensation in the chest. Usually, the pressure inside the esophagus is greater then the pressure in the stomach, which keeps stomach acid where it belongs; however, this delicate pressure system can be occasionally disrupted by an outside influence, which may result in heartburn. Another, more serious cause of heartburn lie in something called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). GERD happens when the muscular door between the esophagus and stomach is weak and chronically permits stomach contents to surge up into the esophagus. Surprisingly, heartburn in conjunction with GERD has been associated with higher rates of esophageal cancer; stomach acid may catalyze cellular mutations in the esophagus that lead to adenocarcinoma, the most deadly form of esophageal cancer (Lagergren: 825-831). Antacids are also used to treat ulcers, or sores on the lining of the stomach that can be constantly irritated by the acidic environment. Recent studies have shown that the bacterium helicobacter pylori is responsible for almost all peptic ulcers, causing over 90% of duodenal ulcers and 80% of all stomach ulcers (www.niddk.nih.gov). The same studies have shown a relationship between GERD and the h. pylori bacterium; however, this relationship has not yet been clearly defined.

Sodium bicarbonate, which makes up 100% of Arm & Hammer Baking Soda, is referred to as an alkaline salt , meaning it has the ability to neutralize (counteract) acids. Sodium bicarbonate has many medical applications, such as to correct acidosis in people with kidney disorders and to alkalize urine during treatment for bladder infections. It is also used in gout treatments to minimize the crystallization of uric acid. Sodium bicarbonate is combined with aspirin and citric acid to make Alka-Seltzer, a mild antacid and painkiller. When using sodium bicarbonate as an antacid, the recommended dosage is 1/8 teaspoon, or 2000mg. Athletes have been using sodium bicarbonate for years as an ergogenic aid in sports that require the utilization of fast-twitch muscles (sprints, etc.). Although there isn t tremendous scientific evidence to this effect, it is said that the sodium bicarbonate combats fatigue by neutralizing lactic acid buildup in the muscles (www.supplementwatch.com). Side effects for this drug are minimal, but some people may experience mild to moderate gastrointestinal upset, nausea, bloating, or diarrhea. An overdose of sodium or any of its derivatives can be deadly, and is usually characterized by muscle pain/twitching, nervousness, breathing difficulty, and mild swelling of the hands or feet (www.healthsquare.com). You should minimize your intake of sodium carbonate if you have high blood pressure, heart disease or edema of the arms or legs.

Calcium is a mineral that is found naturally in foods, and is also the fifth most abundant mineral in the human body. Aside from helping to prevent the debilitating bone disease osteoporosis, calcium and calcium derivatives are essential for many normal body functions including bone formation and maintenance. Surprisingly, calcium is required for the maintenance of the nervous and muscular systems; calcium is also necessary for cell membrane and capillary permeability. It is important for blood coagulation and nerve conduction, as well as electrical conduction within the heart. With so many biological applications, it s not strange that calcium and calcium derivatives can also serve as effective antacids. The recommended dosage, when using as an antacid, is 1200 to 2400mg. Doctors use calcium for temporary control of cardiac arrhythmias associated with hypokalemia. When introduced into the GI Tract, calcium carbonate reacts with the hydrochloric acid and yields calcium chloride, carbon dioxide, and water; 90% of the calcium chloride is converted to insoluble salts such as calcium carbonate and calcium phosphate, which can cause a disorder called hypercalcemia if absorbed by the stomach (www.parkinsons-information-exchange-network-online.com). With all antacids, but especially with calcium-based ones, there is a risk of a phenomenon called acid rebound effect. Acid rebound is a painful resurgence of stomach acid as soon as the antacid has left the system; it is caused by something called gastric hypersecretion, which is when the stomach produces mass amounts of acid in an effort to compensate for the loss of acidity (caused by the antacid). An overdose of calcium carbonate is typically characterized by severe and continuing constipation, difficult/painful urination, frequent urge to urinate, continuing headaches, loss of appetite, mood or mental changes, muscle pain/twitching, nausea and vomiting, nervousness or restlessness, slow breathing, and unusual tiredness or weakness (www.healthsquare.com).

The trisilicate, hydroxide, and oxide salts of magnesium are very common ingredients in antacids. Phillips Milk of Magnesia (magnesium hydroxide) is directed for the treatment and relief of dyspepsia, reflux oesophagitis, and peptic ulcers. Magnesium hydroxide is also used as a food additive to keep canned peas green and processed cheese smooth and bright. Aside from its uses as an antacid and a food additive, magnesium is commonly used for its laxative properties. Once inside the stomach, the magnesium hydroxide absorbs water from surrounding blood vessels and thereby softens the feces. However, the laxative dosage is significantly more than the recommended dosage when using as an antacid, which is 400-1200mg. Because of its laxative characteristics, magnesium is usually combined with aluminum in commercial antacids; the constipating effects of aluminum tend to cancel out the effects of magnesium. Magnesium may also be used in conjunction with a low-phosphate diet to treat hyperphosphatemia (too much phosphate in the blood) or to prevent the formation of some kinds of kidney stones. However, if magnesium-containing laxatives or antacids are used too frequently, an overload of magnesium in the blood stream (hypermagnesemia) can occur and cause blood pressure to drop, leading to respiratory and/or cardiac depression (Cramer www.familyhaven.com). Magnesium hydroxide is generally safe, but people with kidney disease should abstain from using it. The symptoms from a magnesium overdose usually include difficult/painful urination, dizziness or light-headedness, irregular heartbeat, mood or mental changes, and unusual tiredness or weakness (www.healthsquare.com).

As a general rule, you should not use antacids if you exhibit symptoms of appendicitis or an inflamed bowel: stomach/lower abdominal pain, cramping, bloating, soreness, nausea, or vomiting. Many antacids are high in sodium and shouldn t be used by those who are on a sodium-restricted diet or are sufferers of high cholesterol or high blood pressure. Before using an antacid, examine your behavior. Keep in mind that cigarettes and alcohol will increase your stomach s secretion of gastric acid, and they can also perpetuate ulcers. Antacids are wonderful drugs; they can reduce or completely eliminate the pain associated with a multitude of stomach problems. However, antacids are still drugs, and they only help the symptoms of a problem, not the cause. Antacids should be considered, at best, temporary relief.
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Antacids. EssayMania.com. Retrieved on 11 Oct, 2010 from