“Jamaai babu, ek aur laddoo? Ho jaye laddoo!” Effervescent salt commercials that promise ‘Kaam shuru sirf 6 seconds mein’ can certainly convince you to eat the ice cream after you’ve just had the gulab jamuns, after the dal chawal, which you had after you had already gulped down four rotis along with aloo mutter, palak paneer and malai kofta. Such commercials will “inspire” you to first ‘dabao’ your way beyond your poor tummy’s ability, and then not even worry about the acidity, gas, and bloating. Well, aren’t these guys some kind of angels … Huh!!
We all know how acidity makes us feel. Especially, all the foodies among us certainly do. Because we go out street shopping and immediately want to have pani puri. After a while, we spot the dabeliwala, followed by the new momos joint everyone has been talking about. On a parting note, everyone decides to wash it all down with some jalebis.
By the time we are home, the overeating has taken its toll and we start feeling the heartburn. So, we simply pop a pill or drink an effervescent or creamy drink to curb the indigestion. It is sure an unpleasant feeling and no one wishes to experience it. Yet, so many of us deal with it on a daily basis because we never really stop and think about the causes behind it, and the preventive ways to bid this problem a farewell altogether.
Often we get so tied up in the mumbo-jumbo of life that we do not pay attention to our digestive systems calling out for help! We just pop an antacid and off we go!
However, what we don’t realise is that the acidity, the gas, the burping … are all cries of help from the stomach, and from our body. When we pop an antacid, or just give it another slice of pizza, what we do is ignore these signals and shut it up. You decide what to eat, but let your body tell you HOW MUCH! Yes, your body talks to you and these antacids and gastric medicines just ask your body to SHUT UP!
How do Antacids Work?
Mechanism of action:
The stomach secretes acids which aid in digestion of food. The acid levels are generally tightly regulated. When the acid levels in the stomach increase beyond what is required, excess acid may reflux into the oesophagus causing the burning sensation and pain behind the sternum (breastbone), often known as acidity.
Antacids are alkaline in nature and they work by neutralising the stomach acids to provide temporary relief from dyspepsia (indigestion) and heartburn. Some effervescent and carbonated drinks also encourage burping, which gives relief from pressure and discomfort, by allowing passage of gas.
Side effects of frequent use of antacids:
- Reduce acidophilus: Antacids change the pH balance of the stomach causing an imbalance in the numbers of the friendly bacteria (acidophilus and lactobacillus) that aid in digestion.
- Increased risk of infections: A deficiency of the good bacteria can predispose a person to increased number of unfriendly bacteria in the gut which can cause various infections.
- Impaired nutrient absorption: Washing off of the friendly bacteria also impairs digestion, further aggravating digestive problems in the long run.
Furthermore, magnesium-containing antacids may cause diarrhea, and calcium and aluminium containing antacids could lead to constipation.
Prolonged use of aluminium-containing antacids can cause depletion in calcium and phosphate levels, thereby weakening bones leading to osteoporosis.
- Some antacids can be habit-forming.
Bottom line, continual use of antacids won’t do us any good. But what do we do about the acidity, then? To answer that question, we first need to understand what causes or triggers acidity.
Common causes and habits that trigger acidity –
- Fasting or starvation
- Stress and anxiety
- Excess coffee consumption
- Excess NSAIDs use (anti-inflammatory drugs)
- Spicy foods
Here are some dos and don’ts that can help us keep acidity and heartburn at bay!
- Eat small, frequent meals every 2 – 2.5 hours.
- Sit up straight for 1.5 – 2 hours after meals.
- Consume probiotics containing yogurt daily. (Home-made curds also have probiotics, you do not need supplemented versions.)
- Avoid long gaps between meals.
- Don’t overeat. LISTEN TO YOUR STOMACH SCREAM , “I’M NOT A DUSTBIN!”
- Don’t fast.
- Don’t lie down right after meals, no matter how tempting it is.
- Avoid wearing very tight clothes, tight pants, belts, etc.
- Restrict coffee, chocolate and alcohol consumption.
- Avoid smoking.
- Never start your day with a cup of coffee or tea on an empty stomach.
So throw that antacid out and change your eating habits to have an acidity-free life!