Probiotics and antacids can provide relief from gastrointestinal symptoms, albeit stemming from very different causes. Each of these supplements acts on naturally-occurring processes within the body to either enhance an effect or to neutralize its consequences. Probiotics may provide relief from gastrointestinal issues ranging from a temporary condition to a chronic disorder. Antacids are primarily meant to provide quick relief. Because of the possibility of complications, discuss their use with your doctor, especially if you have an existing condition or one that is not responding to treatment.
What Are Probiotics?
Probiotics are often referred to as "friendly bacteria" because of the beneficial role they play in gastrointestinal health. These living microorganisms help restore the bacterial balance in the intestines to help control conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, infectious diarrhea and antibiotic-induced gastrointestinal distress. You will find probiotics sold as dietary supplements in pill form. Fermented products such as yogurt and kefir also contain probiotics.
Antacids and Heartburn
Antacids also help restore balance in the body, acting primarily on stomach acid. Heartburn causes a burning sensation in the chest due to the differences in pH between the esophagus and the stomach. Stomach acids back up from the stomach into the esophagus, causing irritation and pain. Antacids quickly relieve this condition by neutralizing the acid.
While generally safe, probiotics may not be appropriate for all individuals. A slight risk exists that probiotics may stimulate the development of harmful bacteria, a condition known as sepsis. A 2006 study by the University of Melbourne documented several incidences of sepsis, citing several cases. Most often, complications resulted from the underlying condition in which probiotics were given a part of the treatment. Researchers found no evidence of complications in otherwise healthy individuals. If you have an underlying condition, you should consult your doctor if you have any concerns related to the health risks of using probiotics.
Antacids typically contain calcium or magnesium that acts as a chemical base to the acid. However, overuse of antacids can cause unexpected consequences including diarrhea and constipation. Overconsumption can also increase your risk of kidney stones, especially if your water intake is inadequate. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration also warns that overuse can increase your risk of developing hip and spine fractures. If you suffer from heartburn, you should discuss alternative methods of treating your condition with your doctor. Lifestyle changes such as losing a few pounds can help you find relief from your symptoms.
- National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine; An Introduction to Probiotics; January 2007
- "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition"; Probiotic Use in Clinical Practice: What Are the Risks?; R. Boyle, et al.; June 2006
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration; Possible Increased Risk of Bone Fractures With Certain Antacid Drugs; June 7, 2011