Yes, taking antacids for long periods can cause long-term side effects, although treatment for acid reflux has improved a great deal in recent times.
Acid reflux or GERD is the flow of stomach acid back into your stomach. Suffers of acid reflux disease often experience heartburn, although heartburn on its own does not mean that you have a more serious complaint as it can sometimes be the result of spicy foods or soda drinks.
If intermittent heartburn is all you have, it can be managed by lifestyle changes or the occasional antacid tablet.
Doctors recommend that you use antacids for only short periods as they have been shown to cause health issues with long term use. Magnesium hydroxide which is an ingredient in some antacids is known to cause diarrhea. Calcium carbonate, another ingredient in antacids can cause kidney damage with prolonged use, and aluminum hydroxide has been linked to weak bones. If your heartburn persists when use of antacids is stopped, it may be an indicator of a more serious problem, so a visit to your doctor is essential as you may have chronic reflux.
To find the problem, an endoscopy will be carried out. A flexible tube is inserted into the esophagus and stomach through the mouth, so your doctor can examine the esophageal lining. Examinations like this use a camera and can show whether you have Barrett’s esophagus which can be identified by a change in the color and composition of the cells in the lower esophagus. Barrett’s esophagus often leads to esophageal cancer.
If the examination of your esophagus does not indicate a condition such as Barrett’s esophagus you should explore the possibility of treating your acid reflux with natural or even herbal products. Another option are proton pump inhibitors which block acid production.
You should of course be guided by the advice of your doctor to determine the best alternative treatments to get you back to full health.