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Roger Weller, geology instructor

by John Wygle
Physical Geology
Spring 2016
                                                                                 Eating Rock to Help Your Stomach

Humans have an extremely primitive way of combating stomach acid, we eat rocks. Science and technology has helped humans understand their environment and how to use it to our advantage. We have discovered that the rocks have beneficial properties inside the minerals. Earth’s minerals can be found in the Earth’s crust were some can be extracted from mineral deposits or found in rocks themselves. With simple rock materials, humans found that we can cure mild heartburn, stomach acid pain, and discomfort that comes along with it.  

Stomach acid is the reason for many people’s pain in their stomach. Experts estimate that acid reflux roughly affects 10 to 20 million individuals throughout the United states each year. It causes burning sensations in the stomach, moving discomfort, and bitter-tasting acid in your mouth just to name a few. The first recorded attempt to create an antacid was in 1829. It was Sir James Murray, he made a liquid magnesia solution to treat the Marquis of Anglesey in Ireland. It was such a success he was promoted to resident physician and even knighted. This solution is now referred to as “Milk of Magnesia”(Media et al, GERD).

The next stage of evolution was in 1928 by pharmacist James Howe. he made it to help his wife’s stomach and in 1930 the brand of Tums was created. Tums was made public and people began to have relief for something that really had no answer. This simple concoction of calcium carbonate and sugar opened the door for more medicine to be created to help stomach issues. Many different antacids were developed over the years but they all can be broken down into four main ingredients (Company).   


    BASE                        NAME

*Aluminum                    Rolaids, Amphojel, ALternaGEL, and others

*Sodium                         Alka-Seltzer and Bromo Seltzer and others

*Calcium                         Rolaids, Tums

*Magnesium                  Riopan, Gelusil, and Others

*Aluminum                    Gaviscon, Amphojel, Maalox, Mylanta and others
and Magnesium


Mineral name         Compounds


Brucite           magnesium hydroxide


 Magnesite and Dolomite             Magnesium carbonate


      Aluminum hydroxide

Calcite, Aragonite                        Calcium


(Limestone shown)


Sodium         Image result for picture of sodium    Salt deposits


For most people, stomach acid is only a mild issue.  One that can be tolerated but may be uncomfortable.  Most people have a certain type of food they know will trigger heartburn or indigestion.  For these instances, it's common for individuals now to simply take an antacid like mentioned above because the work within 5-10 minutes.  The simplest is a calcium antacid which can also be take to increase the calcium in the body, like a vitamin supplement.   It has no side effect when taken regularly in low amounts, but large amount cause constipation (“Nonprescription Medicines and…).

Heartburn is actually caused by acid moving upwards into the esophagus, this is known as Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD).   It begins with the lower esophageal sphincter, an opening between the esophagus and the stomach.   It opens to let food into the stomach from the esophagus.   When it closes it keeps the acid inside the stomach but if it does not close tight enough, acid can escape upwards.   Stomach acid can cause ulcers and eat away at the esophagus.   If the symptoms are ignored it could increase the acids in the stomach and worsen the condition and erode internals.

The antacids work by neutralizing the stomach acid with a mineral base.   Calcium,  by nature has pH of 9.4 and is a strong neutralizer.   Stomach acid, on the other hand, is a acid, with a pH of 1.5 to 3.5.   The acid reacts to the calcium carbonate which neutralizes the acid and causes the discomfort to go away. The only downside is it’s bioavailability, calcium requires the body to make more stomach acid just to be absorbed.   Calcium Citrate is an acidic base that requires less productions of stomach acid but this to has a poor absorption rate (“Bases - PH Values”).

Other antacids use liquid containing alginic acid binds with water it forms a viscous gum that cause a barriers in the top stomach.  This helps trap acid so it can not creep up the esophagus.  Some brands of antacids even have Simethicone, a chemical that attack gas bubbles.  It helps to eliminate the discomfort due to the gas.  Gas can cause burping which may move stomach acid up to the esophagus due to the pressure.  Companies are now using a combination of magnesium or calcium combined with other molecules to create a stabilized product.

A recommended amount of antacid will often relieves heartburn for about an hour.  Antacids work differently for a small majority.  Some individuals may be allergic to the ingredients, so they unfortunately can't take the medicine.  It is mainly for those who suffer from mild symptoms.  Only a doctor a correctly diagnose an individual's symptoms.

If the case is to sever, antacids alone may not be enough to help the situation.  Antacids can be taken with other synthetic-antacid medication because most natural-antacids ingredients are stable and safe.  Natural antacids have a very mild side effect rating, most people can tolerate the medication.  With any medicine, taking it not as directed could have side effects. The different types of medication have varying symptom severity.

The very bottom level of antacids have mild side effects if any.  Since the 1930’s, when Tums became public, it has produced zero side effects.  The low dose of chewable calcium carbonate and sugar, within Tums, have not harmed anyone.  Taking too much calcium in may lead to constipation.  Any incident that may have occurred was due to an allergic reaction to the antacid.  However, most medicines do come with side effects and they can very.  Here is a list of the different categories of antacids and their side effects.  

Side Effects of Simple Antacids


Sodium based antacids cause high blood pressure.  It may be also be a combined with aspirin and some people choose not to take it.

Calcium based may cause constipation.

Aluminum-based works slowly and may cause constipation. It can also cause calcium loss.

Magnesium Based may cause diarrhea.

Salts of aluminum (hydroxide, carbonate gel, or phosphate gel) can also cause constipation, extended use can weaken bones, cause dietary phosphates, calcium, and fluoride to leave the body, eventually causing bone problems such as osteoporosis.

Modern technology is slowly making it easier to deal with the pain of acid reflux. In the 1970’s, the discovery of Cimetidine, by Smith Kline & French labs, was a huge success.  Cimetidine was made to prevent ulcers and decreases acid secretion, helping the healing process.  It was so innovative that It became the first commercial billion dollar drug.  Medicines slowly started becoming more and more synthetic, but the demand for stronger medicines was apparent (Society).

            Simple calcium will not fix ulcers or help reduce acid for more than a short period.  These new synthetic acid reducers, called H2 blockers.most products are about equally effective.  Even taking the H2 blockers an individual may still have symptoms depending on the severity of the case.  PPIs (Proton Pump Inhibitors) were invented in the 1980’s: these also can be taken to simultaneously to reduce the production of acid by blocking the enzymes that produces acid. These medicines, like any others, have side effects also.  Here is a list of known h2 blocker and PPI side effects (“H2 Blockers”).


H2 Blockers Side Effects            Proton Pump Inhibitor Side Effects   


Diarrhea                                                      Headache

Dizziness                                                     Diarrhea

Headache                                                  Constipation

Hives                                                           Abdominal pain

Nausea or vomiting                                Flatulence

Problems with urination                        Nausea

Constipation                                             Rash


Works Cited


“Antacids for Gastroesophageal Reflux disease (GERD).” WebMD. WebMD, 14 Nov. 2014. Web. 13 Apr. 2016.


“Nonprescription medicines and Products-Antacids and acid Reducers.” WebMD. WebMD, 2005. Web. 13 Apr. 2016.


Ogbru, Omudhome, and PharmD. PPIs, proton pump inhibitors: Drug list & side effects. MedicineNet, 1996. Web. 03 Apr. 2016.


Company, Reading Eagle. “How Tums are made ..” Reading Eagle. 16 Sept. 2010. Web. 05 Apr. 2016.


Bibliography:“Nonprescription medicines and Products-Antacids and acid Reducers.” WebMD. WebMD, 2005. Web. 16 Apr. 2016.


“H2 Blockers (acid Reducers) for Gastroesophageal Reflux disease (GERD).” WebMD. WebMD, 14 Nov. 2014. Web. 16 Apr. 2016.


Bibliography:2016. “Gastroesophageal Reflux disease.” The Patients Guide to Heart, Lung, and Esophageal Surgery. The Patient Guide to Heart, Lung, and Esophageal Surgery, 13 Jan. 2016. Web. 13 Apr. 2016.


“CBSE projects chemistry, C++, physics, Maths, biology, IP, disaster management.” Mar. 2009. Web. 11 Apr. 2016.


Society, American Chemical. Tagamet discovery of Histamine H2-receptor antagonists - landmark. American Chemical Society, 2016. Web. 13 Apr. 2016.


“It’s elemental - the element magnesium.” n.d. Web. 13 Apr. 2016.


Media, 2016 Healthline, et al. Acid Reflux (GERD) statistics and facts. Healthline, 30 June 2012. Web. 13 Apr. 2016.


“Bases - pH values.” n.d. Web. 18 Apr. 2016.