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Freak-Out Fridays: Are Antacids Bad for My Heart?

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Welcome back to Freak-Out Fridays, where health experts weigh in on just how worried you should be about health threats in the modern world. Struggling with your own quandary? Send it to freakoutfridays@marthastewart.com.

Q: I’m constantly taking antacids for my upset stomach, but I’ve heard that I might be getting too much calcium. Can all that chewable calcium hurt my health?

A: I'm a big advocate of giving your body the nutritional support it needs without becoming  neurotic about the environment. But here is a good example of where knowledge is power—because taking pure calcium can actually introduce health problems.

You want calcium to be deposited into your bones instead of calcifying in blood vessels, where it can up your risk of heart disease. For this to happen, calcium must be balanced with vitamin D, magnesium, and Vitamin K. A recent meta-analysis suggests that taking plain calcium for osteoporosis is associated with a 31 percent increased risk of heart attack. It's likely the risk is the same if the calcium is taken in a chewable antacid.

The bottom line? Calcium does not do much to help build strong bones, and Americans get plenty from food, where the calcium is healthy. But if you're adding calcium for osteoporosis, or chewing an antacid tablet (most are simply calcium) for indigestion, take one that includes Vitamin D (which dropped the heart attack risk of taking calcium by one-third) plus magnesium and Vitamin K. I recommend the chewable antacid Immediate Heartburn Relief by EuroPharma (which I helped design).

In the mean time, go after the root causes of indigestion, which stems from poor digestion, not too much stomach acid. Some simple tips to ease indigestion:

  • Take plant-based enzymes with meals to improve digestion.
  • Your digestive enzymes work best at body temperatures, so sip some hot tea or hot water with lemon during meals instead of iced drinks.
  • For nighttime acid reflux, take ½ tsp of baking soda dissolved in 4 oz of water at bedtime. This will neutralize stomach acid that your body doesn’t need during sleep.

Jacob Teitelbaum M.D., is a board certified internist and Medical Director of the Fibromyalgia and Fatigue Centers, Inc. He's the author of Beat Sugar Addiction NOW!, the perennial best-seller From Fatigued to Fantastic!, Pain Free 1-2-3, and Three Steps to Happiness.

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