An eight year old was asked, 'What do you think is a cation?'

Her quick reply was a positively charged kitten.

How antacids work

There are times when your tummy is not all right, after you have been eating all that junk food and soft drinks. Your mummy might give you some pills to make you feel better. It is likely that this medicine is an antacid. Learn about how these medicines help you feel better and the chemistry behind them.

What are antacids are used for

Antacids are used for people suffering from heartburn, what is commonly known as acidity. Don’t worry your heart isn’t set on fire. This is usually caused by an imbalance of stomach acids. Acids help in breaking down the food you eat. Though the body has some natural defence mechanisms against acidity at times these do not work. At these times you may experience a burning sensation sometimes in your throat or oesophagus.

Your throat, unlike your stomach, was never designed to handle this acid. When the valve between your stomach and oesophagus opens prematurely, some acid enters your throat and you get that burning feeling known as heartburn. While you have heartburn you may experience a burning pain in your chest or behind your sternum – just below where your neck ends.

Acids help in breaking down the food you eat.

How antacids work

Antacids are medicines that help correct the pH balance in your stomach. Your stomach has its own natural acids and sometimes these acids become too much for your stomach to handle. This is caused when you don’t eat on time and you have an empty stomach. What the antacid does is to neutralise this affect. They buffer the stomach’s gastric acid since they are basic in nature. Some antacids are designed to ensure that your stomach doesn’t become too base in nature. Which is the very opposite of being acidic!

Types of antacids

Antacids are made up of different kind of chemicals. Some of the common ones include aluminium hydroxide, magnesium hydroxide, calcium carbonate and sodium bicarbonate. Though most of these chemicals are used individually, you may find them used in combinations.

Why does an antacid fizz when you put it in water

Antacids contain sodium bicarbonate. That’s right— baking powder. Another important ingredient is citric acid. Both of these chemicals react with each other producing carbonic acid. In its liquid form this carbonic acid decomposes producing water and carbon dioxide. What this means is that the glass of water is very much like your favourite soda that also contains carbon dioxide in it. The fizz that you see is the carbon dioxide bubbles bubbling to the surface.

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