Gaviscon, or aluminum with magnesium hydroxide, is an antacid medicine that is used to treat heartburn, gas and a sour stomach, as well as acid indigestion. It also can be taken to treat or prevent other conditions that involve excess stomach acid such as peptic ulcer disease and hiatal hernia. This medication contains aluminum; therefore, side effects may occur in addition to the typically mild or commonly reported outcomes related to this drug.
According to Drugs.com, gastrointestinal problems are the most commonly reported type of side effect associated with this medication. For example, diarrhea, constipation, nausea and vomiting may be experienced while taking this drug. In situations where diarrhea and constipation both are experienced or closely alternate, dropping down to lower doses generally will ease these symptoms. Other related side effects that may occur consist of stomach cramps, a chalky aftertaste and an increased sense of being thirsty. A more serious, yet rare side effect is that of developing a bowel obstruction due to aluminum effects.
In general, side effects caused by Gaviscon can be very severe due to the ingredient of aluminum. Many individuals may accumulate high levels of aluminum, especially those who take high doses of this medication daily. Most of the aluminum is eliminated from the body by the gastrointestinal tract, yet aluminum absorption as well as increased levels in the blood have been documented. Long-term use of aluminum drugs can deposit aluminum in multiple places throughout the body.
Accumulated levels of aluminum can get deposited in the musculoskeletal system, for example, the bones and joints. As a consequence, severe side effects may result for those using high doses of Gaviscon. Osteomalacia, or softening of the bones, may occur due to the amount of aluminum in the bones, as well as bone and muscle pain and weakness. The weakened state of the bones and muscles increases the possibility of tears and fractures. Moreover, continued ingestion of aluminum and the continuing deposit into the musculoskeletal system may lead to the development of arthritis.
According to Drugs.com, aluminum can be deposited in the brain and produce mental changes and nervous system side effects such as encephalopathy. Associated encephalopathic symptoms may involve speech disorders, tremors or seizures and abnormal electroencephalograms. Hypotension, slowed breathing and, in extreme cases, coma or death may result. In rare instances, renal side effects such as kidney stones have occurred; specifically, the toxicity from high aluminum levels typically occurs in individuals with renal disorders who have problems with adequate elimination of waste products.
A.M. Tacon is an associate professor of health at Texas Tech University. Her research interests include psychosocial factors in cancer, complementary therapies and stress reduction in individuals with cancer. Dr. Tacon runs mindfulness-based stress reduction programs for women with breast cancer, which is based on various forms of mindfulness meditation.