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Can Too Many Tums Cause Trouble?

Q. My wife has been taking three Tums tablets (750 mg) daily for years as a source of calcium. Is this amount safe? She has lost her appetite.

A. Your wife is getting 2250 mg of calcium carbonate daily, 40 percent of which is elemental calcium. That means she is taking in 900 mg of the mineral in addition to any calcium in her diet. That might be too much.

Taking in excess calcium and antacid (such as in calcium carbonate) for months or years can result in “milk-alkali syndrome.” This condition may lead to symptoms such as loss of appetite and stomach pain and raise the risk of kidney stones or even kidney damage.

Perhaps your wife’s doctor could refer her to a registered dietitian or other nutrition expert who could help her review her diet to see whether she is in fact getting too much calcium and alkaline compounds. She might be able to shift to a dfferent dietary pattern that would not put her in danger, while still providing the minerals she needs. (Calcium is not the only mineral essential for strong bones.)

For more information, we recommend our one-hour interview with Michael Castleman and Walter Willett, MD, DrPH, “Bone Vitality.”

Our Guide to Osteoporosis also has helpful advice on maintaining strong bones.


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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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