Reaching for a popular heartburn medication may not be the best long term solution…


I’m frustrated. In my office, I see patients every day who are trying to make the right choices for their health and yet they are being sabotaged. Take for instance the popular heartburn relief medication TUMS. Had a spicy burrito with a beer and now you’re feeling the burn? No problems, any local pharmacy can help you out.

Ignoring for a minute why you have heart burn – a discussion for another day –at this stage you’re looking for relief.

Pop a tasty pill and relief. But what long term effects is that ‘medical product’ having on your body? Let’s take a closer look…



TUMS® Ultra 1000 Inactive Ingredients (from accessed April 2015)

Assorted Berries: adipic acid, corn starch, FD&C blue #1 lake, FD&C red #40 lake, flavors, mineral oil, sodium polyphosphate, sucrose, talc.


Next, let’s do some research on some of these non-medicinal ingredients really are.


FD&C blue #1 lake aka brilliant blue:

Combing through some of the data posted on Environment Canada has proved to be time consuming and by no measure an easy task for the average consumer. The Environmental Working Group,, a non-profit organisation, states that with respect to ‘Organ System Toxicity (non-reproductive organ)’ that the Environment Canada Domestic Substance List states conflicting concerns: “Classified as medium human health priority” and “Classified as not expected to be potentially toxic or harmful”. Confused? You’re not the only one.

In a study published by J Wang, in May 2013 in the Journal of General Physiology, the safety of FD&C blue #1 colouring is greatly put into question: “BB FCF ¨ [FD&C blue #1]and derivatives of this “safe” food dye should be given serious consideration”. The authors also highlight how more research needs to be done to better understand the concentrations in the human body at which blue #1 may have a negative impact.

In June 2013, ABC –News published an article stating that Blue #1 was banned in Norway, Finland and France.



FD&C red #40 lake aka allura red, Food Red 17, C.I. 16035, E129, 2-naphthalenesulfonic acid, 6-hydroxy-5–, disodium salt, and disodium 6-hydroxy-5–2-naphthalenesulfonate.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) first published a report of common food dyes in 2010 which can be found here.


With respect to Allura Red, the report states “Considering the lack of published metabolism data, the positive results in comet assays, the disputed mouse studies, causation of hypersensitivity reactions, possible causation of hyperactivity in children, and the non-essentiality of the dye, Red 40 should not be used in foods.”


The UK Food Guide (online access April 2015) people with skin sensitivities should be careful of possible allergic reactions. Allura red has also been connected with cancer in mice and is not recommended for consumption by children. Interestingly, this colouring is banned in Denmark, Belgium, France, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Austria and Norway.



Sodium Polyphosphate:

Sodium can be found as a sodium phosphate as well as in polyphosphate form where many phosphate groups are bound to the sodium ion. Both forms are commonly used in the food industry as a preservative, anti-microbial and to stabilize the pH (acid-base level) of a product. Deemed safe for consumption. Although I can’t help but read the MedLine statement “Sodium phosphate can cause serious kidney damage and possibly death”. To be clear, this statement refers to ingesting large doses frequently.

Full info on sodium phosphate and its medical uses for colon emptying before colonscopy see this MedLine article.

There are many studies published looking at the anti-microbial properties of this long chain polyphosphate. Both Staph and Listeria are negatively affected by this preservative. Good, because we don’t want this bugs anyway.




A sugar molecule typically derived from beets and cane sugar and usually goes by the name ‘table sugar’ and ‘white sugar’. Of course, a person is more likely to choose your product if it tastes good – we’re only human. And it turns out that rats are just the same. In an interesting study published in 2007, rats were given the choice between sugar-water and cocaine-water. Forty-one of 43 rats chose sugar-water over cocaine. Let’s be clear, 95% of the rats opted for sugar instead of the highly addictive drug cocaine. The researchers even took some cocaine addicted rats and then gave them the choice to have more cocaine or make a change and pick sugar. Guess what, they chose sugar. Want to read the full study? See Resources below.


When you’re in discomfort – even after self-induced discomfort from that spicy burrito – it’s only natural to do what we can to reduce pain. However maybe we need to weigh the pain of today against the ‘potential harm’ / pain or dis-ease of tomorrow.






Here’s a great link to learn more about the top 12 food additives to watch for

The full (free) scientific study on rats and water vs cocaine