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Old 09-14-2005, 09:08 AM
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: An East Hollywood dingbat
Posts: 7,610
How Does Pepto-Bismol Work?

(bismuth subsalicylate)

The label says:

"Soothing Relief for 5 Symptoms
--Upset Stomach

Isn't that a pretty tall order? Or are all these things the result of the same thing/condition?

Their web site says some doctor created it for "child cholera," but "studies" didn't discover the active ingredient (bismuth subsalicylate) until long afterward. How did this doctor know what to put in? And exactly what does bismuth subsalicylate do? I know the ads say it "coats" the stomach, but I doubt one little capful could really do that.
Old 09-14-2005, 11:54 AM
Charter Member
Join Date: Dec 1999
Location: Dogpatch/Middle TN.
Posts: 30,480
I don't know how it works, but Bismuth elixers & tablets have been around since the 19th Century, made by many different people.

Pepto is not likely to be the first of its kind.
"I know, deep in my heart, that I really really really don't want to get munched by that thing."
~~~Either Chapter Sixteen of the Yellow Codex of the Smoke Knights, OR Moloch von Zinzer doing improv. It depends.
Old 09-14-2005, 12:02 PM
Join Date: Dec 1999
Location: La Rive Ouest
Posts: 9,188
Hope this site helps a little (PDF):
Specific Uses:
Bismuth subsalicylate, better known as pepto-bismol, has several uses. The main uses of pepto-bismol
include treating peptic ulcers and preventing/managing diarrhea in humans and animals (which may include
domestic animals as well as livestock). Bismuth subsalicylate may also be used as a coloring agent in
cosmetics, giving products a pearl like shine. Bismuth subsalicylate is used in the manufacture of cellulosebase,
polystyrene and phenol-formaldehyde resins and is also used in heat-sensitive paper coatings and as
stabilizer. It can be used therapeutically to treat Lupus erythematosus. 5 “Bismuth subsalicylate is
considered to have an important role in relapsing gastric ulcer[s].”6 Bismuth subsalicylate helps to coat the
ulcer, allowing it to heal. “Bismuth subsalicylate, the ingredient in Pepto-Bismol, decreases the secretion
of fluid into the intestine and inhibits the activity of bacteria. It not only controls diarrhea, but relieves the
cramps that often accompany diarrhea.”7

Bismuth subsalicylate is prescribed to treat indigestion, heartburn, diarrhea, and duodenal ulcers. Bismuth
subsalicylate stimulates the passage of fluid and electrolytes across the wall of the intestinal tract, and binds
or neutralizes the toxins of some bacteria, rendering them nontoxic. It decreases intestinal inflammation
and increases the activity of intestinal muscles and lining.
It normally takes effect within 30-60 minutes. 8
In the gastrointestinal tract, bismuth subsalicylate is converted into insoluble bismuth salts as well as
salicylic acid. Salicylate, extensively absorbed (greater than 90%), is excreted in human and animal urine.
Old 09-14-2005, 12:11 PM
Charter Member
Join Date: Dec 1999
Location: Dogpatch/Middle TN.
Posts: 30,480
Bismuth has been used in medicine for over 200 years.
Old 09-14-2005, 12:34 PM
Join Date: May 2005
Location: Jefferson, Texas
Posts: 1,078
I'm glad there's a Pepto topic, because I've been wondering something for a few years.

For most of my life I've had a horrible stomach/GI tract. In about the 4th grade I had tons of tests run and I think they finally diagnosed gastritis and IBS. Back then Zantac was about my only option.

The thing is, every other day or so my stomach would hurt and prevent me from going to school. Pepto always relieved the symptoms, but my pediatrician told my mom to stop giving it because it contained salicylates. He said that, in the long run, the asprin would be more harmful to my stomach and wasn't worth the temporary relief. After that, I got no Pepto.

Nowadays my savior seems to be Nexium, but there are still a few days per month that my belly acts up in the morning. I thought about Pepto again and did a little research about it. Their website is very specific in listing "non-asprin salicylates" as an ingredient. Apparently the mint is what they're talking about; I wasn't really clear on that.

So my question is, is Pepto truly harmful to your stomach in the long-run, or did my doc make a simple error? Was I deprived of the soothing goodness of the pink stuff for naught?
Old 09-14-2005, 01:09 PM
Join Date: Apr 2005
Location: Columbus, Georgia
Posts: 6,934
I envy people who can get relief from the pink stuff. It is one thing that will make me throw up. Every time.
Old 09-14-2005, 01:14 PM
MLS MLS is offline
Charter Member
Join Date: Mar 2003
Location: New Jersey
Posts: 7,839
snakescatlady, have you tried the capsules that you swallow whole? They work just as well and you don't taste a thing.
Old 09-14-2005, 01:18 PM
Join Date: Apr 1999
Posts: 7,090
I got treated for a pre-ulcerous h. pylori infection and part of the treatment included peptobismol 4 times a day for two weeks. I don't know if it would be harmful to take it every day, but it seems odd that it would be part of the treatment for ulcers if it is an irritant.
Old 09-14-2005, 01:18 PM
Join Date: Sep 2005
Location: New Orleans
Posts: 49
Originally Posted by BlakeTyner
So my question is, is Pepto truly harmful to your stomach in the long-run, or did my doc make a simple error? Was I deprived of the soothing goodness of the pink stuff for naught?
not quite an answer to your question (working on that) but here is some interesting news:
Old 09-14-2005, 01:20 PM
Join Date: Sep 2005
Location: New Orleans
Posts: 49
Is There A Danger In Taking Too Much Pepto-Bismal?

Q. I frequently suffer from indigestion, for which I take up to four doses of Pepto-Bismol a day. My pharmacist says that's fine. Is it true, or is there a danger in taking too much Pepto-Bismol?

A. Four doses a day for indigestion should be safe for up to a month. But with continual use of Pepto-Bismol, you may risk problems with either bismuth or salicylate, two of the primary ingredients in this digestive aid.

Bismuth overdose may lead to neurological symptoms and unsteadiness, although this is unlikely with Pepto-Bismol. Salicylate is similar to an ingredient in aspirin and can interact with other drugs or cause ringing in the ears.

Prolonged indigestion calls for medical diagnosis. You may be infected with Helicobacter pylori, a bacteria that can live in the stomach and cause ulcers or chronic gastritis.
Old 09-14-2005, 01:21 PM
Join Date: Apr 2001
Location: Sacramento, CA
Posts: 7,170
I hate the word "bismuth". Hearing it makes my stomach turn, as does watching Pepto commercials with that diarrhea dance.

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