Bismuth is a heavy metal similar to lead and arsenic, but
not nearly as toxic. It is a mineral, with the atomic number 83, that is found naturally in very small amounts in
some foods and can be of help with
gastrointestinal disorders. As a
metal, bismuth was known in ancient times, but often confused with
lead, tin and antimony. Bismuth is derived from the German language
and means "white mass." It is a naturally occurring and stable heavy
metal and about 86 percent as dense as lead, but much less toxic,
which is why alloys of bismuth are now used as replacements for
products that have traditionally been made from lead, such as
As a natural part of the diet it may help absorb toxins within the
intestines and reduce stomach acidity. It also has an effect on the
zinc balance in the body.
Bismuth compounds were once used to treat
syphilis, but are now better known as a gastrointestinal remedy.
Bismuth is absorbent and alkalising meaning it reduces acidity, which is why it is used to
treat the following health disorders :
Bismuth deficiency can cause low stomach acid (upper part of stomach), heartburn, bloating, calcification, warts, diarrhoea, gastric ulcers. Bismuth and lithium frequently test low in patients who suffer from low stomach acid levels corresponding to upper (bismuth) and lower (lithium) parts of the stomach and they are always low in those with an active infection of the Helicobacter pylori bacterium, which is responsible for some gastric ulcers and a number of other
medical conditions. Bismuth, through its antimicrobial action, is more appropriate for peptic involvement to inhibit H. Pylori activity, where it supports an increase in upper stomach acid levels, while lithium is more indicated for lower gastric duodenal involvement, where it supports an increase in lower stomach acid levels.
Supplements of lithium and bismuth are not advised though as excessive amounts can cause serious health issues.
Overdose of bismuth or lithium
Bismuth can accumulate in the kidneys and liver with long-term use, causing toxicity symptoms and reduced function. Too much bismuth leads to a dark coloured tongue, black deposits within the gums and black stools, which are similar symptoms to lead poisoning. Skin and respiratory irritation can also occur. Excess lithium has similar effects.
Bismuth or lithium overdose symptoms
Goitre (swelling of the thyroid gland)
Nausea and vomiting
Serious complications of bismuth or lithium overdose
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