Answer: It depends.
Pepto Bismol is the most popular brand name that sells bismuth subsalicylate—a type of medication used to treat minor health issues like nausea, heartburn, and indigestion. Pepto Bismol also acts as an antacid—a class of drugs that neutralizes stomach acid. Such medications specialize in treating digestive issues such as diarrhea, constipation, upset stomach, and stomach ache.
Though medications are generally vegan, Pepto Bismol is potentially an exception due to its somewhat milky texture. So, is Pepto Bismol vegan, or do they contain dairy products, or is it completely vegan?
According to our findings, from Pepto Bismol’s 18 products, only five are 100% vegan. The rest contain animal byproducts, though it’s not clear if the Caplet and Chewable product lines are vegan since one of their ingredients, magnesium stearate, might be derived from animal sources.
Therefore, if you have no other choice but to take Pepto Bismol, you may have to watch out which product you get. If you’re struggling to distinguish their vegan from non-vegan products, this article should help.
Let’s start by looking into the ingredients of Pepto Bismol products.
What Is Pepto Bismol Made Out Of?
Before anything else, keep in mind that the Pepto Bismol brand currently has six product lines available to consumers, namely (1) Liquid, (2) LiquiCaps, (3) Caplets, (4) Chewables, (5) Chews, and (6) Softgels.
Products under the same category use the same ingredients. Here’s a look at what these are:
|BASE INGREDIENTS||Bismuth Subsalicylate, Calcium Carbonate, Colorant, Flavoring, Polysorbate, Povidone, Water|
|LIQUID||Benzoic Acid, Gellan Gum, Magnesium Aluminum Silicate, Methylcellulose, Salicylic Acid, Sodium Salicylate, Sorbic Acid, Sucralose|
|LIQUICAPS||Gelatin, Glycerin, Polyethylene Glycol, Sorbitol Sorbitan, Titanium Dioxide|
|CAPLETS||Magnesium Stearate, Mannitol, Microcrystalline Cellulose, Silicon Dioxide, Sodium Starch Glycolate|
|CHEWABLES||Magnesium Stearate, Mannitol, Povidone, Saccharin Sodium, Talc|
|CHEWS||Acacia, Beeswax, Caprylic, Carmine, Carnauba Wax, Citric Acid, Corn Starch, Corn Syrup, Dextrin, Coconut Oil, Maltodextrin, Potassium Hydroxide, Propylene Glycol, Shellac, Sodium Benzoate, Sorbic Acid, Sorbitol, Soy Lecithin, Sucrose, Titanium Dioxide, Water|
|SOFTGELS||Peppermint Oil Aerial, Caraway Oil Seed, Sunflower Oil, Gelatin, Glycerin, Ethyl Cellulose, Sodium Alginate, Ammonium Hydroxide, Triglycerides, Oleic Acid, Stearic Acid|
If you look into each of these ingredients, you may find a few red flags here and there. That’s because some ingredients in this list are indeed non-vegan, while others have plant and animal sources.
The following section will clarify which of the ingredients in this list are not vegan.
Concerning Ingredients Of Pepto Bismol
Out of all the ingredients above, four are non-vegan, and five are possibly non-vegan as they have both plant and animal sources. Let’s take a look at the very first concerning ingredient—gelatin.
Gelatin serves as a gelling agent for foods and beverages, though you can also find this specific component in medications, as is the case with Pepto Bismol.
Unfortunately, gelatin can only come from animal sources.
More specifically, gelatin is a type of protein obtained by boiling animal tendons, ligaments, bones, and skin with water. It usually comes from pigs and cows, and therefore, it’s not a vegan ingredient.
As the name suggests, beeswax is the natural wax that honey bees naturally produce.
Though beeswax technically doesn’t contain animal or insect flesh, one cannot deny that it results from animal cruelty. Therefore, while it is vegetarian, this ingredient isn’t vegan-friendly.
Shellac is a resin that comes from the secretions of lac insects. Again, while it may not contain insect flesh, it still results from animal cruelty. For that reason, shellac is by no means vegan.
Carmine is often used as a coloring in the food industry. It’s a common ingredient in ice creams, soft drinks, and baked goods like donuts and cupcakes, as it provides foods and beverages a red color.
Cosmetics brands also use this ingredient as a dye for lipsticks.
It’s a non-vegan ingredient as it comes from the extract of the insect species Dactylopius coccus Costa.
This, beeswax, shellac, and gelatin are the two 100% non-vegan ingredients of Pepto Bismol.
Glycerin, also known as glycerol, is a colorless, viscous, and odorless liquid found in all sorts of products. It has several uses, specifically for food and beverages. It helps retain moisture, add bulk, sweetness, and softness to a product, and prevents sugar crystallization.
Although glycerin can come from plants, petroleum, or vegetables, it’s also found in animal sources.
Since Pepto Bismol doesn’t clarify where they get their glycerin, it’s not clear if it’s vegan or non-vegan.
Magnesium stearate is a common ingredient in foods and beverages, as well as medications. It serves as a binder, emulsifier, thickener, anti-caking and anti-foaming agent in various products.
Though the compound is generally vegan, magnesium stearate can come from both vegan and non-vegan sources. To be more precise, one of its components, stearic acid, can come from chickens.
Again, the brand has yet to confirm if the magnesium stearate they use comes from chickens. Therefore, there’s no way of knowing whether their products that contain this ingredient are vegan or not.
Propylene glycol is a food additive that helps preserve moisture in foods and beverages.
Some manufacturers also use this ingredient to add flavor and dissolve colors in medications. You can find it in foods, beverages, cosmetics products, and, most importantly, medications like Pepto Bismol.
Much like the last two ingredients, polyethylene glycol has several sources, the most common being natural gas and oils. However, it can be derived from glycerol/glycerin, which, as you may already know, can be non-vegan, depending on its source. On the bright side, propylene glycol rarely comes from animal sources, so you can at least take comfort in the fact that it’s not likely to be non-vegan.
Caprylic, also known as a capric triglyceride, is a mix of triglycerides from caprylic and capric acid.
It works as an emollient and solvent in cosmetics products. It also has several health benefits, as it can help regulate issues like high cholesterol, digestive disorders, yeast infections, and skin conditions.
This would explain why it’s present in Pepto Bismol products.
It has two primary sources, namely (1) plant oils and (2) a specific fatty acid found in the milk of sheep, cows, and goats. Unfortunately, the latter seems to be the more common source, so the chances of the caprylic in Pepto Bismol being non-vegan is higher than it is being vegan.
The last unsettling ingredient in Pepto Bismol is stearic acid. It’s a coating agent that helps preserve the freshness of foods and beverages by preventing water evaporation. You can find the ingredient in cocoa products like chocolate and candies. Though stearic acid can come from vegetable oils and fats, it can also result from the fractionation or crystallization of fatty acids from animal fats.
Since most of these ingredients aren’t exactly something you’d see from day-to-day products, it’s pretty easy to make the mistake of thinking they’re vegan. But as you now know, they’re not.
Since that’s the case, it’s clear that not all Pepto Bismol products are vegan, which begs the question…
Which Pepto Bismol Products Are Vegan?
As stated earlier, there are only five confirmed vegan products from the Pepto Bismol brand.
Here’s an overview of the brand’s products and their respective “veganness.”
|Original Liquid||YES||Contains no animal products|
|Cherry Diarrhea Liquid||YES||Contains no animal products|
|Cherry Liquid||YES||Contains no animal products|
|Cherry Ultra Liquid||YES||Contains no animal products|
|Ultra Liquid||YES||Contains no animal products|
|Diarrhea LiquiCaps||NO||Contains glycerin, gelatin, and polyethylene glycol|
|LiquiCaps Rapid Relief||NO||Contains glycerin, gelatin, and polyethylene glycol|
|Original Caplets||UNKNOWN||Contains magnesium stearate|
|Diarrhea Caplets||UNKNOWN||Contains magnesium stearate|
|Ultra Caplets||UNKNOWN||Contains magnesium stearate|
|Chewable Tablets Cherry||UNKNOWN||Contains magnesium stearate|
|Chewable Tablets Original||UNKNOWN||Contains magnesium stearate|
|Kids Chewable Tablets Bubblegum||UNKNOWN||Contains magnesium stearate|
|To-Go Cherry Chewable Tablets||UNKNOWN||Contains magnesium stearate|
|Pepto Chews||NO||Contains beeswax, carmine, caprylic, and shellac|
|Pepto Bismol Chews – Berry Mint||NO||Contains beeswax, carmine, caprylic, and shellac|
|Pepto Herbal Blends Peppermint & Caraway Softgels||NO||Contains gelatin, glycerin, and stearic acid|
|Pepto Herbal Blends Ginger & Chamomile Softgels||NO||Contains gelatin, glycerin, and stearic acid|
Considering how PETA has already addressed the vegan concerns of Pepto Bismol, you’d think that they’ll have more vegan-friendly products, but that has yet to be the case. Only five out of their 18 products are vegan. Sure, it’s still unclear whether the caplets and chewables are vegan or not, but seeing as how the company has yet to provide clarifications, the chances of it being vegan is low.
Although Pepto Bismol can solve your stomach pain, it may not be worth it if you can’t stomach the fact that you’re basically eating an animal product. On the bright side, their original product line, the liquids, are completely vegan. Hopefully, the brand can find ways to use vegan alternatives for their non-vegan ingredients, much like how they use gellan gum as a substitute for gelatin for their liquid product line.
Nevertheless, you must keep in mind that Pepto Bismol isn’t the only medication for digestive issues. You can also get alternatives, such as Tummydrops and Apple Cider Vinegar Gummies.