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Using Magnesium for Constipation Relief: Does It Work?

Constipation, characterized by hard and dry stools or passing fewer than three bowel movements a week, is a condition where stool moves too slowly through the large intestine. Though common, constipation can be uncomfortable, contributing to hemorrhoids and anal fissures (tears). Treatments, including laxatives, are aimed at improving stool movements. Learn about the laxative properties of magnesium and what to know before trying it for constipation relief.

What is magnesium?

Magnesium is a mineral that keeps the body functioning properly. Found in foods such as leafy greens, legumes, nuts, and seeds, or through supplements, it plays a role in many important processes. These processes range from supporting healthy muscle and nerve function to helping build bone and controlling blood sugar and blood pressure.

Does magnesium work for constipation?

Magnesium is known as an osmotic laxative, meaning it helps draw water into the intestines to make stools easier to pass and more frequent. In different studies evaluating the relationship between magnesium and bowel movements, researchers have found that magnesium intake can be inversely associated with the presence of constipation both in men and women. In other words, higher magnesium intakes from food and water tend to be associated with less constipation, while low magnesium intakes are associated with a higher prevalence of constipation.

Several double-blind, randomized studies studying the effect of magnesium not from food but in supplement form (specifically, magnesium sulfate as part of mineral water) have also demonstrated osmotic laxative properties for increasing stool frequency and consistency.

Additional studies would be helpful to better understand all the mechanisms involved. Some research suggests that magnesium's benefits extend beyond its osmotic effect to include hormone secretion.

Different types of magnesium for constipation

A wide variety of magnesium supplements exist to help with constipation. Learn their differences and recommendations for use to determine which magnesium is best.

Magnesium citrate

Magnesium citrate is the type of magnesium most commonly used for bowel prep prior to a colonoscopy. Magnesium citrate for constipation comes in powder form to mix with liquid, but you can also find it in gummy and tablet varieties.

Dosage: For adults, the recommended magnesium citrate daily dosage is 8 oz (240 mL) — either the full dose all at once or divided throughout the day — taken with food and water.

Magnesium glycinate

Magnesium glycinate could be considered the best magnesium for constipation for reasons you’ll read below. It is mostly available in tablet form, but you may also be able to find powders online.

Dosage: Most magnesium glycinate supplements contain 100–200 mg per dose. A daily dosage of 200–400 mg of magnesium glycinate for constipation is appropriate. Take with food and water.

Magnesium oxide

In addition to use as a laxative, some people take magnesium oxide as an antacid to relieve heartburn or indigestion. The liquid form of magnesium oxide is known as Milk of Magnesia.

Dosage: Capsules typically come in 140 mg strengths and tablets in 400 mg. It is not recommended to exceed more than 800 mg per day or to take on an empty stomach.

Magnesium sulfate

Also known as Epsom salt, magnesium sulfate is used for constipation, but it can also be used as a soaking solution to relieve aches, stiffness, and soreness.

Dosage: If using a powdered form, adults are recommended 2–6 teaspoons dissolved in water as a single dose or in two divided doses per day.

Things to know before trying magnesium for constipation

Before starting any new supplement or medicine for constipation, consult with your healthcare provider about your concerns. Your provider may suggest or explore one of any other remedies or underlying causes for constipation, including diet, exercise, and current medications.

Additionally, it’s important to know that magnesium can interact with antibiotics, blood pressure medications, and osteoporosis medications. You should also talk to your doctor if you have heart disease or kidney disease, as taking magnesium could make these conditions worse.

Potential side effects of taking magnesium for constipation

As with any medication, there may be some side effects to taking magnesium. Because it works in your digestive system, you may experience some gastrointestinal effects, including:

  • Diarrhea
  • Upset stomach
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Also, let your healthcare provider know right away if you experience any of the following signs and symptoms of magnesium toxicity, which can occur from getting too much magnesium from supplements:

  • Confusion
  • Drowsiness
  • Muscle weakness
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Difficulty breathing

If constipation is something you struggle with, magnesium may be an option for finding relief. Due to its laxative effect, magnesium can make stools easier to pass and also more frequent. Just be sure to check with your healthcare provider about any underlying conditions before starting a new supplement or medication, and always follow the dosing recommendations as prescribed.

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