A bout of constipation can be incredibly frustrating. Whether it’s simple irregularity or painful, difficult-to-pass stools, you may be tempted to try almost anything for relief. Many have tried magnesium citrate for constipation. The supplement is used as a laxative to help stimulate an inactive bowel.
In this article, we will discuss how magnesium citrate works and if it is the right remedy for you. But first, let’s go over the symptoms and causes of constipation.
Constipation: Symptoms and Causes
Constipation occurs when stools are infrequent and irregular, tough to pass, or both. It is officially defined as having fewer than three bowel movements per week.
However, each person is different, and research indicates that people experience a wide range of “normal” bowel habits.
Anywhere from three poops a day to three poops a week is considered normal by most health experts. But if your “regular” falls outside of this range, and your stools are soft and easily passed, you’re likely okay.
You may be constipated, however, if you experience symptoms such as:
- Dry, hard, pebble-like stools
- A feeling of incomplete emptying
- Trouble passing stools (straining)
- Abdominal bloating
Constipation can result from poor dietary or lifestyle choices, existing health conditions, and specific medicines.
Some common causes of constipation include:
- A lack of fiber in the diet
- Not drinking enough water
- Having a sedentary lifestyle (inactivity)
- Eating too much cheese or other dairy products
- Certain medications (antidepressants, prescription painkillers, iron pills, antacids featuring aluminum and calcium)
- Digestive disorders like irritable bowel syndrome
- Neurological disorders like multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease
- Old age
Anyone of any age, sex, or health status can suffer from occasional constipation. It is a common issue that is often easily remedied with a change in diet. But if your symptoms continue for more than three months, it may be a chronic problem.
Left untreated, chronic constipation puts you at risk for complications like anal fissures (tears), hemorrhoids (swollen rectal veins), impaction (blockage of stool), or rectal prolapse (protrusion of the rectum through the anus).
You should talk to your doctor if you suspect you have chronic constipation. Moreover, seek immediate medical attention for any constipation accompanied by:
- Severe pain
- Bloody stools
- Rectal bleeding
- Inability to pass gas
- Unexplained weight loss
Magnesium Citrate and Constipation
If your constipation isn’t severe or chronic, you might consider taking a magnesium citrate supplement. But what is magnesium citrate, exactly? And how does it work?
Constipation happens when waste becomes dry and hard from sitting in the colon for too long. Magnesium citrate works as an osmotic laxative. This means that it draws water into your intestines, softening the dry stool and making it easier to pass.
Magnesium citrate usually produces a bowel movement within 30 minutes to six hours. It’s a relatively quick and easy way to treat constipation from the comfort of your home—when used correctly.
Magnesium Citrate Safety and Side Effects
Magnesium citrate should be considered a short-term solution to a short-term problem. It’s not intended to treat chronic or severe constipation, and it isn’t without side effects.
Excessive use of the supplement can lead to laxative dependence, where you’re unable to produce a bowel movement without the digestive aid. Over time, the nerves and muscles of your intestines can become unresponsive to normal cues.
Dehydration and electrolyte imbalances may also occur with overuse. Therefore, it’s important to drink lots of water when taking magnesium citrate.
When used as directed, magnesium citrate is generally safe for most people. That said, certain populations may be at increased risk for side effects, including:
- Children under two
- Pregnant women
- Nursing women
- Those with kidney disease
- People on a magnesium- or sodium-restricted diet
The side effects are typically mild and include stomach cramps and/or discomfort, gas, and mild diarrhea. Stop taking magnesium citrate and contact your doctor if you experience serious side effects, such as:
- Blood in stool
- Bleeding from the rectum
- Severe diarrhea
- Muscle weakness
- Confusion or disorientation
- Irregular or slow heartbeat
Magnesium Citrate Dosages
First and foremost, you should always follow the directions on the packaging. Do not take more than directed or for longer than one week, unless recommended by your doctor.
Magnesium citrate can be purchased over-the-counter as a tablet, saline solution, or powder for mixing with water or juice. For constipation, the oral solution and powder forms are most effective.
Dosages will vary between brands and according to age and weight. But generally, for adults and children 12 and over, the saline solution should be taken with eight ounces of water.
If using the powder, add the recommended dose to 10 ounces of water or juice, and stir until thoroughly mixed.
Also, be sure to get in at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day. This will help reduce your risk of getting dehydrated.
Magnesium citrate may interact with other medications. Before you start using it, tell your doctor or pharmacist about any other medications you might be taking, including vitamins and herbal supplements.
To be safe, avoid taking any medications two hours before or two hours after taking magnesium citrate.
Alternative Ways to Treat Constipation
Magnesium citrate works well for many people, but it isn’t the only option for constipation relief. There are other ways to treat—or even prevent—constipation without a visit to your local pharmacy or doctor’s office.
- Eat more fiber: High-fiber foods like raspberries, oats, and almonds will add bulk to your stool and speed up its passage through your colon. According to the American Heart Association, the average adult should consume around 25 grams of fiber per day.
- Drink more water: An adequate water intake will keep your stools and intestines well-lubricated for a smoother transit through your digestive tract.
- Exercise regularly: Physical activity can help stimulate your intestines, reducing the amount of time it takes food to move through them. Try to get at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise weekly.
- Train your bowels: Some find that training their body to have bowel movements at the same time every day helps to increase regularity. Choose a time that works well for your lifestyle and schedule—after your morning breakfast is an ideal time.
If symptoms do not improve or get worse with magnesium citrate, or the alternative options above, see a doctor to rule out any serious underlying conditions.
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