Constipation can happen to anyone! The common digestive issue, while often clouded in embarrassment, can impact people of all ages. In fact, research suggests that one in every seven adults – and up to one in every three children in the UK has constipation at any given time.
Lots of over-the-counter medicines exist to help treat constipation. But one natural mineral stands above the rest when it comes to bowel movements.
Magnesium is a natural remedy and essential mineral that plays a vital role in various bodily functions, including muscle and nerve function, protein synthesis, and bone health. It is present in more than 300 biochemical processes in the body – so we’re pretty confident in calling it “essential!”
But what exactly is the relationship between magnesium and constipation? Do all types of magnesium alleviate constipation?
Does scientific evidence support the use of magnesium as a natural treatment for constipation? And if so, does this mean that all magnesium will make you poop – even if you’re not constipated?
Here’s everything you need to know, including:
- Can you use magnesium for constipation
- Which is the best magnesium for constipation
- How much magnesium should you use for constipation
In this guide:
What causes constipation?
Constipation affects people of all ages. This digestive condition can be caused by a variety of factors, such as lack of fibre intake, dehydration, certain medications, and a sedentary lifestyle.
Typically, bowel movements become less frequent and can become increasingly difficult and/or painful to pass.
So what factors might cause constipation?
Low-fibre diets may result in constipation as fibre is thought to promote regular bowel movements. A significant amount of research has shown that the amount of fibre you eat could increase the number of stools you pass.
Research published in PubMed supports this, finding that 77% of participants who experienced chronic constipation experienced relief when their fibre intake was increased.
One study published in the National Library of Medicine in 2003 found that fluid loss and restriction and, thus, de-or hypohydration can increase constipation.
Certain medications or medical conditions
Certain medical conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), hypothyroidism, and neurological disorders, can cause constipation.
Moreover, several medicines may cause constipation as a side effect. Some painkillers, antacids and also antidepressants may cause you to become constipated.
Yes, stress can impact your bowel movements too!
Psychological stress induces somatic symptoms, including bowel dysfunction and immobility, as per many studies, including scientific literature published in the National Library of Medicine in 2014.
Does magnesium make you poop?
Yes, magnesium can make you poop!
One study published by the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that magnesium supplementation significantly increased the frequency of bowel movements and improved stool consistency in patients with constipation.
Furthermore, another study published in the Journal of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition found that magnesium supplementation effectively treated constipation in hospitalised patients.
So how does it work?
While the exact mechanism behind magnesium’s effect on bowel movements is not entirely understood, it is believed that magnesium helps to relax the muscles in the digestive tract, making it easier for a person to empty their bowels. It also increases the water content in the stool, making it easier to pass.
Which is the best magnesium for constipation?
So what type of magnesium works best for constipation? With 12 forms of magnesium to choose from, here’s where it can get a little confusing.
But if you’re looking to take a magnesium supplement to support your bowel movements, two types of magnesium are best for the job: magnesium citrate and magnesium oxide. Both are known osmotic laxatives.
Magnesium citrate for constipation
Magnesium citrate (the combination of magnesium, salt and citric acid) tends to be the top choice for individuals looking to relieve constipation naturally. Its strong laxative capabilities mean that magnesium oxide is also known as a saline laxative due to its ability to clear your intestines.
Happily, magnesium citrate is also the most well-researched form of magnesium supplementation.
Do note that the laxative effect of magnesium citrate is quite strong. Often, a medical professional will recommend trying a stool softener before using a magnesium citrate solution specifically for constipation.
Magnesium oxide for constipation
Used for many years as a laxative in East Asia, magnesium oxide is an empirically-backed, convenient-to-administer, low-cost, and safe option for relieving constipation.
However, scientific literature published in the National Library of Medicine points out that while there are significant advantages to using magnesium oxide in the treatment of constipation,
“Emerging clinical evidence indicates that the use of magnesium oxide should take account of the most appropriate dose, the serum concentration, drug–drug interactions, and the potential for side effects, especially in the elderly and in patients with renal impairment”.
A clear takeaway at this point is that the supplementation of magnesium should be carefully overseen by a medical professional. If you are thinking of taking either magnesium citrate or oxide for constipation, talk to them about whether this may be an appropriate treatment option for you.
While magnesium can seem like the perfect natural treatment option, it’s not suitable for everyone.
10% off on your first order
Complete this one-minute quiz and find the right products for you.
How much magnesium should you take for constipation?
So how much magnesium works for constipation? What sort of dosage should you be taking?
Healthline reports that studies “have found beneficial effects of magnesium when taken in doses ranging from 125–600 mg per day,” and the Harvard School of Public Health states that the upper limit for magnesium is 350 milligrams from supplements only.
But, according to the NHS, nobody should take any more than 400mg of magnesium a day. So, we recommend you stick below this dosage.
Ultimately, the amount of magnesium you need will depend on your individual circumstances, including your age, gender and weight.
Always follow the recommended guidelines on the packaging of the product you consume and chat with a doctor about a safe and appropriate dose for you.
What are the side effects of using magnesium for constipation?
The most common side effect people experience when supplementing magnesium supplementation is diarrhoea due to the mineral’s ability to increase the amount of water in the intestines (thus also easing constipation!)
Other possible side effects of magnesium include nausea, stomach cramps, and bloating.
However, excessive magnesium intake may also result in more severe side effects, including low blood pressure or an irregular heartbeat.
In general, magnesium is considered safe and effective for most people, so long as you stick to dosage guidelines.
Can magnesium cause constipation?
Yes, while magnesium tends to help ease constipation and support early bowel movement, in some rare cases, magnesium supplementation may cause constipation, particularly if taken in excess amounts.
As magnesium can have a binding effect on the stool, this may lead to slower bowel movements in some cases.
Frequently asked questions:
Yes, magnesium citrate is an excellent choice for relieving constipation naturally. Take note that the laxative effect of magnesium citrate is quite strong, and medical professionals will often recommend a stool relaxer before taking magnesium citrate for constipation.
No, you should not take magnesium daily for constipation – it’s not a long-term solution for chronic constipation. It can, however, help soothe irregular bouts of constipation.
You should expect the laxative effect of magnesium to begin within one to four hours of taking the supplement.
Final words on magnesium and constipation
If you are experiencing constipation, it’s essential to address the underlying cause.
This might include making changes to your diet and lifestyle to promote regular bowel movements, as well as ensuring there is nothing more serious causing you to be constipated (it may be a symptom of an undiagnosed medical condition).
Magnesium supplementation is one tool for easing constipation. However, it should not be seen as a one-stop solution. Taking magnesium for constipation should be done under the supervision of a medical professional and should not be seen as a long-term treatment for constipation.