Epsom salt is a crystallized form of magnesium sulfate that people use as a traditional remedy for many ailments, including constipation.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approve the use of Epsom salt as a laxative. Laxatives can help a person have a bowel movement when they are temporarily constipated.
However, using Epsom salt for constipation can have risks, and there are some groups of people who should not try this home remedy.
In this article, learn how to use Epsom salt for constipation, as well as when to see a doctor.
People can buy Epsom salt at most drugstores, natural food stores, and online.
A person should read the instructions carefully when using Epsom salt for constipation, as manufacturer's recommendations can vary.
The Epsom salt must be food-grade quality, meaning people can consume it safely. Manufacturers sell Epsom salt for bathing and even as fertilizer, so it is essential to read the packaging.
Instructions may vary between products, but one company provides the following instructions for safe use:
- Use the amount of Epsom salt based on a person's age. Adults and children aged 12 years or older may take 2 to 6 level teaspoons daily. Children ages 6 to 12 years old may take 1 to 2 level teaspoons daily. Children under age 6 years should not use Epsom salt, as a laxative, unless a doctor recommends this treatment.
- Mix the Epsom salts into an 8-ounce glass of water. A person can also divide the doses across the course of a day but should never exceed the daily limit.
- Add lemon juice, if desired, to improve the taste. Drink the entire mixture.
After a person uses Epsom salt for constipation, they will usually have a bowel movement in 30 minutes to 6 hours.
Epsom salt attracts more fluid to the bowel. This extra fluid stretches the intestines and helps move stool along.
If a person uses Epsom salt for 2 days in a row without having a bowel movement, they should not continue to use it. They can either try an alternative laxative or talk to their doctor for further treatment recommendations.
People with kidney disease should not use Epsom salt for constipation. Healthy kidneys filter particles such as magnesium. When the kidneys do not work as well, excess magnesium can build up in the body.
Too much magnesium can cause confusion, abnormal heart rhythms, and seizures. If a person is on a low-magnesium diet, they should not use Epsom salt either.
Although rare, severely high magnesium levels can be fatal even in people who do not have kidney problems.
Because of the risk of developing high magnesium levels, a person should not use Epsom salt for a laxative frequently. It is crucial to see a doctor if constipation affects someone for more than a week.
Severe or long-term constipation can indicate an underlying medical condition. This could include a bowel obstruction, which is when stool cannot move past a certain point in the intestines.
A person should not use laxatives at all if they have the following symptoms in addition to constipation:
- abdominal pain
Instead, they should seek immediate medical attention. People should also go to the emergency room if they experience rectal bleeding.
If a person suspects they have ingested too much Epsom salt, they should call the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 or their local emergency number.
Symptoms of excess magnesium consumption include:
- slow heart rate
Signs and symptoms of constipation include:
- having less than three bowel movements a week
- having stools that are lumpy or dry
- having stools that are painful or hard to pass
- straining significantly when having a bowel movement
Having regular bowel movements is essential for eliminating waste and preventing discomfort and stomach fullness.
Many people experience constipation from time to time. If methods such as eating more fiber, exercising, and drinking more water do not relieve constipation, a person may want to consider trying Epsom salt.
People use Epsom salt as a laxative, as well as for soaking injuries, lawn fertilizer, and more.
When used as a laxative, a person should carefully read instructions and consult their doctor to ensure Epsom salt will not interfere with other medications.
While Epsom salt is a relatively inexpensive laxative, there are other constipation treatments available. A person should consult their doctor if they experience constipation for more than a week.
A range of Epsom salt products are available to purchase online.