Magnesium citrate can help treat constipation. It is an osmotic laxative, which means it works by drawing water into the intestine to soften stool and make it easier to pass.

Before taking magnesium citrate, a person must understand how it works, its side effects, and how it interacts with other substances. Magnesium citrate can alleviate constipation, but it is not suitable for everyone to use.

There are times when magnesium citrate may not be the best option for treating constipation, and choosing other alternatives may help avoid any complications.

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Constipation is when a person has fewer than three bowel movements a week. Stools are usually hard, dry, or lumpy and may be difficult or painful to pass.

In many cases, addressing the underlying cause of constipation may reduce the need for medications, including magnesium citrate. These include a low fiber diet, immobility, dehydration, or medical conditions.

Compounds such as magnesium citrate work by pulling water into the intestines. This water combines with the dry stool, making it easier to pass. Medications that work in this way are called osmotic laxatives.

When used correctly, many people find that magnesium citrate is a simple solution to occasional constipation.

Learn more about the different laxatives for constipation here.

Magnesium citrate is typically safe for adults to use as a laxative. However, it is important to check with a healthcare professional before taking it.

Magnesium is not a good choice for treating chronic constipation or constipation that requires ongoing treatment. Excessive magnesium intake can lead to dehydration, diarrhea, or electrolyte imbalances.

Doctors can use higher doses of magnesium citrate as colon cleansers before surgery. The compound can have a powerful effect if a person takes too much. It is essential to read the manufacturer’s instructions carefully whenever taking magnesium citrate.

Magnesium citrate may help treat constipation, but it might also cause a few side effects. Typical side effects from using magnesium citrate include:

When the stool does come out of the colon, there is also a chance it will be loose or watery. Diarrhea is common after taking magnesium citrate. These side effects are usually mild and do not pose a serious risk to otherwise healthy people.

Drinking alcohol along with magnesium citrate may make diarrhea and other intestinal side effects worse.

Magnesium citrate may interact with drugs, including specific antibiotics and medications that doctors prescribe to lower calcium concentration in the urine, such as potassium or sodium phosphate.

People on low sodium or restricted-sodium diets should also avoid magnesium citrate.

Magnesium citrate can also decrease the body’s ability to absorb some medications. People taking any medication should speak to their doctor before using magnesium citrate.

People should not use magnesium citrate if they have rectal bleeding.

People who have had certain procedures or have specific medical issues should also avoid magnesium citrate. Examples include:

  • obstructions in the colon or stomach
  • heart conditions or damaged heart muscles
  • major kidney disorders
  • high magnesium or potassium levels
  • low calcium levels

People with a medical condition should talk with their doctor before using magnesium citrate to make sure it is safe to use.

Magnesium is safe to use for minor or occasional cases of constipation. It is not for long-term use. Anyone experiencing chronic, long lasting episodes of constipation should avoid magnesium citrate.

Using magnesium citrate regularly may cause the body to become dependent on it, making it difficult for a person to pass stools without using laxatives. Anyone with chronic constipation should talk with their doctor to find long-term solutions for their symptoms.

Magnesium citrate is an active ingredient in many branded over-the-counter (OTC) laxatives. Liquid oral solutions without any other active ingredients may be best for treating constipation.

Dosages vary based on the brand or concentration of magnesium citrate in the bottle. Always follow the dosage and read the instructions on the label carefully.

Always consult a doctor before giving magnesium citrate or any other laxative to children. Pregnant or nursing mothers should talk with their doctor or pharmacist about the correct dosage. Doctors may recommend other medications or supplements to help with symptoms.

Apart from using magnesium citrate to relieve constipation, people can try:

Using magnesium hydroxide

Magnesium hydroxide is an ingredient in OTC products, such as Milk of Magnesia. It also draws water into the intestines to help soften stool and encourage a bowel movement.

People also use magnesium hydroxide to reduce stomach acid and treat other digestive symptoms, such as heartburn or an upset stomach.

Drinking Epsom salt

Also known as magnesium sulfate, people often use Epsom salt to treat constipation.

Like the other forms of magnesium, drinking dissolved Epsom salt draws water into the intestines, softening the stool. However, if the appropriate amount of Epsom salt does not dissolve in water, this can lead to irritation. It is important to check how much water to use and to follow the instructions correctly.

Increasing fiber intake

People who cannot take magnesium due to a medical condition or intolerance can try soluble fiber. Soluble fiber adds bulk to the stool, helping it get through the intestines.

People can choose from various OTC fiber supplements, many of which contain fiber from plant sources, such as psyllium husk, glucomannan, or wheat germ.

People who experience occasional constipation can often improve their symptoms by increasing the amount of fiber they eat. Healthful sources of fiber include:

  • whole-grain cereals and pasta
  • fruits and vegetables
  • beans and pulses
  • prunes

Learn more about which foods are good for constipation relief here.

Other methods

People can also try the following methods to relieve constipation:

  • polyethylene glycol (Miralax)
  • lactulose
  • bisacodyl (Dulcolax)
  • Senna

While magnesium citrate may be an efficient way to relieve constipation quickly, it is not a long-term solution. Taking steps to prevent constipation from developing may be the best way to avoid future symptoms and reduce the need for remedies, such as magnesium citrate.

Some tips to help prevent constipation naturally include:

  • eating a diet rich in whole, natural foods, including a variety of fruits and vegetables
  • adding more fiber to the diet, whether through food or natural fiber supplements
  • drinking lots of water throughout the day to avoid dehydration that can lead to constipation
  • exercising regularly to keep the bowels moving

Below are frequently asked questions relating to magnesium citrate and constipation.

How quickly does magnesium citrate work as a laxative?

Magnesium citrate typically promotes bowel movement within 30 minutes – 6 hours.

Is it safe to take magnesium citrate daily for constipation?

Magnesium citrate can be an effective short-term constipation treatment when taken daily for one week or less. It is not suitable for long-term use.

What is the best time to take magnesium citrate for constipation?

Always follow the individual product and healthcare professional dose directions when taking magnesium citrate for constipation. Magnesium citrate can be fast-acting, so the best time to take it will depend on a person’s schedule.

Most people will experience constipation occasionally, and it does not usually cause concern. It is generally okay to take magnesium citrate for occasional constipation, and it typically works quickly.

However, people should never use magnesium citrate to treat chronic constipation. People with frequent constipation should talk with their doctor.

Anyone experiencing side effects from magnesium citrate or finding that it does not work for them should contact their doctor to talk about alternative treatments.