Constipation is the difficult passage of stools or infrequent bowel movements. Magnesium is an essential mineral and is important for many different functions in the body including energy production, bone health and the regulation of calcium and vitamin D levels in the body. Magnesium may be helpful for certain health conditions such as constipation. Always consult a health care professional before taking a magnesium supplement.
Typical symptoms of constipation include passing fewer than three stools a week, small hard stools, difficultly and pain when passing a bowel movement and the feeling of incomplete evacuation after a bowel movement. According to the Mayo Clinic, constipation occurs when a stool moves too slowly through the digestive tract. This may be caused by lack of fluid or fiber in the diet or poor muscle contractions that are needed to push the stool along. The slow passage of the stool causes it to become dry and harden and become difficult to pass.
Good food sources of magnesium include green leafy vegetables, Brazil nuts, legumes, cashews and whole grains. Magnesium is also available as a supplement in different forms. The most common forms available include citrate, oxide and sulphate. Symptoms of magnesium deficiency may include sleep disorders, muscle spasm and weakness, anxiety, restless leg syndrome and poor nail growth.
Magnesium and Constipation
In a study published in a 2007 issue of the "European Journal of Clinical Nutrition," researchers studied the effect of water, dietary fiber and magnesium intake on constipation in 3,835 Japanese students aged between 18 and 20 years old. The team found that low intakes of water and magnesium are independently associated with an increasing prevalence of functional constipation among a population whose dietary fiber intake is relatively low. In a study published in a 1996 issue of "Magnesium Research," researchers explain that magnesium sulphate has an osmotic effect in the small intestines, which means it pulls water from other tissue into the small intestines. This water stimulates peristalsis, which is the muscular movement of the intestines, which helps with bowel elimination. The American Cancer Society, state that magnesium citrate has the same laxative effect and usually results in a bowel movement within ½ to 3 hours from taking a supplement. Medline Plus also states that magnesium oxide also may be used as a laxative for short-term, rapid emptying of the bowel.
According to the University of Maryland, the most common side effects of magnesium are an upset stomach and diarrhea. In excess magnesium can cause serious health problems such as vomiting, slowed heart rate, confusion, deficiencies of other minerals and severely lowered blood pressure. The University also recommends that heart or kidney disease patients should consult a doctor before taking any magnesium supplements.