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Intestinal Peristalsis & Magnesium

author image Chris Daniels
Chris Daniels covers advances in nutrition and fitness online. Daniels has numerous certifications and degrees covering human health, nutritional requirements and sports performance. An avid cyclist, weightlifter and swimmer, Daniels has experienced the journey of fitness in the role of both an athlete and coach.
Intestinal Peristalsis & Magnesium
Magnesium interrupts the movement of food through your intestines. Photo Credit: dimdimich/iStock/Getty Images

Peristalsis is a series of orderly contractions of the intestines that push food through your intestines. High levels of magnesium can interrupt peristalsis, causing diarrhea and cramping. High enough levels of magnesium may be obtained when taking magnesium supplements or a large number of supplements using magnesium stearate, or another magnesium compound, as a filler.

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Your digestive system works by pushing a ball, or bolus, of food through the muscular tubes of your esophagus, stomach and intestines. Peristalsis moves food, mixes it with stomach acid, mucus and digestive juices containing enzymes that break down nutrients before they are absorbed. In the esophagus, stomach and small intestines peristalsis is relatively continuous. Peristalsis moving waste through the large intestines occurs only a few times per day.

Magnesium in Your Body

Magnesium is an essential mineral in your body. Adequate magnesium is important for bone strength, learning and memory, heart function and biochemical reactions. According to the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements, most Americans consume adequate levels of magnesium, neither in deficit nor excess. High doses of magnesium are normally due to dietary supplements and laxatives containing magnesium. The Office of Dietary Supplements states that the upper level of magnesium from supplements is 350 mg per day for adults.

Sources of Excess Magnesium

Most food contains some level of magnesium. Additionally, magnesium is added to many processed foods. According to the Office of Dietary Supplements, there is no tolerable upper limit for dietary magnesium: Excess dietary magnesium is excreted with waste. Magnesium stearate, as well as related chemicals, is used in the processing and as a filler in many dietary supplements and medicines in both pill and powder form. Taking large amounts of dietary supplements at once, especially without food, can disrupt peristalsis leading to nausea, cramping, diarrhea and other intestinal discomfort.


Magnesium causes the muscles in your intestines to contract sporadically rather than in a controlled manner. This prevents proper digestion as stomach acid and digestive juices are not properly mixed with food. If a large amount of dietary supplement or medicine are taken at once, they will be pushed through your intestines before they can be absorbed. Space any dietary supplements throughout the day and try to take them with a meal to prevent gastrointestinal discomfort.

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