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How Often Can You Take Magnesium Citrate Safely?

author image Emma Watkins
Emma Watkins writes on finance, fitness and gardening. Her articles and essays have appeared in "Writer's Digest," "The Writer," "From House to Home," "Big Apple Parent" and other online and print venues. Watkins holds a Master of Arts in psychology.
How Often Can You Take Magnesium Citrate Safely?
If your stomach hurts, tell your doctor before taking magnesium citrate.

The body uses magnesium to help turn food into energy, synthesize protein, regulate blood sugar levels, keep your immune system healthy, maintain a steady heart rate, keep your bones strong, and your nerves and muscles functioning properly.

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Magnesium deficiencies are uncommon but can occur if your diet is lacking the mineral or if you are suffering from certain medical conditions including pancreatitis, kidney disease, diabetes or a gastrointestinal disease. Additionally, if you drink too much coffee or alcohol, overuse diurectics, have heavy menstrual periods or sweat profusely, you could also be at risk for a magnesium deficiency. Supplements can help you meet your recommended intake.

What Is Magnesium Citrate?

Woman taking a magnesium supplement
Woman taking a magnesium supplement Photo Credit: Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images

When comparing magnesium citrate to magnesium oxide, the magnesium in magnesium citrate is more bioavailable. Magnesium citrate is a compound of magnesium carbonate and citric acid that is marketed as a supplement to treat magnesium deficiency and in larger doses, as a laxative. It is a hyperosmotic saline laxative that pulls water from surrounding tissues into the intestine to stimulate intestinal movement. Magnesium citrate is available over-the-counter. Dietary fiber, stool softeners, or prune juice are recommended for constipation before magnesium citrate because they are more gentle.

What Is Magnesium Citrate Used For?

Magnesium citrate is commonly used to treat occasional constipation and it’s also prescribed by doctors empty the colon before certain procedures. Radiologists compared the effectiveness of magnesium citrate and sodium phosphate in cleansing the bowel prior to computed tomographic colonography. Although both substances were equally effective in cleansing, the magnesium citrate achieved more optimal fluid values.

The Dangers of Using Magnesium Citrate for Weight Loss

A woman standing on a scale
A woman standing on a scale Photo Credit: Quiet Noise Creative/DigitalVision/Getty Images

Magnesium citrate may cause temporary weight loss. The weight loss is due to the water loss and the contents of the large intestines. As soon as you begin to eat and drink again, the “water weight” lost due to the laxative use returns. Our bodies absorb calories and nutrients almost exclusively in our small intestines, before they reach the large intestine, therefore the belief that laxatives can “cancel out” the calories, fat, or food eaten is distorted.

If you are using magnesium citrate or other laxatives for weight loss, stop immediately and seek the counsel of a health care practitioner. If you are having trouble quitting laxative use, find a psychologist or physician knowledgeable about eating disorders as soon as possible. Laxative abuse causes loss of fluid, electrolytes, and minerals, which can lead to severe dehydration, kidney failure, and liver damage.

What Are the Benefits of Magnesium Citrate?

Magnesium citrate supplements are beneficial if you are at risk for magnesium deficiency or have tried other solutions for constipation without success. Magnesium is critical in the body for numerous functions; therefore there are a variety of benefits, including having a lower risk for bone loss. Additionally, research shows that magnesium supplementation may significantly decrease the frequency and intensity of migraine attacks, premenstrual syndrome, nocturnal leg cramps and restless leg syndrome.

The Symptoms of a Magnesium Deficiency

Young man with a headache
Young man with a headache Photo Credit: lenanet/iStock/Getty Images

Nausea and vomiting Anxiety Insomnia Personality changes Numbness and tingling Low blood pressure Agitation and irritability Confusion Seizures Abnormal heart rhythms

How Much Magnesium Citrate Can I Take Safely?

To relieve constipation in adults, typical doses range from 8.75 to 25 grams of magnesium citrate. Each does should be taken with a full glass of water and should only be used occasionally.

What Are the Side Effects and Contraindications of Magnesium Citrate?

If you experience any of the following side effects, stop using magnesium citrate and get medical help: no bowel movement within six hours of taking medication; pain related to stomach, intestines, bowel movements, or urination; flushing; light-headedness; shallow and slow breathing or heartbeats; muscle weakness and increased thirst; hives; difficulty breathing; or swelling.

Common side effects are loose stools, diarrhea, stomach cramps; upset stomach; dizziness; and increased sweating.

Do not take other medications within two hours of the use of this medication as it can interfere with antibiotics, antacids, blood thinners, heart medications, diabetes medications, and certain psychiatric drugs. As with all supplements, consult with your doctor prior to beginning a supplement.

Magnesium citrate is contraindicated if you have kidney disease or are on a diet that restricts salt and magnesium intake.

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