Magnesium citrate is a nonprescription product derived from the mineral magnesium. It belongs to a class of substances called hyperosmotics, which have laxative effects inside your intestines. Reasons for taking magnesium citrate include relief of symptoms associated with constipation and emptying of the colon prior to bowel and rectal examinations and surgeries. Speak with your doctor before using a magnesium citrate product.
Hyperosmotics achieve their effects by pulling water into your bowels from neighboring tissues. This water then softens your stool and encourages the bowel action called peristalsis, which forces waste products to move through your system. Magnesium chloride belongs to a subgroup of hyperosmotics called saline hyperosmotics. Laxatives in this category contain salt and trigger rapid bowel emptying. When you take a typical dose of magnesium chloride, you will have a bowel movement within a period of 30 minutes to three hours.
Magnesium citrate and other saline hyperosmotics are typically used only for short-term purposes. In addition to constipation relief and colon emptying, potential applications of the laxative include production of stool samples for analysis or diagnosis and rapid elimination of drugs in cases of overdose or elimination of food in cases of food poisoning. Doses of magnesium citrate are taken orally. Specific dosages vary according to factors that include its intended use and your system's sensitivity to its effects.
Potential gastrointestinal side effects of magnesium citrate use include abdominal pain, cramping, nausea, diarrhea, flatulence and bloating. Additional potential effects include fainting, dizziness, sweating, weakness and heart palpitations. If you develop diarrhea, it may be accompanied by dehydration and disruption of your normal balance of important blood components called electrolytes. If you attempt to take magnesium citrate for extended periods of time, you can also lose normal function in your bowels. People with poor kidney function who use magnesium citrate can develop high blood levels of magnesium or another mineral called potassium.
Magnesium citrate can diminish the effectiveness of a variety of anticoagulant medications, as well as any drug belonging to a class of medications called phenothiazines. It can also completely block the effects of the medications ciprofloxacin, sodium polystyrene sulfate and etidronate. Review your medication use with your doctor before you take magnesium citrate and avoid taking any medication within two hours of any laxative product. Also tell your doctor if you're pregnant, use nonprescription medications, or have ongoing gastrointestinal problems, any type of allergy, high blood pressure, kidney disease or heart disease.