Are you feeling a bit stuck? Trying to go but you just can't? Being constipated, a common symptom of IBS, can be a drag. But magnesium supplements for IBS can help move things along. Just make sure to read labels closely: Magnesium citrate will do the job better than magnesium oxide.
Your Body Uses Magnesium Citrate Better
Magnesium supplements come in various forms, with two being magnesium citrate and magnesium oxide.
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Magnesium citrate comes as a powder to mix with a liquid or as a solution to take by mouth, and it is used as a laxative, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM).
On the other hand, magnesium oxide comes in tablet or capsule form. Though it can be used as a laxative, it's primarily used as an antacid to relieve heartburn, sour stomach or acid indigestion, per the NLM.
Of the two, magnesium citrate is the best option for people with IBS-induced constipation, says Christine Bishara, MD, an integrative wellness physician at From Within Medical in New York City.
"Magnesium works by pulling water into your intestinal tract, leading to a gentle laxative effect. While magnesium oxide may work well for upper GI symptoms such as reflux or heartburn, it is not as well absorbed in the lower intestinal tract as magnesium citrate," she says.
That's because of a difference in bioavailability, the amount of a drug or compound that's actually absorbed and used in the body. "Magnesium citrate seems to be the most effective for constipation, as it is more readily absorbed and available in the lower GI tract," Dr. Bishara says.
The Best Way to Take Magnesium Citrate
“Oral magnesium is the best way to take magnesium for constipation. It is best to take magnesium with food and a full glass of water,” Dr. Bishara says.
Magnesium citrate can come as a ready-to-drink liquid or as a powder you mix with water. Either way, it shouldn’t be taken for more than a week unless a medical professional tells you to do so, according to the NLM.
Once it’s mixed, drink up. Throw out any of the mixture you haven't finished within 36 hours.
The Downside of Magnesium Supplements
Tell your doctor about any medications or supplements you are already taking, so they can make sure a magnesium supplement won't cause any interactions, according to the NLM. And if you are taking other medications or supplements, take them separately — either 2 hours before or 2 hours after taking your magnesium.
Taking magnesium supplements does carry a small risk for toxicity, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS). Getting more magnesium than you need can lead to diarrhea, which is more likely for people with impaired kidney function or kidney disease. High magnesium levels can also cause blood pressure levels to drop.
You shouldn't start taking magnesium supplements without talking to your health care provider first. "It is also important to follow up with your doctor prior to starting magnesium supplementation since certain lab tests and conditions should be ruled out before starting a magnesium supplement," Dr. Bishara says.
Alternative Treatments for IBS Constipation
Magnesium supplements aren't the only answer to your IBS-induced constipation. Getting extra magnesium from food sources is not considered a health risk in healthy people because any excess magnesium gets eliminated from the body via urine, per the ODS.
You can get more magnesium in your diet by adding in these magnesium-rich foods:
- Whole grains
- Green, leafy vegetables