The Benefits of Magnesium Citrate Supplements

If you find yourself backed up and suffering from the symptoms of constipation, magnesium citrate pills may help relieve your discomfort. Magnesium citrate has other benefits beyond its laxative effect, so knowing how to take it and the possible side effects may help decide if it's right for you.

Magnesium citrate can be helpful to alleviate constipation.
Credit: apugach/iStock/GettyImages

Magnesium Citrate Benefits

Magnesium citrate is made from the salt of magnesium and citric acid. It belongs to a class of medicines called saline laxatives, according to MedlinePlus. Magnesium citrate is most commonly used to treat irregularity and occasional constipation on a short-term basis. Citroma is a common brand name for magnesium citrate laxative.

Magnesium citrate is often used in bowel preparations prior to taking X-rays, CT scans or MRIs of the abdomen. It is also commonly administered as a cathartic agent to cleanse the colon in preparation for a colonoscopy, gastrointestinal operation or diagnostic procedure.

Magnesium citrate may also be beneficial for the treatment of upset stomach due to acid indigestion, according to University of Rochester. For magnesium deficiencies or low blood levels, a condition called hypomagnesemia, magnesium citrate is often used as a dietary supplement.

The FDA considers magnesium citrate to be an approved inactive ingredient for oral administration in a maximum concentration of 237 milligrams for over-the-counter use, according to PubChem.

Magnesium Citrate — Constipation

Constipation occurs when food moves through your system too slowly and bowel movements become infrequent. If you've gone more than three days without a bowel movement, you may notice that your stool becomes difficult to pass. Symptoms of constipation, according to Cleveland Clinic, may include:

  • Lumpy or hard stools
  • Having to strain during bowel movements
  • Feeling like you can't completely empty your bowels
  • Needing to manually empty your rectum with your fingers

Chronic constipation can lead to complications, such as hemorrhoids and anal fissures if you don't get treatment for it. When used correctly, you may find that magnesium citrate is a gentle and simple solution to occasional constipation.

As an osmotic laxative, magnesium citrate works by increasing the fluid in your small intestine, causing water to be retained with the stool. This helps to soften the stool, making it easier to pass and increasing the number of bowel movements, according to MedlinePlus.

Calcium citrate is commonly taken as a liquid, either premixed or prepared from a powder. To make the solution, mix the powder with 10 ounces of cold water or other liquids and stir to thoroughly mix. If you refrigerate the solution, mix it again before use, advises MedlinePlus.

Magnesium citrate can be effective within 30 minutes after you take it, but normally the time frame is approximately 2 to 4 hours before you experience a bowel movement, says PubChem.

Magnesium Citrate Supplements

Dietary sources should be your first go-to choice for getting enough magnesium. However, if you find your diet is lacking or you have a medical condition that interferes with your body's ability to absorb magnesium, you may develop a deficiency. Your doctor may prescribe a magnesium citrate supplement, which is commonly used for the treatment of low-blood levels of magnesium.

Symptoms of magnesium deficiency include loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, fatigue and weakness. Extreme magnesium deficiency can cause muscle cramps including numbness and tingling, seizures, personality changes and an abnormal heart rhythm, according to National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Magnesium citrate is one of the preferred forms of dietary supplements because it is more bioavailable than many other forms of magnesium supplements, says NIH. With 25 to 30 percent bioavailability, magnesium citrate is more readily absorbed by your body and is highly soluble in water, reports DietvsDisease.

Read more: How Soon Do You Feel the Benefits of Magnesium?

How to Use Magnesium Citrate

Before taking magnesium citrate, you should adhere to some special precautions, warns MedlinePlus. These include:

  • Check the label on the magnesium citrate to determine if you are allergic or sensitive to any of the ingredients in the preparation.

  • Consult with your doctor if you take prescription and nonprescription medications, vitamins, nutritional supplements or herbal products. Laxatives may affect how other drugs work.

  • If you are on other medications, consume them at least two hours before or two hours after taking magnesium citrate.

  • Talk to your healthcare professional if you have stomach pain, nausea, vomiting or a sudden change of bowel habits that last more than two weeks.

  • Get advice from your doctor before taking magnesium citrate if you are on a magnesium or sodium-restricted diet or if you have ever had kidney disease.

  • Do not take calcium citrate without consulting with your doctor if you are pregnant, plan to become pregnant or are breastfeeding.

A typical magnesium citrate preparation, taken as a laxative, contains 1.75 grams per fluid ounce, according to NIH DailyMed. The recommended magnesium citrate dosage for treatment of constipation, according to DailyMed, is:

  • Adults and children 12 years of age and over —

    6.5 to 10 fluid ounces in 24 hours

  • Children 6 to 12 years of age —

    3 to 7 fluid ounce; maximum 7 fluid ounces in 25 hours

  • Children 2 to 6 years of age — 2 to 3 fluid ounces; maximum 3 fluid ounces in 24 hours

  • Children younger than 2 years of age — consult a doctor

Drink with a full 8-ounce glass of water or other liquid with each dose. Magnesium citrate should be taken in a single dose or divided into two or more parts over the day. You should not take magnesium citrate for more than one week unless instructed to do so by your doctor.

Read more: How Often Can You Take Magnesium Citrate?

To treat a magnesium deficiency the ideal intake should be based on your body weight. An example is 4 to 6 milligrams per kilogram (2.2 pounds) per day, reported a September 2015 study published in Nutrients.

Complications and Side Effects

Magnesium citrate generally has few side effects. However, according to MedlinePlus, some people may experience symptoms such as:

  • Diarrhea or loose, watery, or more frequent stools
  • Abdominal cramping and gas

As with all laxatives, taking them long-term can cause potential harm. Your body can become laxative dependent, meaning higher and higher doses are needed to produce bowel movements, according to Cornell University. In addition prolonged laxative use may result in dehydration or electrolyte imbalances.

Stop using magnesium citrate if you have blood in your stool or fail to have a bowel movement after using the laxative. These symptoms could be signs of a serious condition, warns MedlinePlus.

Taking more than the recommended dosage could result in an overdose. Some symptoms may include:

  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Slow heartbeat
  • Nausea and vomiting

In the case of a severe overdose with seizure, trouble breathing or lack of consciousness, call emergency services immediately at 911.

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