Q. I have been suffering with constipation for over a year. I chalked the problem up to menopause and tried everything I could think of: increasing the fiber in my diet, drinking more water and exercising even more vigorously. Food just wasn’t moving through. I would have to use laxatives every week just to get relief.

My doctor didn’t have anything different to suggest, but I brought the problem up to a friend. She suggested taking magnesium. It has completely changed my life. I feel normal again and wanted to share this with other sufferers.

A. Magnesium has long been used as a laxative in the form of milk of magnesia. When used as a dietary supplement in the 250 mg to 400 mg range, it can combat constipation without causing diarrhea. (A person who develops diarrhea on a magnesium supplement may need to lower the dose.) This mineral may also help normalize blood pressure and blood sugar and prevent muscle cramps. People with impaired kidney function should avoid extra magnesium, however.

Anyone who is interested in natural ways to overcome a sluggish bowel may be interested in our Guide to Constipation, which includes a recipe for Power Pudding popular with nurses helping people after abdominal surgery.

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  1. Cv
    Reply

    How bad is magnesium for your liver?

  2. mary
    Reply

    Here is something some might want to try since it is also a food.
    Ground flaxseeds, from 1-2 tablespoons a nite in water and with a glass of water following. Good on salads, oatmeal, many things. [best begin slowly] [I believe they are best when ground for each use, I use my coffee grinder and just brush it out after]. Also get Omegas.
    That and probiotics help tremendously.
    A with a diet large in fruits and veggies.
    Daughter went to an MD/Naturopathic, his recommendation was 4×1000 Vitamin C. tablets at nite.
    Best to all.
    More about flaxseeds and probiotics concerning constipation in other articles on this site.
    What would we all do without the Graedons?

  3. DFW
    Reply

    I usually mix the powder with a couple of tablespoons of applesauce, or add it to a smoothy I make for lunch with an apple, pineapple, celery and almond milk.
    My original motivation wasn’t constipation. I started taking the magnesium because I was taking a calcium tablet (Citracal, containing D3) on doctor’s orders. It didn’t contain magnesium, and my mother, and early follower of the nutritionist, Adelle Davis, told me always to take half as much magnesium as calcium.

  4. Mindy
    Reply

    Constipation is one of the symptoms of Celiac Disease. I recommend requesting the blood test from your physician – if they refuse go to another physician until one will listen.
    I suffered from minor constipation for the past 18 months, was just diagnosed with Celiac Disease on January 16th – began eating Gluten Free immediately upon diagnosis (no wheat, barley, rye or products containing these ingredients such as modified food starch). Felt AWESOME by 3rd day of gluten free and regular ever since. FYI – if you start eating gluten free before the test the blood test will not provide accurate results.

  5. paul43
    Reply

    Try plain old Prune juice–works great for me.
    My doctor suggested it for me– if you don’t like the taste just mix it 1/2 & 1/2 with water. 6oz is a good starting point.

  6. ME
    Reply

    Do you take anything else? Or just the powder?
    ERE, I used to take a mag / calc supplement (doctor suggested — for other issues), but stopped as I knew calc wasn’t a good thing to take.

  7. ME
    Reply

    Thanks for your suggestion, but don’t assume that we folks with struggling bowels have bad diets. I keep track of everything I eat and shared it with doctor — it includes high fiber cereal, which has more than an apple.

  8. O.G.
    Reply

    I had terrible constipation after surgery as a result of the pain pills I had to take initially… and magnesium was the answer to the question of what to do until I could get OFF the drugs. I now keep 500mg magnesium capsules on hand, just in case of constipation. I started at a high dose (1500 mg a day) and went down as soon as my body responded. There was a certain “yucch” factor in the result, but it was a WHOLE lot better than the feeling I was experiencing, of plumbing full of hardened concrete!

  9. Penny H.
    Reply

    I have restless leg syndrome as well as severe night time leg cramps. My doctor said to try magnesium. I did and started having continual diarrhea. I quit taking it and told my doctor, reminding him that it was the active ingredient in Milk of Magnesia. He claimed that magnesium tablets were “different”. I changed doctors.

  10. Lp
    Reply

    I too was very irregular but started taking magnesium as a migraine headache preventive and it also helped my irregularity and also helped me to have a better nights sleep. I take two Amino acid Chelated magnesium, 250mg caplets at night before bed. Works wonders!

  11. Virginia
    Reply

    I would like to suggest that it may be misleading to think of magnesium as a ‘laxative’. I have been taking magnesium (100 to 250 mg per day as needed, in addition to what I get from foods) for about ten years now, as part of a regimen to control fibromyalgia. It is my experience that, as long as my magnesium intake is optimal, all systems work normally — no muscle pains, and neither constipation nor diarrhea. Under conditions of stress (either mental/emotional or physical), my body seems to become quickly depleted of magnesium, and constipation is the first sign that I need to increase my intake.
    At least for some people (like me and my mother, for example), it might be more helpful to regard magnesium as an essential nutrient for normal functioning of the whole body, with constipation serving as merely the most obvious signal that many systems may be in need of adequate supplies of this nutrient. The objective, that is, is to restore normal functioning, not just to induce a bowel movement on a one-time basis. When the body (my body, anyway) has an adequate level of magnesium, the bowels work just right day after day, not too fast and not too slow. As I have come to see it, it’s not a matter of “activating a sluggish bowel” but of providing one of the nutrients necessary for normal bowel function.
    I have The People’s Pharmacy to thank for helping me to understand, some years ago, that it is fairly easy to regulate one’s magnesium intake by attending to bowel function — take too little magnesium and you get constipation; take too much and you get diarrhea. Thank you, People’s Pharmacy! I will be eternally grateful!

  12. ME
    Reply

    I’d like to know the answer to LL’s question. I tried MOM and it didn’t work for me. I’m stuck taking Miralax, colace and Citrucel. Yes, in spite of a healthy diet with high fiber cereal daily, 64 oz of water daily and very little dairy. I’m guessing that if MOM didn’t work, a magnesium supplement won’t either.

  13. Virginia
    Reply

    Went to a gastro for months, and prescription after prescription, the most relief I ever got was 3 b.m.’s a week, and nothing to write home about. Tried 1/2 a cup a coffee in the morning on an empty stomach, and it actually got my system moving after 15 minutes every day, but again, nothing to write home about. So I tried Earth Fare brand, amino acid, chelated magnesium, 250mg., 2 caplets, each night before bedtime, and it was like a miracle (and no residual gas and bloating during the day).
    The next morning, I drink 8 oz. warm water w/ the juice of 1/2 lemon. Then I take a probiotic or acidopholus, w/ 16 oz. water and sit and check my e-mails. Believe me, I never get through them, before I’m in the bathroom. I’m 5’5″, and 115#, so if your are a larger person, one may need 3, or even 4 (maximum 4) caplets. Too much, and it WILL give you loose stool. You’ll just have to try to experiment. Hope this helps.

  14. DFW
    Reply

    I take powdered magnesium citrate (1/2 teaspoon = 315 mg.) The cautions about kidney function worry me, though.

  15. Barri
    Reply

    An apple a day – everything but the stem – keeps things moving. I recommend Gala organic.

  16. ERE
    Reply

    I found the culprit to be calcium supplements.I always had uncomfortable constipation too, every time I started taking them. I finally had to stop taking calcium. Then I heard the same thing about Magnesium. I found that they make a calcium supplement with Magnesium. They were wonderful, just what I needed.

  17. DS
    Reply

    I would like to hear the reply to LL’s question.

  18. LL
    Reply

    What type of magnesium supplement (other than MOM) is best for constipation?

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