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Magnesium Supplement Can Activate a Sluggish Bowel

When used as a dietary supplement in the 250 mg to 400 mg range, magnesium can help combat constipation or sluggish bowel without causing diarrhea.

Millions of people around the world suffer from daily constipation. That is why laxatives are so popular. We generally discourage regular use of harsh (stimulant) laxatives and prefer a more natural approach.

Fiber is frequently recommended by nutrition experts, but excessive fiber can lead to bloating, gas and flatulence. It doesn’t work for everyone.

Magnesium is an essential mineral that can be surprisingly helpful against sluggish bowel, as long as you do not overdo. Overdosing on magnesium can lead to a dramatic run for the bathroom or an unwelcome accident.

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. That is why we always recommend that people who contemplate adding magnesium to their regimen ask a physician to run some tests to evaluate kidney function first.

Reports from Readers About Magnesium for Constipation:

Emil from the UK shares this experience:

“I tried magnesium to combat my lifelong constipation, but I did not like the liquid form because it tasted nasty.

“A friend from Denmark introduced me to the tablets form, and my back pain and constipation have disappeared completely. I am taking 500mg daily and it stopped my constipation. I wonder my UK doctor never took my constipation complaint seriously.”

M.B. was using magnesium to prevent migraines (see this link):

“I started 400mg of magnesium to see if it would reduce migraines and I’m not sure about that yet, but it did immediately result in loosened bowels. After two months of this, I felt fatigued and realized it might be affecting my food/vitamin absorption, so I’ve cut back to 400mg every two to three days. This seems to be a good amount. I”ll see if it will still decrease migraine onset.”

O.G. offered this testimonial…though we would caution against such a big dose:

“Houston, we have ignition! I have had killer constipation for months. Because I am diabetic I can no longer consume my favorite cure, prunes. They are too high in sugar. 

“MAGNESIUM WORKS! It took about a week, at 1,000 mg a day for starters (I am now scaling back, to see what the minimum working dose is for me) but it works. After feeling like I was obstructed by a hardened concrete plug-very painful!- I am back to being regular and comfortable.

“I’ll watch for diarrhea (which I would have welcomed in weeks past) but my extremely grateful feeling is-to paraphrase Lincoln on another ‘remedy’-‘Send a case to the rest of my generals.’ ;-)

“Just for background information, I’m a 67-year-old female, and the magnesium was plain old grocery store tablets, which were the only kind available when I was desperate.

“Two very enthusiastic thumbs up, and thank you, People’s Pharmacy community!”

To learn more about magnesium and its other benefits you may wish to check out our article, “Is Magnesium a Miracle Mineral?”

You may also wish to get far more details on magnesium by listening to a one-hour radio interview, Show # 969: Magnesium the Neglected Mineral. Our two guests, Tieraona Low Dog, MD and Carolyn Dean, MD, ND, are two leading experts on this dietary supplement. Here is a link.

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.

Share your own magnesium story below and please vote on this article at the top of the page.

Revised: June 30, 2016

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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