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Top 5 Magnesium Citrate Benefits (Including for Constipation)

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Magnesium citrate - Dr. Axe

Magnesium is the fourth most-abundant mineral in the body, and it’s mostly stored inside our bones. Because our bodies can’t make magnesium, we must get this mineral from our diets or supplements. Magnesium supplements are available in a variety of forms, one of which is magnesium citrate.

What is magnesium citrate good for?

The No. 1 reason to use any magnesium supplement is to help maintain adequate levels of this mineral in order to prevent deficiency. Believe it or not, some research shows that nearly two-thirds of the population in the western world does not achieve the recommended daily allowance for magnesium.

Magnesium deficiency is believed to be one of the most prevalent nutrient deficiencies that affects adults, for reasons including poor soil quality, issues with absorption, and a lack of fruits or vegetables in people’s diets. Not only can magnesium citrate help defend against deficiency symptoms like fatigue, muscle aches and trouble sleeping, but it’s also commonly used by doctors to alleviate constipation. That’s not all. Read on learn more about magnesium citrate.

What Is Magnesium Citrate?

Magnesium citrate is an over-the-counter magnesium preparation made with a combination of salt and citric acid. Magnesium citrate is sometimes described as a “saline laxative” because it effectively works to relieve constipation and clear out the intestines, thanks to its ability to increase water and fluids in the small intestine. However, treating occasional constipation is not the only use for magnesium citrate supplements — they are also taken for nutritional support.

What does magnesium citrate do for the body?

Magnesium itself is an essential, multipurposed mineral involved in over 300 enzymatic reactions in the body. About 99 percent of the total magnesium found in the human body is located in bones, muscles and non-muscular soft tissue. The main purpose of using magnesium citrate and other forms of magnesium is to maintain healthy levels, since magnesium deficiency can contribute to a wide variety of symptoms and conditions. These include trouble sleeping, headaches, fatigue, and muscle aches or spams.

Magnesium citrate benefits and uses include:

  • Cleaning stool from the intestines, which is why magnesium citrate is sometimes used before surgery or certain bowel procedures like a colonoscopy
  • Relieving constipation, gas and bloating
  • Helping regulate muscle and nerve functions
  • Supporting higher energy levels/preventing fatigue
  • Supporting bone and dental health
  • Helping with maintenance of normal blood pressure, heartbeat rhythms and blood glucose levels
  • Helping maintain a positive outlook and calmness
  • Supporting healthy immune system function

Types

Other names for magnesium citrate can include Citrate of Magnesia or the brand name Citroma.

The absorption rate and bioavailability of magnesium supplements differs depending on the kind you use. Research shows that usually types that dissolve in liquid are better absorbed in the gut than less soluble forms. Some research suggests that magnesium citrate, chelate and chloride forms are typically absorbed better than magnesium supplements in oxide and magnesium sulfate forms.

Here’s a bit about the different types of magnesium citrate supplements that are available:

  • Magnesium citrate powder — This is a popular form of magnesium that is stirred into water or another fluid and taken for nutritional support. The powder is combined with water. This causes the two to bind together, creating “ionic magnesium citrate,” which is absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract.
  • Magnesium citrate liquid — This form is the type usually taken for its laxative effects. A liquid magnesium citrate product usually has a magnesium content of about 290 mg per 1 fl oz (30 mL) serving. Other ingredients might also be added to enhance the taste and effects, such as potassium, lemon oil, polyethylene glycol, sodium and sugar/sucrose. Because liquid products are usually used as saline laxatives, they are typically taken about two or more hours before or after other drugs.
  • Magnesium citrate capsules — Capsules are a convenient way to take magnesium citrate. They are usually taken just like powder forms, with at least a glass of water.

Magnesium Citrate vs. Chelate, Chloride Oil and Other Forms

Magnesium citrate is only one of a number of magnesium supplement options. Here is how different forms of magnesium compare:

  • Magnesium Chelate — highly absorbable by the body and the kind found in foods like fruits and vegetables naturally. This type is bound to multiple amino acids (proteins) and often used to restore magnesium levels and prevent deficiency.
  • Magnesium Chloride Oil — an oil form of magnesium that can be applied to skin. It’s also given to people who have digestive disorders that prevent normal absorption of magnesium from their food. Athletes sometimes use magnesium oil to increase energy and endurance, dull muscle pain, and heal wounds or skin irritation. It can also be used to soothe skin issues like dermatitis, eczema and acne.
  • Magnesium Oxide — typically used as a laxative and remedy for acid reflux. This type may be taken in higher doses than other forms since its not absorbed as well. Another name for this type is hydroxide, which is the ingredient in milk of magnesia that is taken for heartburn symptoms.
  • Magnesium Sulfate — a combination of magnesium, sulfur and oxygen that is sold as Epsom salt. This type is usually added to baths as it seeps through the skin, relieving sore muscles and promoting relaxation.
  • Magnesium Glycinate — highly absorbable. This is recommended for anyone with a known magnesium deficiency and less likely to cause laxative effects than some other magnesium supplements.
  • Magnesium Threonate — has a high level of absorbability/bioavailability since it can penetrate the mitochondrial membrane. This type is not as readily available, but as more research is conducted, it may become more widely used.
  • Magnesium Orotate — have orotic acid. Magnesium orotate is beneficial to the heart.
Magnesium citrate vs. other forms - Dr. Axe

Health Benefits (Including for Constipation)

1. Can Help Treat Constipation and Clear Out the Intestines

Does magnesium citrate make you poop?

Yes, it usually results in a bowel movement within 30 minutes to eight hours, depending on the type you take and the dosage. Lower doses are recommended for daily use to help with regularity, in addition to sticking with other healthy diet and lifestyle habits. Higher doses are used only once or for several days if being used for medical reasons, such as for a colonoscopy. If a high dose is taken you can expect to have a bowel movement within about three hours.

Magnesium citrate pulls water into the intestines due to its chemical structure. Magnesium and citric acid have oppositely charged atoms, which causes an osmotic effect to take place in your digestive tract when you consume them together. This means that water enters the intestines and becomes absorbed by the stools. This helps lubricate the GI tract and soften stools, making it easier to pass a bowel movement.

2. Can Help Prevent Magnesium Deficiency Symptoms

Taking magnesium citrate is one way to increase magnesium levels, especially since it has higher bioavailability than some other types of magnesium supplements. Preventing magnesium deficiency is important because magnesium is needed for hundreds of different bodily functions, plus for warding off common symptoms like anxiety, trouble sleeping, aches, spasms, headaches and blood pressure changes.

3. Can Help Support Muscle and Nerve Functions

Because magnesium is an electrolyte that is particularly important for the muscles and nerve cells, using magnesium citrate may provide benefits like enhancing relaxation, increasing sleep quality. and helping with stress relief. It also can help fight muscle spasms, aches and pains since magnesium helps contracted muscles relax.

That said, other forms of magnesium tend to be more popular for these effects, including magnesium glycinate, magnesium sulfate or magnesium chloride oil.

4. May Help Protect Against Kidney Stones

High calcium levels in the urine can contribute to kidney stones. In fact, it’s estimated that high urinary calcium is the cause of kidney stones in upward of 80 percent of cases. Calcium and magnesium work together to balance each other out, and magnesium may be able to decrease accumulation of calcium, thereby supporting good kidney health. While magnesium citrate is useful for this prevention of kidney issues, magnesium oxide may work even better for this purpose. (It’s frequently recommended at doses of approximately 400 milligrams per day.)

5. Beneficial for Cardiovascular and Bone Health

Magnesium is an essential mineral for maintaining bone density, normal cardiac rhythmicity, pulmonary function and healthy blood glucose levels. Having adequate levels is important for maintaining normal blood pressure and heartbeat rhythms, protecting against issues like hypertension and arrhythmia (irregular heartbeats). This is why deficiency in magnesium may lead to metabolic and circulatory changes that increase the risk of developing chronic conditions like cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis and others.

Magnesium is also needed to help with proper absorption of vitamin D, which has been associated with better protection against osteoporosis/weak bones, a weakened immune system and a number of illnesses. Vitamin D and magnesium, along with calcium and vitamin K, can help regulate bone metabolism and maintenance of bone density.

Related: Most Supplements Contain Magnesium Stearate — Is It Safe?

Recommended Dosage (and How to Use It)

The magnesium dosage that is right for you is based on factors like your medical condition, age, any symptoms you’re experiencing and how sensitive to this product you are. It’s important to always read the directions on the label of the product you use, since each product works a bit differently.

Below are general recommendations for magnesium citrate dosages:

  • If you’re taking magnesium citrate as a nutritional supplement, a general recommendation for adults is to take between 200 and 400 milligrams per day orally in a single daily dose, or in divided doses, with a full glass of water.
  • If you’re taking magnesium citrate for the purpose of constipation relief or bowel evacuation, the standard dose is 195–300 mL of liquid magnesium in a single daily dose or in divided doses with full glass of water, or two to four tablets before bedtime.
  • Adult men should generally stick with the recommended daily allowance of 400 to 420 mg/day, while adult women should stick with 310 to 320 mg/day. However, sometimes a patient may take higher doses, up to 900 milligrams daily, if working with a health care provider.
  • In liquid form, the standard dosage recommendation is 290 mg/5ml daily, unless your doctor tells you otherwise.
  • In tablet form, the the standard dosage recommendation is 100 mg/day, which might be taken in two to three divided doses.
  • Pregnant and breastfeeding women need about 320 to 350 mg/day.
  • Children should take between 60 to 195 milligrams per day, depending on their age (it’s best to check with your pediatrician first).

Here are tips for taking magnesium citrate:

  • If using a magnesium citrate powder, start with a low dose, about half a teaspoon daily or 200 milligrams or less, and increase as needed to the full or recommended amount as stated on the product label.
  • Take this product with a full glass of water (at least eight ounces), since it works by pulling water into the intestines.
  • Magnesium can usually be taken with or without food. However, depending on the reason you’re taking magnesium citrate, your doctor might tell you to take it on an empty stomach, at least one hour before or two hours after a meal.
  • Magnesium can be taken at any time of day. Trying picking a time of day to take magnesium and stick with it, since daily use of a moderate dosage may have the best effects.
  • Many people find the taste of magnesium citrate to be unpleasant, so if you’d like to improve the taste, try chilling the mixture first or mixing it with a small amount of juice. Just don’t freeze magnesium citrate. This can change how it works.
  • Some magnesium citrate products work by dissolving in water first, which usually works fastest when you use warm water, although cold water will work too (effects will just take slightly longer to kick in).
  • Don’t forget to also aim to get magnesium naturally from a nutrient-dense diet full of anti-inflammatory plant foods.

How long does it take for magnesium citrate to kick in?

If you’re taking magnesium citrate for constipation or prior to bowel procedure, it should have an effect within about six to eight hours and sometimes in as little as 30 minutes. If you’re taking a low dose daily, such as before bed, it may kick in within 30 minutes but not encourage a bowel movement until the next morning. The length of time it takes to kick in depends on how much you take and how sensitive you are.

Is magnesium citrate safe to take daily?

Yes, as long as you take a low to moderate amount and not a high dose that causes loose stools repeatedly.

Ideally you want to maintain healthy digestion and normal bowel function by drinking plenty of water and fluids and by eating a diet that includes enough fiber and magnesium-rich foods — such as dark leafy greens, beans, avocado and bananas. Exercising, sleeping enough, managing stress, and avoiding too much caffeine and alcohol are also important for staying “regular” and reducing reliance on laxatives.

Is magnesium citrate not working for you?

You may need to increase the dosage you’re taking or try splitting the dose in two parts. If you’re looking for other benefits besides constipation relief, consider trying another form of magnesium or getting your doctor’s advice.

Risks, Side Effects and Interactions

Magnesium citrate may have a laxative effect in some cases when taken in high doses but is otherwise considered safe for most people.

That said, it’s possible for magnesium citrate side effects to occur, especially if you take a high dose for an extended period of time. Magnesium citrate side effects may include:

  • Dehydration symptoms/loss of too much body water
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain, gas and nausea
  • Decreased weight
  • Weakness
  • Rarely, serious side effects like slow/irregular heartbeat, mental/mood changes, persistent diarrhea, severe/persistent stomach/abdominal pain, bloody stools, rectal bleeding, decreased urination and allergic reactions

You don’t want to use magnesium citrate too often because this can wind up causing “dependence” on the product and loss of normal bowel function. People who abuse laxatives, including magnesium citrate, may not be able to have normal bowel movement without using the product after some time.

You also shouldn’t take magnesium citrate or other laxatives if you’re taking antibiotics, especially tetracycline/quinolone. If you need to take both, take them at least two hours apart. If you have any of the following medical conditions, talk to your doctor before you start taking magnesium citrate: kidney disease, GI issues that last longer than two weeks, frequent stomach pains, nausea, vomiting, or if you’ve been told to follow a low-magnesium or low-potassium diet.

When it comes to using magnesium supplements during pregnancy or giving magnesium to your child, it’s recommended that you check with your doctor first, although both are usually safe and can be beneficial.

Final Thoughts

  • Magnesium citrate is an over-the-counter magnesium supplement made with a combination of salt and citric acid. It is sometimes described as a “saline laxative” because it effectively works to relieve constipation and clear out the intestines. It does this by drawing water and fluids into the intestines, which lubricates stools.
  • Other magnesium citrate benefits include helping increase magnesium levels and prevent deficiency and supporting bone, nerve, muscle and heart health.
  • If you take a high dosage of magnesium citrate you might experience side effects, including diarrhea/loose stools. Other magnesium citrate side effects can include dehydration, weakness, abdominal pains and weight loss.
  • Always follow magnesium citrate dosage recommendations carefully, since each type of product (powder, liquid and pills) works a bit differently.

Read Next: You Probably Have Low Potassium — Start Eating These 12 Foods

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