Constipation can be very uncomfortable and even painful at times. Some people find relief from using magnesium citrate, a supplement that can relax your bowels and provide a laxative effect. Learn more about using magnesium citrate to treat constipation.

About constipation

If you’ve gone more than three days without a bowel movement or your bowel movements have been difficult to pass, you may be constipated. Other symptoms of constipation may include:

  • having stool that’s lumpy or hard

  • straining during bowel movements

  • feeling like you can’t fully empty your bowels

  • needing to use your hands or fingers to manually empty your rectum

Many people experience constipation from time to time. It’s usually not a cause for concern. But if you’ve been constipated for weeks or months, you may have chronic constipation. Chronic constipation can lead to complications if you don’t get treatment for it. These can include:

In some cases, chronic constipation is also a sign of a more serious health condition. Speak to your doctor if you experience chronic constipation, or you notice sudden changes in your stool or bowel habits.

What causes constipation?

Constipation usually happens when waste moves through your system slowly. Women and older adults are at an increased risk of developing constipation.

The possible causes of constipation include:

  • a poor diet

  • dehydration

  • certain medications

  • a lack of exercise

  • nerve issues or blockages in your colon or rectum

  • problems with your pelvic muscles

  • certain health conditions, such as diabetes, pregnancy, hypothyroidismhyperparathyroidism, or other hormonal disturbances

Tell your doctor if you’ve noticed changes in your stools or bowel habits. They can help you identify the cause of your constipation and rule out serious health conditions.

How can you use magnesium citrate to treat constipation?

You can often treat occasional constipation with over-the-counter (OTC) medications or supplements, such as magnesium citrate. This supplement is an osmotic laxative, which means it relaxes your bowels and pulls water into your intestines. The water helps soften and bulk up your stool, which makes it easier to pass.

Magnesium citrate is relatively gentle. It shouldn’t cause urgency or emergency bathroom trips, unless you take too much of it. You can find it at many drug stores, and you don’t need a prescription to purchase it.

Your doctor may also prescribe magnesium citrate to help you prepare for certain medical procedures, such as colonoscopies.

Who can safely use magnesium citrate?

Magnesium citrate is safe for most people to use in appropriate doses, but some people should avoid using it. Speak with your doctor before taking magnesium citrate, especially if you have:

  • kidney disease

  • stomach pain

  • nausea

  • vomiting

  • a sudden change in your bowel habits that’s lasted over a week

  • a magnesium- or sodium-restricted diet

Magnesium citrate may also interact with some medications. For example, if you’re taking certain medications to treat HIV, magnesium citrate can stop these drugs from working properly. Ask your doctor if magnesium citrate can interfere with any medications or supplements that you’re taking.