How Does Magnesium Citrate Work?


Quick Answer

Magnesium citrate is a saline laxative thought to work by retaining water in the intestines via osmosis, according to MedicineNet. By increasing water in the bowel, it aids in motility, usually resulting in a bowel movement within 30 minutes to up to six hours.

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Full Answer

Magnesium citrate is a non-prescription medicine. It is used to cleanse the intestines prior to surgery or certain bowel procedures, such as a colonoscopy or radiography. It is also used to treat constipation and bowel irregularity; however, WebMD warns that doctors recommend gentler products, such as bulk-forming laxatives and stool softeners, whenever possible for constipation.

Potential side effects of magnesium citrate include mild abdominal discomfort, cramps, gas and nausea, according to WebMD. More serious side effects are unlikely but may occur with high dosages or prolonged use. These include slow or irregular heartbeat, muscle weakness, confusion, unusual drowsiness, persistent diarrhea, bloody stools, rectal bleeding, or severe/persistent stomach/abdominal pain. Persistent diarrhea can also lead to dehydration. Symptoms of dehydration include unusual decreased urination; lack of tears; unusual dry mouth; or increased thirst, dizziness, lightheadedness or pale/wrinkled skin.

Magnesium citrate is available as a 290 milligram/5 milliliter liquid or a 100 milligram tablet, states MedicineNet. It lists the recommended dosages for adults and children aged 12 and over as 195 to 300 milliliters taken with a full glass of water. Patients may take it as a singe dose or divide it up into separate doses. They may also take two to four tablets at bedtime.

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