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  • Writer's pictureMegan Hilbert, MS, RDN

Magnesium Citrate For Constipation – Dietitian Answers To Common Questions

Updated: Dec 31


Video Transcript:


While there are definitely ways that you can get magnesium through the diet, supplements are also something that can be really convenient and a helpful way to make sure you're getting enough magnesium because most people, especially here in the United States, are actually deficient in magnesium.


It's found a lot in things like nuts and seeds, beans, and certain types of fruits and vegetables. But again, with the amount of processed foods that a lot of us have in our diet, it can be difficult to have enough magnesium. And so, whole foods are often the best choice.


But when it comes to constipation relief, particularly short-term relief, this is where supplements have been shown to be really effective.


So let's talk about the different types of supplements first in the different forms and the benefits of magnesium citrate and glycinate that can have on symptoms like constipation.


Hi there. My name is Megan. I'm a registered dietitian nutritionist at Flusso Nutrients where we provide supplement education and high-quality supplement options to you and an effort to make the world of supplements a little bit easier to navigate.


So as always, please make sure you check in with your nutrition-literate healthcare provider before starting a new regimen as we can't possibly know your full medical history to make personal recommendations.


So without further ado, let's dive into today's topic, which is magnesium supplementation, and the frequently asked questions I get about this as a registered dietitian.


Benefits of Magnesium Citrate and Glycinate

for Constipation Relief


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So there are two main types of magnesium that you can find in supplement form. Well, there are more types of this, but the two main types that we use for constipation are magnesium citrate and magnesium glycinate. And so these are two very popular forms.


As I mentioned, they both provide the body with the necessary magnesium, but there are some key differences between the two.


Magnesium citrate is best known for its strong laxative effect, which is again, very helpful for people with constipation. It works by attracting water into the intestines, softening stool, and promoting bowel movements.


This is highly effective for promoting quick relief from constipation and is often recommended for short-term use. So it is important to note that excessive and prolonged use of magnesium citrate can lead to dependency and disrupt the natural balance of electrolytes within our system.

And so this is something that, as I said, for short-term relief can be really effective, but over the long-term, we can start to see some negative side effects from using magnesium citrate.


Magnesium glycinate, on the other hand, is more gentle and has a little bit more of a relaxing effect on the bowels. This is because magnesium glycinate is used as kind of a nerve relaxation product, so it helps regulate bowel movements without causing that sudden urgency or discomfort, and it can be better suited for long-term use because of this.


It's also a highly absorbable form of magnesium, so it's suitable for people with digestive sensitivities or maybe inflammation within the gut lining. For people who have difficulty absorbing nutrition through their gut, this is where magnesium glycinate really can be beneficial for people.


Determining the Right Dosage


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When it comes to taking magnesium supplements for constipation relief, of course, it's really important to consider dosage and to follow guidelines for this to ensure safety and efficacy and make sure you're not going to deal with unpleasant side effects.


So the optimal dosage for magnesium citrate or glycinate is obviously going to depend on a lot of factors, which is why it's important to discuss with a medical professional, especially one who is interested and knowledgeable about nutrition before starting any new supplement regimen.


So for the different types of magnesium, the recommended doses might look a little bit differently, of course, depending on the effect that you're looking to get.


So for magnesium citrate, in particular, the typical dosage that research recommends starting out with is around 200 to 400 milligrams.

However, it's really important to start with a lower dose, especially at first because magnesium citrate can have a really strong and powerful laxative effect.


I also like to recommend people try this first within the comfort of their own homes, not necessarily in public, just in case that strong laxative effect is very powerful for them.


So starting at home on a lower dose is usually where I like to begin, and then we can of course increase the dose if needed, if more of a laxative effect is going to be essential.


Now, in terms of magnesium glycinate, very similarly, the dose that is typically recommended to start out with is also in the 200 to 400 milligram range. With that being said though, because magnesium glycinate does not have that strong laxative effect, it's generally considered a little bit safer to start at the higher end of the dosage range if needed, and then kind of decide from there if you need to lower or increase your dose.


This also is going to have a strong stress-relieving effect if you are deficient in magnesium. So keep in mind that other stress-related reasons for your digestive woes might be able to be treated with magnesium glycinate.


Pill Form vs. Powder Form: Convenience Matters


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Another really common question that I get from clients and patients about magnesium supplementation...


Is pill form or powder form more effective?

And to this, I say it really is going to depend on what is going to be easier for you to include in your routine.


Pill form can be effective just as much as powder form can be. What matters most is what you're going to be able to take more easily.


And so if you're somebody who prefers pill form because of the convenience, it packs way more easily. Usually, pill form is what I would recommend.


If you're somebody who likes powders because they can easily be mixed into drinks or smoothies, things like this, then powder is typically what I would recommend.


I do also like to say that taking it on an empty stomach before meals can be especially effective when we're taking Magnesium citrate, in particular, magnesium glycinate, again, is a lot more absorbable.


Managing Constipation in Individuals with IBS


Magnesium citrate tends to be absorbed best on an empty stomach because a lot of the patients that I see have IBS. It's really something that I get lots of questions on, right?


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Is magnesium citrate something that I can take with IBS?

And to that, I say, yes, there's been research that has been done on those, particularly with IBS-C or the constipation version of IBS, and magnesium citrate, again, can be really helpful for this as we do see this more of a short-term kind of helpful effect.


So of course, speaking with your registered dietitian and other healthcare providers about diet changes or lifestyle changes that can also help promote bowel movements is really essential.


But for that short-term relief, in particular, magnesium citrate is really effective at promoting bowel movements.


Addressing the Gut-Brain Connection


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The other thing that's important to consider with IBS is that there is a really strong gut-brain axis component that can kind of contribute more to symptoms.


And so what this means is that our gut and our brain are very intertwined when we're dealing with stress, anxiety, or other mental health challenges.


This can often affect our digestive system and can lead to sluggish digestion and an increase in unpleasant IBS symptoms.


And so this is where I typically recommend magnesium glycinate for individuals who do have that strong gut-brain access kind of connection between their symptoms because ultimately, I like to kind of look at the whole person.


And if people are dealing with stress and anxiety and it's contributing more to their gut health, magnesium glycinate is something that cannot only provide long-term relief for some of those symptoms, but it can be especially effective to help that stress management piece that is so essential for IBS management.


Choosing the Right Magnesium Supplement


To summarize what we talked about today, yes, magnesium can be a really effective way to help treat constipation, especially for those with digestive woes, even those of you with IBS. And of course, it's really going to depend on your symptoms and the goals that you have with your healthcare provider.


Are you looking for more short-term relief? If so, magnesium citrate is for you, or are you looking for more long-term relief or looking to kind of help heal gut-brain access to promote healthier digestion? If so, magnesium glycinate is probably going to be the most effective supplement for you.


So I hope today's topic was really helpful. Thank you so much for joining us in this discussion.




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