Magnesium for Constipation: Can It Ease Your Symptoms?

  • By Performance Lab
  • 13 minute read
Magnesium for Constipation: Can It Ease Your Symptoms?

Feeling backed up? Try magnesium for constipation. Its effects on smooth muscle and intestinal hydration can help relax the bowels and promote regularity, naturally.

We've all been there before—feeling the urge to run to the bathroom, only to be stuck in the toilet for longer than you ever expected.

Constipation is a widespread issue that can result from many things. While over-the-counter laxatives are one way to handle it, there are plenty of natural, gentle routes, one of which is magnesium.

In this article, we're giving you everything you need to know about using magnesium for constipation, plus our best tips and supplements to avoid it in the first place!

Note: Chronic constipation can sometimes result from underlying medical conditions. If you have not moved your bowels for three days, or are experiencing additional digestive symptoms such as nausea, uncomfortable bloating, stomach pain or vomiting, be sure to contact your healthcare professional.

What is constipation?

Constipation is a common digestive issue characterized by infrequent or difficult bowel movements, affecting millions worldwide. It occurs when the stool moves too slowly through the digestive tract, leading to its excessive hardening and dehydration.

Most people don't realize how common constipation is—anywhere from 15 to 25% of the general population struggles with constipation.

While we typically think about constipation as the inability to poop, the definition is much broader, meaning you could be constipated and not even know it.

According to the Rome III diagnostic criteria, functional constipation means 25% of bowel movements are associated with at least two of the following symptoms:(1)

  • Straining

  • Hard or lumpy stools

  • A sense of incomplete evacuation

  • A sense of anorectal obstruction

  • Need for manual maneuvers

  • Fewer than three defecations per week in the previous three months with an onset of symptoms longer than six months

If you're experiencing recurrent abdominal aches, stomach pain or general discomfort, it's most likely the result of constipation-dominant irritable bowel syndrome (IBS-C) rather than functional constipation.

What causes constipation?

The causes of chronic constipation are multifactorial and can result from systemic or neurologic disorders, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or certain medications, including drug interactions with proton pump inhibitors (PPI).(2) Older people also have higher risk factors for chronic constipation.

Some of the more common other causes of constipation include lifestyle factors that are relatively easy to fix, including:

  • low fiber intake

  • inadequate water consumption

  • lack of physical activity

Can magnesium help constipation?

For anyone dealing with constipation, there are plenty of OTC remedies to help get things moving, ranging from bulk laxatives and osmotic laxatives to poorly absorbed sugars, enemas, and cholinergic agents.

But for those looking for a more natural route, one mineral seems to do the trick: magnesium

Magnesium can be a highly effective natural way to relieve constipation and promote a bowel movement.

How does magnesium do it? To summarize, the main constipation benefits of magnesium target two pathways:

  1. Muscle relaxation: Magnesium relaxes pelvic muscles and smooth muscles in the intestines, helping stool move smoothly through the colon for evacuation.

  2. Stool softening: As an osmotic agent, magnesium draws water into the intestine to bulk and soften stool. When the stool swells, it also stimulates the intestinal wall and intestinal propulsive motor activity (the muscle contraction that moves stool through the intestinal tract).(3)

The form of magnesium will determine how it optimizes these digestive pathways. Let's now take a look at some of the various magnesium forms found in supplements, and the benefits each one brings to the table.

Forms of Magnesium

There are several different types of magnesium found in dietary supplements. Some are better than others when it comes to relieving constipation and supporting regular bowel habits.

Magnesium Citrate

Magnesium Citrate is a bioavailable form of magnesium that combines elemental magnesium with salt and citric acid, commonly used for its effective absorption and mild laxative properties. Taking magnesium citrate helps in relieving constipation and promoting a bowel movement. Compared to OTC laxatives for treating constipation, magnesium citrate may be gentler.

Magnesium Hydroxide

Known for its strong magnesium laxative effects, the hydroxide form is often used to treat acute constipation. As an osmotic laxative, magnesium hydroxide works by drawing water into the intestines, softening the stool and facilitating a comfortable bowel movement. However, due to its potency, excessive use of magnesium hydroxide may lead to diarrhea or dehydration.

Magnesium Oxide

Also known as "magnesia", magnesium oxide is a type of osmotic laxative known as a saline laxative. It is the same as the hydroxide form, but with all water removed. It can increase the osmotic pressure of the intestinal lumen fluid, encouraging intestinal hydration and boosting the water content and volume of the stool. Magnesium oxide is often used as a supplement for magnesium deficiencies, but it may cause digestive discomfort in some individuals, and is therefore not the best magnesium to relieve constipation. Magnesium oxide has, however, been clinically studied for its potential constipation relief:

  • In one of the early randomized controlled trials on the topic published in the Annals of Clinical Research, elderly patients who received magnesium oxide supplementation saw more normalized stool consistency, and the magnesium supplement was more effective to treat constipation than a bulk laxative.(4)

  • In another study, 34 women with mild to moderate constipation were given either 1.5 grams of magnesium oxide or a placebo daily for four weeks. The group taking magnesium oxide experienced significant improvements in the frequency of bowel movements, stool form, colonic transport time, and quality of life compared to those taking the placebo.(5)

Magnesium Sulfate

Also called Epsom salt, it is primarily used externally in baths for muscle relaxation and soreness relief. While it can be taken orally to alleviate occasional constipation, Epsom salt is not recommended for regular use due to its harsh laxative properties, potentially causing diarrhea and electrolyte imbalances.

Magnesium Bisglycinate

This form of magnesium is chelated with the amino acid glycine, which enhances its absorption and reduces the risk of digestive discomfort. It is considered a highly bioavailable and gentle form of magnesium, suitable for individuals with sensitive stomachs. Magnesium bisglycinate does not have laxative effects, but its glycine content may offer added benefits for relaxation and sleep support.

Magnesium Taurate

In this form, magnesium is chelated with the amino acid taurine, which helps improve its absorption and bioavailability. Taurine itself is known for supporting cardiovascular health and promoting calmness. Therefore, magnesium taurate is not known for helping chronic constipation, but is effective in supplements for muscle relaxation and sleep support.

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So, which of these forms of magnesium are best for constipation? The two most common ones you'll see are magnesium citrate and magnesium oxide.

In summary, magnesium citrate is preferred for general supplementation due to its high absorption and gentle laxative properties. Magnesium hydroxide is more suitable to temporarily relieve constipation, but caution is needed to avoid overuse. Magnesium sulfate, primarily used externally, may offer relief for chronic constipation when taken orally, but it is not recommended for regular use as much as magnesium citrate due to its strong (and sometimes harsh) laxative effects.

Some scientific evidence suggests that your overall magnesium status may also influence your digestive regularity. Some researchers report that low magnesium intake is associated with a higher prevalence and risk of constipation.(6)

Simply put, your body appears to require sufficient magnesium to keep digestive functions running smoothly.

Here's the problem: Approximately 50% of American adults fail to get the recommended intake of magnesium.(7)

Increasing magnesium intake via foods and supplements may help to restore the ideal levels that are associated with digestive regularity. Increasing magnesium intake can also be beneficial to relieve some of the symptoms of constipation-predominant irritable bowel syndrome (IBS-C).(8) But always consult with your health professional before starting any new supplements.

What you need to know before using magnesium supplements

But before you go buying the next magnesium citrate supplement you find on the shelf, there are a few things you'll want to consider before using magnesium to improve bowel movements and treat constipation.

The type of magnesium supplement

Including the forms we mentioned above, there are 10+ types of magnesium found in supplements. Magnesium citrate, magnesium sulfate, magnesium carbonate... with so many options, it can be challenging to find the right one to get relief from constipation.

Magnesium citrate and oxide are the two most effective forms for improving bowel movements. Other forms are also beneficial to increase magnesium concentrations in the body.

The dose of magnesium

Magnesium will only be effective in relieving constipation if you get the dose right. Some research suggests that 2 grams of magnesium oxide divided into three doses before or after meals is ideal for relieving constipation. Although generally safe, at high dosages magnesium could also result in Hypermagnesemia: A serious issue that can cause confusion, breathing problems and muscle weakness.(9)

As such, it's recommended to start with 1 gram divided into two or three doses and adjust according to symptoms. Some people may find 250 mg per day is sufficient, while others may need a higher amount.

Magnesium foods

photo of magnesium foods spinach, kale, almonds, pumpkin seeds, brown rice, quinoa, black beans, lentils, avocados, bananas, figs, and dark chocolate

Of course, supplements aren't the only way to get magnesium. Incorporating the right foods into your diet is an easy way to increase dietary magnesium intake.

As a bonus, many foods with magnesium are also good sources of fiber, which contributes its own benefits for digestive health, including helping to relieve constipation (more on that when we discuss prebiotic fiber below).

Magnesium-rich foods in a nutritious diet include leafy green vegetables like spinach and kale, nuts and seeds (almonds, pumpkin seeds), whole grains (brown rice, quinoa), legumes (black beans, lentils), and avocados. Additionally, bananas, figs, and dark chocolate are good sources.

Other types of Laxatives

Laxatives for constipation can be categorized into different types. We've covered saline laxatives and osmotic laxatives like magnesium that draw water into the intestines to soften the stool, facilitate passage of stool, and ultimately help produce a bowel movement. Additional osmotic agents include polyethylene glycol and sorbitol Other types of laxatives include:

  • Stimulant laxatives, like senna and bisacodyl, stimulate intestinal contractions to aid in producing a healthy bowel movement.

  • Bulk-forming laxatives, such as psyllium and methylcellulose, add bulk to the stool, stimulating bowel movements.

  • Lubricant laxatives, like mineral oil, coat the stool to ease its passage.

  • Stool softeners, like docusate sodium, help with treating chronic constipation by promoting water retention and improving stool consistency

  • Sodium phosphate. Sometimes taken rectally, this is an extreme laxative often used for cleansing the colon prior to colonoscopy or surgery.

Each type has specific mechanisms and considerations, so their usage should be tailored to individual needs and under medical guidance to avoid potential side effects.

Other tips to ease constipation

If you're stuck dealing with a backup, some forms of magnesium can be a quick fix—but just like laxative use, it's not a permanent solution for constipation.

Diet and lifestyle changes are effective in relieving occasional constipation, but they're also a powerful preventative strategy.

Here are some of our best tips to avoid constipation and keep your bowels regular:

  • Stay hydrated (consume at least 2-3L of water daily, increasing your intake if you exercise or drink coffee or other diuretics)

  • Increase your intake of fiber rich foods (more on that in a moment)

  • Exercise regularly

  • Limit your intake of processed and refined foods

  • Use the bathroom as soon as you feel the urge

Magnesium Supplements to Consider for Digestive Health

Performance Lab® NutriGenesis® Multi

Performance Lab® NutriGenesis® Multi supplies NutriGenesis® vitamins and minerals in gender-specific multivitamin supplements calibrated for men's and women's distinct nutritional needs.

Many adults don't get enough magnesium. This is just one reason why a multivitamin should be the starting point of any nutritional supplement regimen. It helps to fill in the gaps on what's missing, restoring what you need -- including the magnesium that may help to ward off occasional constipation.

And, because this multivitamin features NutriGenesis® cultured vitamins and minerals, you will be getting magnesium in a form that is molecularly identical to what is found in foods you eat -- so it is easy on the stomach, and easy to absorb fully.

Now, a multivitamin is not designed to provide fast relief of occasional constipation. Instead, the idea is multivitamins will help contribute to the ideal daily intake of magnesium that may be associated with digestive regularity.

NutriGenesis® is the cleanest, healthiest and easiest-to-absorb multivitamin supplement ever developed:

  • Supplies 27 vitamins and minerals, including 100%+ Daily Value of the 17 most important nutritional essentials, including whole-food complexed magnesium

  • All NutriGenesis® vitamins and minerals are bound with absorption-enhancing whole-food cofactors

  • NutriGenesis® is completely free of hard-to-absorb synthetic nutrients and isolated nutrient forms

  • Delivered in 100% plant-based, prebiotic-infused NutriCaps® for digestive health and comfort comfort*

A daily multivitamin is a good idea no matter who you are or what you do. By incorporating a premium quality multivitamin like Performance Lab® NutriGenesis® Multi into your daily regimen, you can help maintain the ideal magnesium levels that are associated with digestive wellness.

Performance Lab® Prebiotic

Performance Lab Prebiotic feeds your gut microbiome and contributes to daily fiber intake.

Performance Lab® Prebiotic supplies active ingredient Orafti® Synergy1 (Inulin-FOS from chicory root), the best prebiotic for boosting Bifidobacterium strain of probiotics that help treat constipation, in a dose of 1.7 g of fiber in each serving. This is important because insufficient fiber intake is now regarded a national health concern.

As a source of soluble fiber, prebiotic nutrients also soak up fluids like a sponge, swelling and expanding in the gut. As gut probiotics feeds on the prebiotic fiber, they start a fermentation process that softens the stool, improves its consistency and promotes a gentle laxative effect. Researchers suggest patients with chronic constipation can benefit from fiber intake.(10)

Essentially, Prebiotic supplies 2-in-1 support -- probiotic nourishment + soluble fiber intake -- that supports healthy, regular and comfortable bowel habits.

These combined bioactivities act like bulk forming laxatives, accelerate gut transit time and generally make stools easier to pass without straining.

Performance Lab® Prebiotic Fiber Benefits

  • Contribute to fiber intake for normal, healthy bowel habits and regular stool frequency

  • Helps improve stool consistency, adding bulk and making stools easier to pass

  • Stimulates fermentation processes in the gut that increase stool volume and softness

  • Supports a resilient gut lining and reduce leaky gut risk

  • Promotes a healthy and balanced digestive system

  • Provides digestive support that comes on in a gradual, mild and comfortable manner, for benefits without bloating

Performance Lab® Prebiotic - Probiotic benefits

  • Supplies the best prebiotic for specific strains of probiotics Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium -- known for relieving constipation

  • Prebiotic Orafti® Synergy1's impact on gut flora has been clinically shown to promote a favorable colon environment for nutrient absorption

Did you know? The Orafti® Synergy1 brand of Inulin-FOS is also backed by several human clinical research studies, with one finding that 10 g per day of Orafti® Synergy1 increased calcium absorption by 20% and magnesium absorption by 10%.(10) So if you're taking magnesium in supplements or consuming magnesium foods, this special prebiotic fiber can help you to maximize your absorption of the mineral.

Get the Best Deal on Performance Lab® Prebiotic Here


Magnesium may play a crucial role in digestive health and chronic constipation.

As an essential mineral, magnesium works for muscle relaxation, including the smooth muscles of the digestive tract. This relaxation facilitates the movement of food and waste through the intestines, promoting regular bowel movements.

Magnesium also helps to draw water into the colon, softening the stool and making it easier to pass. This osmotic effect can be beneficial in relieving constipation by increasing bowel motility.

Overall, incorporating magnesium-rich foods into the diet or using magnesium supplements in appropriate doses can contribute to better digestive health and help prevent constipation. As always, it is advisable to consult a healthcare professional for personalized advice and guidance.

But remember as well: Magnesium is involved in over 600 biological reactions in the body.

It's one of the most important minerals for overall wellness, with many health benefits that extend far beyond digestive health. Magnesium is also key for nervous system health, cardiovascular health, cell energy production, bone strength, restorative sleep and much more.

So when you increase your magnesium intake, via supplements or foods, know that you're not just addressing your chronic constipation -- you are also optimizing your overall vitality.



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  2. Schmulson MJ, Frati-Munari AC. Bowel symptoms in patients that receive proton pump inhibitors. Results of a multicenter survey in Mexico. Rev Gastroenterol Mex (Engl Ed). 2019 Jan-Mar;84(1):44-51. English, Spanish. doi: 10.1016/j.rgmx.2018.02.008. Epub 2018 Apr 17. PMID: 29678362.

  3. Mori H, Tack J, Suzuki H. Magnesium Oxide in Constipation. Nutrients. 2021 Jan 28;13(2):421. doi: 10.3390/nu13020421. PMID: 33525523; PMCID: PMC7911806.

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  5. Mori S, Tomita T, Fujimura K, Asano H, Ogawa T, Yamasaki T, Kondo T, Kono T, Tozawa K, Oshima T, Fukui H, Kimura T, Watari J, Miwa H. A Randomized Double-blind Placebo-controlled Trial on the Effect of Magnesium Oxide in Patients With Chronic Constipation. J Neurogastroenterol Motil. 2019 Oct 30;25(4):563-575. doi: 10.5056/jnm18194. PMID: 31587548; PMCID: PMC6786451.

  6. Zhang L, Du Z, Li Z, Yu F, Li L. Association of dietary magnesium intake with chronic constipation among US adults: Evidence from the National Health and Nutrition Examination SurveyFood Sci Nutr. 2021;9(12):6634-6641.

  7. Costello RB, Elin RJ, Rosanoff A, Wallace TC, Guerrero-Romero F, Hruby A, Lutsey PL, Nielsen FH, Rodriguez-Moran M, Song Y, Van Horn LV. Perspective: The Case for an Evidence-Based Reference Interval for Serum Magnesium: The Time Has Come. Adv Nutr. 2016 Nov 15;7(6):977-993. doi: 10.3945/an.116.012765. PMID: 28140318; PMCID: PMC5105038.

  8. Jadallah KA, Kullab SM, Sanders DS. Constipation-predominant irritable bowel syndrome: a review of current and emerging drug therapies. World J Gastroenterol. 2014 Jul 21;20(27):8898-909. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v20.i27.8898. PMID: 25083062; PMCID: PMC4112860.

  9. Cascella M, Vaqar S. Hypermagnesemia. . In: StatPearls . Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-.

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  11. Holloway L, Moynihan S, Abrams SA, Kent K, Hsu AR, Friedlander AL. Effects of oligofructose-enriched inulin on intestinal absorption of calcium and magnesium and bone turnover markers in postmenopausal women. Br J Nutr. 2007 Feb;97(2):365-72. doi: 10.1017/S000711450733674X. PMID: 17298707