DEAR DR. GOTT: Is there any health risk, other than the taste, in drinking five ounces of magnesium citrate a week to clean out my digestive system? Thanks for your opinion.
DEAR READER: Magnesium citrate is an over-the-counter substance used to treat constipation. It is taken by mouth in liquid form that can be mixed with water or juice. The dose depends on the reason a person is taking it. Magnesium citrate works by pulling water from tissues into the small intestines, thereby stimulating a bowel movement within 30 minutes to three hours. When smaller doses are taken, especially when taken with food, the process slows. Following each use, a person should drink two additional glasses of water to replace the fluids that will be lost during evacuation.
Side effects can include nausea, bloating, abdominal pain and a loss of normal bowel response if the magnesium citrate is used on a long-term basis.
Laxatives can result in diarrhea. This, in turn, can cause a loss of electrolytes, essential nutrients such as potassium and other fluids in the body. If diarrhea occurs, a person should replace those lost fluids with two to three quarts of sports drinks or other fluids daily until the diarrhea stops. Some brands of magnesium citrate contain sugar and should be avoided if a person has a history of diabetes.
I am unsure why you are taking the product. If you have regular bowel movements and don’t suffer from constipation, perhaps you don’t need the weekly cleansing. Instead, you might consider a trial of eating more fresh fruits and vegetables, including cereals with bran for breakfast and drinking up to three quarts of fluids each day. If you do suffer from constipation on a regular basis, I recommend you make an appointment with a your physician or a gastroenterologist to review your medical history and medications to determine the cause. Certain medications can contribute to constipation, so that would be an easy place to begin.
To provide related information, I am sending you a copy of my Health Report “Constipation and Diarrhea.” Other readers who would like a copy should send a self-addressed stamped No. 10 envelope and a $2 check or money order to Newsletter, P.O. Box 167, Wickliffe, OH 44092-0167. Be sure to mention the title or print an order form off my website.