Do you struggle with constipation? Constipation is so prevalent today that the average person who is constipated doesn’t even know that they are. Some people think not going number 2 every day is normal and not such a big deal. Some people think that going every couple days is acceptable. The problem is we should not be so misinformed about such an important bodily function as moving the bowels. Our body has to get rid of the wastes or things get backed up and cause problems.
One key player in the constipation conundrum is the magnificent mineral; magnesium. Inadequate levels of magnesium in the body can cause constipation.
- Magnesium stimulates muscle contraction and peristalsis throughout the intestines and hydrates the stool.
- Inefficient stomach digestion and intestinal absorption can lead to deficiencies of magnesium. Worse yet, when magnesium is deficient absorption is hindered even more.
- Without enough magnesium, calcium will quickly be deposited in soft tissues throughout the body. (arteries, brain and even the bronchial tubes contributing/causing to asthma symptoms).
- Magnesium is absorbed into the bloodstream from the small intestine -at best only half to as little as 1/3 of the magnesium we ingest is absorbed.
For the past two years I taught a course called Heal Your Gut, and one key issue people joining the course all had was constipation. I’ve also found in my work with numerous clients that constipation is a serious problem. Due this major problem, many people need to know how to use magnesium as a remedy for constipation while they work to resolve the underlying issues causing the constipation in the first place.
Please note, that the following information is meant as a short term remedy while ironing out the root problem of your constipation issue. It is SO critical to empty your bowels daily and not go more than 24 hours without a bowel movement.
Magnesium works well to open the bowel -so it’s a pretty easy and quick solution. Not to mention most people nowadays are deficient in magnesium. If you’ve used it as a constipation remedy, you may be tempted to continue to use it to solve your issue. This is not the best long term game plan, it’s always best to know the entire picture so testing via hair tissue mineral analysis is good plan to correct your biochemistry. However making sure you do get adequate magnesium in your diet/supplements and/or through transdermal application will be a key piece of the puzzle.
Let’s talk about how to use magnesium safely, what forms, doses and what other areas of digestion magnesium supports as well.
Magnesium As An Overall Digestive Support
Magnesium got it’s name from the Greek city Magnesia, a place where large deposits of magnesium carbonate were found. Originally, this ‘salt’ was used as a laxative – since magnesium has a bowel purging effect. Magnesium stimulates good muscle contraction and peristalsis throughout the intestines and works to hydrate the stool. Typically, magnesium carbonate and magnesium sulfate are the forms used to relieve constipation.
Magnesium requires good stomach acid production for it’s absorption and uptake. We typically absorb about 40-50% of the magnesium we consume. Of course this can vary from person to person due to numerous factors such as; stomach acid levels, dietary habits, stress, the form of magnesium. Magnesium is needed when our digestion is compromised -anyone with compromised digestion would do well to supplement while healing their gut.
Magnesium, as I said, is a very relaxing mineral also known as the ‘anti-stress’ mineral. How this impacts digestion is that it functions to relax the smooth muscles of blood vessels and the gastrointestinal tract. So, if you are someone who tends towards constipation issues getting adequate magnesium could go a long way to helping with that. In the short term, magnesium can be used to bowel tolerance in larger doses.
For example: Start with 4-6 tablets of a chelated magnesium with a 100 mg dosage ( Biotics Mg-Zyme is one option that provides 100 mg of elemental magnesium in the aspartate, gluconate and glycinate forms -the chelated forms that are best absorbed) at night/bedtime and increase by 1 per night to bowel tolerance, then reduce by one. That is your dose. (*Note: Most people can safely start with 600-800 mg, divided between meals).
You are looking for an easy to pass, loose but formed stool. Use this method for up to a month to relieve constipation issues, while you iron out other possible issues contributing to your constipation – before adding in other minerals to balance with the magnesium. Adding 1 teaspoon of choline citrate daily for each 200 mg of magnesium taken can really help to aid absorption.
Take anywhere from 500 to 2000 mg daily. (When I first tried this 4 years ago I needed 1200 mg to get me to move my bowels.) If you do take magnesium during the day at all make sure it is very low dose, magnesium in larger doses can be very relaxing to the point it could make you drowsy.
If you are low in stomach acid you can take your magnesium or other minerals with one Hydrozyme (by Biotics) to help ensure you are able to assimilate it. It also wouldn’t hurt to take it with some fat -so a small amount of coconut oil or even 1 fish oil or black currant seed oil capsule if you can. Since magnesium is an alkaline mineral and can act like an antacid, if you take it with meals it could neutralize stomach acid and impair digestion.
Another option would be Aerobic Life Mag 07. It has a recommended cleanse on the back – take up to 5 capsules (this equals about 1725 mg of elemental mag – in ozonated mag oxide form) with 8-12 ounces of water on an empty stomach at bedtime for 7-10 days until desired cleanse has been attained. Then you would decrease the dose for maintenance – it is actually intended as a colon cleansing supplement -not as a mag. supplement. It has a stool softening effect and helps to rid the digestive track of unwanted debris. This has worked well for many of my clients early on in a protocol. I still recommend that you get to the root cause and resolve the underlying reasons you are constipated in the first place -rather than relying on a product like this as a crutch.
Note: High doses of magnesium are known to cause ‘a precipitous cleanse’. This is the very rapid expulsion of the stool when the magnesium finally kicks in and works. This can be unpredictable, as much as 6 hours later. That’s why I recommend taking the bulk of your dose at bedtime so you are at home near the bathroom, just in ‘case’. You will also notice as your tissue levels begin to restore that your body will tolerate less supplemental magnesium – a key indicator of this may be diarrhea. If you experience diarrhea that seems kind of strange consider lowering your magnesium dose. If you have IBS that is predominant with constipation and have alternating diarrhea with constipation, use the glycinate form of magnesium.
[Caution: If you have any kind of bowel obstruction, blockages or other more serious issues, please work with your health care practitioner before implementing any of this information on your own.]
Minerals & More Magnesium Insights
A healthy functioning bowel contains sodium, potassium and magnesium – elements that are truly lacking in our modern day diet. When these are lacking in the diet, they must be obtained from the tissues of the bowel wall, where they are stored. Therefore, we need to ensure we are obtaining these nutrients in our diets/supplements to avoid starving the bowel wall.
I personally feel a full mineral supplementation approach long term is best and the best way to assess your current mineral status is through a hair tissue mineral analysis test. However, if you are truly deficient in magnesium taking magnesium alone for a time is best. Calcium and magnesium compete for absorption, so in order to absorb all the magnesium you need it’s best to take it apart from calcium for some time.
Also, to note: elevated levels of calcium can also be a cause for constipation. Most Americans get enough dietary calcium or take calcium supplements. Testing for levels of both can be helpful – hair analysis is better than blood testing in this case. There are some kinds of lab work that can delineate specific magnesium compounds appropriate for each person’s individual chemistry. Two labs highly respected for their metabolic profiles include Vitamin Diagnostics and Body-Bio Corporation. (6)
Magnesium also activates enzymes that are important for protein and carbohydrate metabolism. It also modulates the electrical potential across cell membranes -this allows nutrients to actually pass back and forth as needed. Individuals with celiac disease and other intestinal disorders lose large amounts of magnesium in their stools, as much as four times as normal. In these individuals higher doses of magnesium will be needed longer term while healing the gut.
Magnesium is also antagonist to lead in the intestinal tract. So, if you are someone with lead toxicity – magnesium is your friend.
Tissue mineral analysis of the hair is likely the best way to assess magnesium status. Simply because the blood works hard to maintain normalcy of minerals, yet this comes at the expense of the tissue stores of magnesium.
Magnesium is very supportive to the liver as well, it helps it do it’s job more efficiently. It acts as an escort to move toxins through the liver to get further broken down. This includes estrogens or other exogenous hormones.
Magnesium Forms To Supplement With
Forms to take: more easily assimilated – magnesium citrate, magnesium glycinate, magnesium fumerate, magnesium aspartate, and magnesium malate. Aspartate is not recommended to take long term because it can give the body too much aspartic acid.
If you do not want the laxative effect of magnesium, look for magnesium taurate, glycinate or orotate. These are amino acid chelates that have less of an effect on the intestines and is good for those who tend to get loose stools. Mag. taurate is more easily transported across the cell membranes, thanks to the taurine in it. This form is best for anyone with any cardiovascular issues, especially anyone who has had a heart attack. Keep in mind, magnesium needs to be paired with B6 and boron to help it get inside the cells properly.
Magnesium ‘oil’ is yet another way to rebuild your intracellular levels of magnesium and it bypasses digestion altogether. Adding this to supplemental oral magnesium could be really key in helping those with severe magnesium deficiencies. I like this spray bottle from Ancient Minerals. You can also make your own- see this recipe for instructions. 6 sprays on each leg = approx. 400 mg. It takes about 30 minutes for the magnesium to get absorbed. This method needs some planning and patience, however if you use it for 4-6 weeks straight, you can restore intracellular levels (using a concentration of 25% mag. chloride – based on a study done by Dr. Norman Shealy).
Forms for kids: I like to use Peter Gilham’s Natural Calm – my kids like the flavor and we affectionately call it ‘magnesium water‘. They drink a small glass after dinner or right near bedtime. 2 tsp. of the powder has 325 mg. I only use 1 tsp. at a time for them. This product is a nice lower dose safe and effective for kids. Adults can use this form/brand as well, though I often find it is not a large enough dose for many people. It also does not contain boron or B6 so you’ll need to get those nutrients in the diet.
When to take: Take your first dose first thing in the morning, maybe one in the afternoon and the bulk of your daily dose at bedtime. Once you find your bowel tolerance level, you can divide it up and spread it out through the day. For example, if you find your bowel tolerance is 1000 mg, you can take 200 in the morning, 200 mid-afternoon and 600 at bedtime. I usually try to look for brands that have the capsules in 100 mg or 250 mg dosages, so I can divide the dosage up more evenly. If you find you need a high dose of magnesium you could break up your dose by using both the oil and an oral supplement of magnesium. I like to use the spray at bedtime, however it can sting or feel sticky so I don’t do it that way every day and I vary the parts of my body that I spray to help reduce the ‘sting’ it can have. Magnesium oil added to a foot bath is also a nice option several times per week.
Magnesium Rich Foods
Processed foods are stripped of their magnesium content and modern day soils are also greatly depleted of their magnesium content. So, if it’s not even in the soil to begin with and then any left is further stripped away by the refining process and you’re eating a processed foods diet – you are in big trouble.
A properly prepared nutrient dense diet, such as those taught through the Weston Price Foundation, Paleo/Primal diets or the GAPS protocol will be imperative to get adequate dietary magnesium. Not to mention purchasing fresh produce grown in healthy mineral rich soil – home gardens, CSA’s, organic/biodynamic farms, Farmer’s Markets.
Many of the foods rich in magnesium are actually foods that can be problematic for folks healing their guts and on eliminations diets -so I will focus on the foods that contain adequate magnesium that are more gut friendly.
- Bone broth
- Sea Salt
- Most Nuts
- Pseudo grains like Millet & Buckwheat (properly soaked and prepared)
- Brewer’s Yeast
- Leafy greens
- Herbs (Such as; purslane, cilantro, nettles, burdock, chickweed, dandelion)
- Mineral Water (for ex: Adobe Springs and Santa Ynex from the US both contain a decent amount of magnesium and low calcium. This would be a good supplemental source to help those with extreme deficiencies).
In summary, everyone should be taking supplemental magnesium today, as well as working hard to ensure their food sources are rich in minerals. Collectively, we (namely Americans) are extremely deficient in all minerals this day and age, magnesium is only one of them (Not to mention, magnesium is easily lost from the body in a variety of ways). Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis is an excellent way to assess overall mineral status in the body.
1. The Magnesium Miracle. Carolyn Dean
2. Digestive Wellness. Liz Lipski, PhD
3. Clinical Reference Guide for Biotics
4. Trace Elements and Other Essential Nutrients. Dr. David L.Watts
5. Dr. Jensen’s Guide to Better Bowel Care
6. Optimal Digestive Health: A Complete Guide
7. Staying Healthy with Nutrition. Elson Haas
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