Achieving Bowel Regularity with Magnesium

Achieving Bowel Regularity with Magnesium

By Andrea Bartels CNP NNCP RNT
Registered Nutritional Therapist

09 Jun 2022

Achieving Bowel Regularity with Magnesium

Straining to have a bowel movement is time-consuming, frustrating and uncomfortable. Whether your constipation is chronic or just occasional---the remedy is often worse than the symptoms you started with.  Think about it.  A fibre supplement taken without adequate water won’t work. Then, if you take a stool softener or laxative herb, you may experience sudden urgent bathroom trips that interrupt your day’s activities.  Add to this a lack of dietary fibre, stress and certain medications that may have triggered your constipation in the first place and chances are you find yourself stuck in a vicious cycle.  From a nutritional perspective, what’s the best solution?

First, some constipation facts:

Who gets it? A systematic review published in The American Journal of Gastroenterology concluded chronic constipation affects more women than men, but the reason for this remains a mystery.

Overall, the impact of constipation on quality of life in all age groups has been called comparable to that of sciatica pain, eczema, and allergies by another systematic review published in 2010.

The complications of chronic constipation include hemorrhoids that itch or bleed, and possibly, diverticulosis—a condition in which ‘pockets’ form in the left sided-portion of the colon from years of pressure from repeated bouts of impacted stool. Diverticulosis itself can create the sensation that the bowels do not completely empty, and increases the risk of diverticulitis—infection of one or more of these pockets. 

To reduce these risks, constipation needs to be managed with not just a safe and effective remedial approach, but a preventative, nourishing one.

Magnesium: the Nutritious Antidote to Constipation

Magnesium is an essential mineral critical for our muscle and nerve functions including those of the digestive system, uterus, circulatory system and skeletal system.  When calcium is not balanced with sufficient magnesium in the cells, stiffness, tightening and spasms are possible.  In essence, magnesium has a relaxing effect on muscles.  So regardless of which factors are contributing to your constipation, a highly absorbable form of magnesium can be a very effective way to get a tight bowel to relax and re-establish your regularity.

The type of magnesium supplement matters.  The side effects of most magnesium compounds occur because they’re so poorly absorbed.  In fact choosing the wrong magnesium compound can have several unwanted side effects:

Nutrient Losses and Dehydration:  Magnesium citrate and other magnesium salts relieve constipation by pulling excess water into the stool. In doing so, water-soluble vitamins like vitamin C and B complex are depleted in the process.  In addition, electrolyte imbalances can result from the loss of potassium, magnesium and zinc, which can be dumped out with that water.  The resulting deficiencies can affect multiple body systems, impacting blood pressure and energy levels.

Bowel urgency and diarrhea: As they say, when you’ve gotta go, you’ve gotta go! Although this risk can be dose-dependent, magnesium citrate and other magnesium salts taken to relieve several days’ worth of constipation may cause ‘explosive’ diarrhea in some individuals. Undoubtedly, this risk can limit a person’s activities to a smaller geographic radius---i.e., to the vicinity of a rest room.  Who wants that?

Magnesium Glycinate: A Better Alternative

Living in diapers or camping out next to a rest room need not be side effects of your constipation management program.  You see, not all magnesium compounds are created equal.  In contrast to magnesium salts, magnesium glycinate makes use of Nature’s smallest amino acid—glycine—resulting in more magnesium being absorbed into the bloodstream to benefit the neuromuscular system and regulate peristalsis –the natural muscular action vital to digestion and elimination.  Not only is magnesium glycinate more efficient at crossing the intestinal membrane; it effectively crosses the blood-brain-barrier as well, providing side-benefits for regulating mood, sleep and more.  

Dose matters, too.  The best way to ensure a healthy bowel movement with magnesium is to take it in divided doses, not all at once. This way, the body will absorb it in small doses and the effects are obtained via regulation of the muscle tone responsible for moving the bowels rather than the osmotic effect (i.e. water-pulling) that a high dose of magnesium may have.  Using a magnesium glycinate powder allows for more rapid absorption and flexibility of dosing for those who have experienced a laxative effect with other constipation antidotes.

Don’t trade one bowel problem for another.  Magnesium glycinate supports bowel regularity from the inside out by nourishing the muscles and nerves important for bowel motility while supporting a multitude of other important chemical reactions in the body.



Belsey J, Greenfield S, Candy D, et al. Systematic review: Impact of constipation on quality of life in adults and children. Aliment Pharmacol Ther 2010;31(9):938–49

Cleveland Clinic. “Diverticulosis and Diverticulitis of the Colon.” Accessed online June 6, 2022.

Higgins PD, Johanson JF. Epidemiology of constipation in North America: A systematic review. Am J Gastroenterol 2004;99(4):750–9. (more women than men)

Lindberg, J S et al. Magnesium bioavailability from magnesium citrate and magnesium oxide. Journal of the American College of Nutrition vol. 9,1 (1990): 48-55.

Mayo Clinic. “Hemorrhoids”. Accessed online June 6, 2022.

Mori H, Tack J, Suzuki H. Magnesium Oxide in ConstipationNutrients. 2021;13(2):421. Published 2021 Jan 28.

Pinto Sanchez MI, Bercik P. Epidemiology and burden of chronic constipation. Can J Gastroenterol 2011;25(Suppl B):11b–15b.


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