Magnesium Citrate: Uses, Benefits, Dosage, Side Effects FAQs

Magnesium citrate is a magnesium preparation in salt form with citric acid in a 1:1 ratio (1 magnesium atom per citrate molecule). Magnesium citrate is used medicinally as a saline laxative and to completely empty the bowel prior to a major surgery or colonoscopy.

Magnesium citrate is available without a prescription, both as a generic and under various brand names. It is also used in pill form as a magnesium dietary supplement. It contains 11.23% magnesium by weight. Compared to trimagnesium citrate, it is much more water-soluble, less alkaline, and contains less magnesium.

Magnesium citrate is also used to treat occasional constipation on a short-term basis. Magnesium citrate is in a class of medications called saline laxatives. It works by causing water to be retained in the stool. This increases the number of bowel movements and softens the stool so it is easier to pass.

How should I take Magnesium citrate?

Magnesium citrate comes as a powder to mix with a liquid and as a solution (liquid) to take by mouth. It is usually taken as a single daily dose or to divide the dose into two or more parts over one day. Do not take magnesium citrate for more than 1 week, unless your doctor tells you to do so. Magnesium citrate usually causes a bowel movement within 30 minutes to 6 hours after taking it. Follow the directions on your product label carefully, and ask your doctor or pharmacist to explain any part you do not understand. Take magnesium citrate exactly as directed. Do not take more or less of it or take it more often than prescribed by your doctor.

Take the liquid product with a full glass (8 ounces [240 milliliters]) of liquid.

To prepare the powder for solution, mix the powder with 10 ounces (296 milliliters) of cold water or other liquids and shake or stir the mixture thoroughly. If needed, refrigerate the solution after mixing it, but mix it again before use. If the oral solution mixture is not used within 36 hours after preparation, dispose of the mixture. Be sure to ask your pharmacist or doctor if you have any questions about how to mix or take this medication.

Ask your pharmacist or doctor for a copy of the manufacturer’s information for the patient.

How much magnesium citrate is safe to take?

The recommended dietary allowance for magnesium is:

•          420 mg per day for adult men

•          320 mg per day for adult women

•          360 mg per day for pregnant women

You can take just 250 mg/day of magnesium citrate as a supplement because a normal diet is usually enough to reach the RDA for magnesium.

When to take Magnesium citrate

Magnesium citrate should be used exactly as directed on the label or as recommended by your doctor.

Take it on an empty stomach, at least an hour before or two hours after a meal with a full glass of water regularly at the same time(s) each day for maximum benefit.

Can dialysis patients take magnesium citrate?

Patients with chronic kidney disease who require regular dialysis are usually contra-indicated for magnesium citrate laxatives or supplements. This is because magnesium supplements can cause excessive accumulation of magnesium in the blood.

This can lead to excessive muscle weakness. Both low and high levels of magnesium in the blood can cause several complications.

Can magnesium citrate cause miscarriage?

There is no definitive research that proves that magnesium citrate can harm a fetus. Magnesium citrate is FDA approved, and it falls under category C, which means that the number of human studies on it are insufficient.

This also means, in animal studies, this medicine has shown adverse effects on fetal health.

Can you take magnesium citrate while pregnant?

There is no easy answer to this question. The medicine has insufficient human studies regarding risks to a fetus. But, never use this medicine without a doctor’s advice if you are pregnant.

Also, be mindful that insufficient magnesium during pregnancy can cause preeclampsia which can kill your unborn baby.

What are the side effects of magnesium citrate?

Magnesium citrate can cause side effects such as:

•          Dependence on laxatives containing magnesium citrate can spur permanent damage to your gut.

•          Dizziness

•          Increased sweating

•          Loose, watery stools  or diarrhea

•          Nausea

•          Seizures

•          Stomach cramping

•          Weakness

Long-term use of this medicine at very high doses (more than 5,000 mg/day) can cause magnesium toxicity that can cause low BP, vomiting, irregular heartbeat, flushing of the face, and even cardiac arrest, leading to death.

Can magnesium citrate help you lose weight?

Magnesium is helpful for controlling blood insulin and sugar levels, especially in those who are obese. This usually helps you lose some weight as well because the insulin hormone triggers weight gain.

Magnesium also helps with water retention and bloating. This means you may just lose some water weight when on this medicine.

Is magnesium citrate good for bones?

Magnesium citrate helps regulate muscle function, which helps your bones remain strong and healthy. It also regulates the transport of calcium across the body’s cell membranes, creating healthy bones.

Magnesium helps prevent osteoporosis, especially in postmenopausal women, by regulating calcium metabolism. All these actions help with bone health for longer.

How does magnesium citrate help your body?

Magnesium helps in the contraction of muscles, conduction of nerve impulses, and a normal heart rhythm. It also plays a big role in the transport of minerals like calcium and potassium.

Plus, it’s a natural laxative as it draws water into stools, enabling an easier poop. It helps you sleep better too.

Is magnesium citrate a blood thinner?

Yes, it’s a mild blood thinner. Magnesium citrate slows blood clotting. For this reason, people with clotting disorders should avoid it.

Magnesium overdose can lead to bloody stools, coughing up blood, pink or red urine, red spots on the skin, and unusual bruising and excessive bleeding even from tiny wounds.

Can I consume alcohol with magnesium citrate?

No. Drinking alcohol while taking magnesium citrate can cause intestinal side effects and make your diarrhea worse. Diarrhea can cause dehydration, and alcohol also has a strong diuretic effect which causes dehydration. This may decrease the efficacy of magnesium citrate. Dehydration can lead to dizziness and unconsciousness.

Can I drive if I have consumed magnesium citrate?

Yes, you may, as magnesium citrate usually produces a bowel movement within 30 minutes to 6 hours after you take it.

Just remember, it does not make you poop all day long and also not immediately. This means you can drive if you’ve had this medicine a few minutes back.

Consult your doctor or healthcare provider for any further queries related to magnesium citrate and find out if you can safely consume it based on your health conditions.


Dr. Oche Otorkpa PG Cert, MPH, PhD

Dr. Oche is a seasoned Public Health specialist who holds a post graduate certificate in Pharmacology and Therapeutics, an MPH, and a PhD both from Texila American University. He is a member of the International Society of Substance Use Professionals and a Fellow of the Royal Society for Public Health in the UK. He authored two books: "The Unseen Terrorist," published by AuthorHouse UK, and "The Night Before I Killed Addiction."
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