What does the mineral magnesium have to do with constipation?
Well, quite a lot actually.
The relationship between magnesium and constipation – both the lack of magnesium contributing to constipation and optimal level of magnesium preventing constipation - has been known for a long time in more non-mainstream avenues, but now clinical scientific research is catching up and proving the essential needs of magnesium for overall health – especially magnesium for constipation troubles.
Magnesium is a mineral that without it you could not produce energy, your muscles would be in a chronic state of contraction, and you could not adjust the levels of cholesterol produced and released into the blood stream.
Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral, central element in chlorophyll and the basis of early life on the planet.
More than three hundred enzymes need it, including those needed to make the energy molecule ATP and to synthesize DNA, RNA, and proteins. Magnesium also plays a structural role in bone and in cell membranes, where it helps transport ions across the membrane. These ions regulate over 300 biochemical reactions in the body through their role as enzyme co-factors.
It helps to maintain normal muscle and nerve function, it keeps your heart rhythm steady, it is involved in maintaining a healthy immune system, and it is important for keeping your bones strong. It also helps to regulate blood sugar levels and blood pressure, and is involved in energy metabolism and protein synthesis.
This little macro-mineral sure does pack a powerful punch alright!
It’s believed that hunter and gatherers obtained around 700mg of magnesium per day. The current RDA (recommended dietary allowance) from the Institute of Medicine is 420mg from an adult male and 320 mg for an adult female.
To makes thing worse, a NHANES research study found daily magnesium intake in the USA was 326 mg in white men, 237 mg in black men, 237 mg in white women, and 177 mg in black women.
These magnesium average intakes are all under the RDA. It becomes a scary thought when the RDA of magnesium is potentially under what it should really be too.
Magnesium deficiency over an extended period can be fatal and has been linked to sudden death. Magnesium deficiency is also very damaging to developing babies. In one clinical trial, magnesium supplementation by pregnant mothers reduced the risk of cerebral palsy by 30 percent.
The symptoms of acute magnesium deficiency that you will tend to experience include:
- Muscle weakness, tremor, or spasm
- Sleepiness, fatigue
- Poor memory
- Rapid heartbeat
- Numbness, tingling
- Muscle contractions, cramps
Well, as already mentioned, magnesium has direct affects on the body. Some of the attributes of magnesium that connect to constipation closely are:
- It acts as a natural “anti-stress” agent, relaxing skeletal muscles as well as the smooth muscles of blood vessels and the gastrointestinal tract.
- Magnesium increases water in your intestines which help initiate peristalsis (the wavelike motion which moves fecal matter through your intestines). The increaalsed water also softens the stool which allows it to pass more freely through the intestines.
- It helps to regulate the electrical potential across cell membranes, helping cells to properly communicate with one another.
- Magnesium is an essential for the proper metabolism of food once it is digested.
- It plays a crucial role in the body’s ability to produce and release energy.
- It helps maintain proper nerve function of the bowel.
Interestingly, a large study from 2006 that took place in Japan with 3,835 participants between the ages of 18-20 looked at the relationship between constipation and fiber, water, and magnesium intake. The results of the study found that constipation was not associated with low fiber intake or a low intake of water from fluids. Constipation was associated with a low intake of magnesium and a low intake of water from foods.
Another study from 2008 which looked at constipation in pre-school aged children found that those suffering from constipation had significantly lower levels of magnesium (as well as other micro nutrients and minerals) than those who were not suffering from constipation.
A study published recently in 2012 indicates that for every 50mg per day increase in intake of the magnesium, the risk of colon cancer was modestly reduced by 7%. Scientists from the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden have reported from their studies that for every 100mg per day increase in magnesium, the risk of stroke was reduced by about 9%.
There is no evidence or reports that anyone has ever reached toxic levels of magnesium through food consumption alone.
The initial symptom of magnesium toxicity from high-dose supplementation is diarrhea. In people with healthy kidneys, this is likely to be the only effect, which is why magnesium is generally safe as a laxative which I’ll speak about shortly.
Very high doses of magnesium— well above 2 grams— may lead to a fall in blood pressure, which in turn induces lethargy, confusion, disturbed heart rhythm, and poor kidney function. Extremely high doses can lead to cardiac arrest.
So what is the best way to go about getting yourself out of magnesium deficiency and into a good magnesium range?
Eating food alone, fifty percent of Americans get under 250mg a day. Few Americans reach 400mg a day.
I consider 400-700mg the peak range for magnesium status.
Foods – nuts, chocolate, coffee, beans, etc – high in magnesium tend to be troublesome for people with constipation.
This means that the easiest and most simple way to ensure you have a good magnesium status is to supplement.
I recommend taking a daily dose of between 200-300mg of magnesium. I recommend using a chelated magnesium such as magnesium citrate or glycinate.
I must say something about magnesium being used as a type of laxative. Out of all types of laxatives, using a magnesium supplement is probably the safest of them all in my opinion. The treatment has been known an used for decades. A magnesium intake of around 800-1000mg is usually the amount needed to induce the loose stools effect.
From my personal experience I think its ok to use this method every now and then, but don’t fool yourself for one minute in thinking that you’ve cured your constipation. What you’re really doing is just tricking your body into producing loose stools. The effects of medium to long term use of this method has not been studied so to be totally honest I tend to not recommend it at all to anyone.
Best in health,