Does Milk of Magnesia for Constipation Work?

If you are having fewer than three bowel movements a week, you might have constipation. Though it is common to have this occasional problem, some individuals have chronic constipation, which means they deal with this all the time. The discomfort can make it tough to go about their day-to-day activities. Fortunately, there are several ways to relive the problem. Some home remedies work well, like milk of magnesia for constipation.

Can Milk of Magnesia Really Alleviate Constipation?

Milk of magnesia for constipation really does work. However, you must be certain to use it correctly in order to prevent more problems, such as diarrhea. Here's what you need to know.

1. How It Works

Milk of magnesia contains magnesium as a main ingredient. Magnesium relaxes the intestinal muscles and attracts water, which make the stool much easier to pass. In fact, it works so well that a bowel movement should happen within six hours of taking either the liquid or tablet form.

2. How to Use it

Taking milk of magnesia for constipation once a day, right before bed, is probably your best bet. This way you can rest assured that your bowel movement will come during the night or in the morning, not while you are out during the day. In most cases, two tablespoons will be enough; you can go up to three tablespoons per dose, but no more than that.

3. Precaution

It is important to remember that milk of magnesia for constipation should be used sparingly, as the saline in it can eventually cause dehydration and even unbalanced electrolytes.

  • Constant constipation should be mentioned to your doctor, as it might be a sign of a bowel obstruction.
  • Young children and the elderly are more likely to become dehydrated when using milk of magnesia to soothe constipation.
  • The medication can affect how easily your body absorbs other medications, so check with your doctor before using.
  • Those with kidney disease or those sensitive to magnesium should check with the doctor before taking this product.
  • Using milk of magnesia for constipation too often can cause trouble with colon contractions, which can actually make you feel worse.
  • Never take this while pregnant or breastfeeding unless your doctor approves it.

Other Ways to Deal With Constipation

Constipation is quite common; that’s why there are so many home remedies for it. Here are a few options other than milk of magnesia that might work to alleviate the discomfort.

1. Home Remedies

A diet rich in fiber and plenty of exercise can keep things moving as they should. Don't forget to drink plenty of water too, as it helps keep your stool soft. When you do need to have a bowel movement, take your time. And never try to "hold it" as this can make things much worse.

2. Laxatives

Sometimes your body needs a little help with laxatives. Make sure to ask your doctor which one is right for you. Laxatives may include:

  • Lubricants like mineral oil can coat the intestine with a slick layer to reserve water in stool and make it slippery;
  • Stool softeners draw water from the intestines to moisten the stool;
  • Osmotic laxatives helping fluid to move through colon;
  • Fiber supplements add water and bulk to your stool;
  • Stimulants stimulate the wall of intestine and draw water to stool, so your stool can move through your colon. 

3. Medications

In severe cases, your doctor might prescribe medications other than milk of magnesia for constipation. These include medications such as lubiprostone (Amitiza) and linaclotide (Linzess) that draw water into the stool, as well as those that are currently being used in clinical trials.

4. Biofeedback Therapy

By working with a therapist, you can figure out how to move the pelvic muscles to either help the body push out the stool, or relax enough to allow the body to do the work on its own. During the therapy, a catheter is inserted into your rectum to measure your muscle tension. Your therapist will guide you to alternately tighten and relax your pelvic muscles. The machine can tell you when you are relaxing the right areas.

5. Surgery

In cases of severe constipation, you might need surgery to help you go. Surgery might repair anal fissures, loosen the anal sphincter, repair an intestinal blockage, or even remove part of the colon – though the latter is almost never necessary. 

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