Magnesium is one of the most versatile minerals within our body and is involved in lots of different functions including energy production, nerve function and the building of our teeth and bones, but it can also be highly effective as a natural remedy for relieving constipation.
How does magnesium help constipation?
Magnesium effectively works to help relieve constipation in two ways:
- It is a muscle relaxant and therefore it helps to relax and soothe the intestine muscles allowing for easier digestion and movement of stools.
- It also helps to increase water in the colon, which helps to keep everything moving.
Food is always the best medicine and there are lots of great magnesium-rich foods that you can add to your diet including:
- Whole grains such as rye, spelt, quinoa, wholemeal bread and brown rice
- Nuts – especially almonds and Brazil nuts
- Seeds – sunflower and sesame
- Legumes – beans, peas and lentils
- Dark green leafy vegetables – such as spinach, kale, broccoli and cabbage
- Dried fruit – apricots, prunes, figs and raisins
- Red meat
Top tip: Try soaking some dried fruit overnight in water or a little fruit juice and then adding them to your cereal for breakfast. They are high in fibre as well as magnesium and are a great way to start the day!
So how much magnesium do you need?
The recommended daily amount of magnesium is 300mg for men and 270mg for women, and the above foods all contain 50mg of magnesium or more per 100g serving.
If however, you struggle with getting this much magnesium into your diet then you can get a magnesium supplement to top up your levels. A supplement is also a good idea if you are suffering from chronic constipation and need more immediate relief. It is also a gentler alternative to over-the-counter laxatives.
There are several different types of magnesium (you don't need to worry about the science behind them all) but magnesium citrate is the most easily absorbed by the body. You can also use magnesium sulphate as it also has high levels of absorption but isn't quite as effective.
Solgar Magnesium Citrate is a good supplement as it contains 200mg per tablet and can be bought from all good health food shops and online. Don’t get a supplement with magnesium oxide though as it is the most poorly absorbed and would be a waste of money.
As well as helping to regulate bowel movements, magnesium also has other health benefits including helping you sleep, protecting against heart disease and helping to lower blood pressure so you won’t go wrong by adding more magnesium-rich foods to your diet.
- High doses may cause side effects including diarrhoea, dizziness and tiredness so if you decide to take a magnesium supplement, start slowly and split the doses throughout the day.
- If you have a medical condition or are on any medication, check with your doctor before taking a magnesium supplement.
For more ideas read ‘Natural remedies for constipation’.