Magnesium can make you poop. A scary thought for some … exciting for others. But let’s back up a bit.
Magnesium is an important mineral involved in several hundred enzymatic reactions in the body, many of which contribute to energy production and cardiovascular function, protein synthesis, transmitting nerve signals, and helping to relax muscles (this is where the pooping comes into play). 1,2
If that explanation made you bored or you didn’t understand it let me put it this way: Magnesium is pretty frickin important. There are very few functions in the body that magnesium isn’t involved in, it’s like a meddlin’ mother-in-law getting in everyone’s business!
It makes me grumpy that calcium get’s top billing in the media as the number one important supplement to take (it’s the most abundant in the human body) but with out magnesium – calcium won’t even work properly.
Did you know: Magnesium guards the cell as calcium enters to create necessary electrical transmissions – magnesium is responsible for ejecting calcium out once the work is done. If magnesium isn’t there too much calcium can cause symptoms of heart disease, asthma, headaches. 2
The book “The Magnesium Miracle” by Dr. Carolyn Dean contains a three-page list of 100 symptoms in 68 categories that could relate to a possible magnesium deficiency including, anxiety, depression, insomnia, asthma, diabetes, heart disease, PMS, and the reason for this article: the bowels!
And now back to our regularly scheduled program: Magnesium can make you poop. Magnesium is considered the anti-stress mineral! It’s nature’s natural muscle relaxant as it helps relax skeletal muscles as well as the smooth muscles of blood vessels and the gastrointestinal tract by keeping peristalsis – the natural muscle relaxation and contraction of the colon working properly. Not enough magnesium is often one of the missing links for my constipated clients, in fact 40 percent of North Americans fail to meet the recommended daily amount for magnesium3 –and those levels are never indicative of optimal health. With magnesium deficiency poor bowel tone can occur, however if you take in too much magnesium at once you might have to run to the loo with loose bowels. Get the right balance, and you might not have to worry about either.
How to achieve that balance?
You can get magnesium by munching on veggies, especially dark green ones. Most nuts, seeds, and legumes, and seaweed have high amounts of magnesium. Whole grains, avocado, dried apricot and some seafood also contain magnesium.
Ok problem solved – if you eat a wholesome diet with these foods it stands to reason you should be getting plenty of magnesium, but unfortunately it’s not this easy.
Many factors affect magnesium availability from foods and increase your need for magnesium even if you DON’T suffer from any known magnesium related deficiency symptoms.
- Soil. Thanks to modern farming, and the use of potash – potassium based fertilizer – magnesium and calcium is lost in the plant as they are harder to absorb.2 Deficient soil = deficient produce = we don’t make s**t like we used to!
- Magnesium is highly lost in the processing and refining of foods (85% of magnesium is lost during the milling of flours) and in the making of oils from nuts and seeds.
- Soaking and boiling foods can leach magnesium into your cooking water.
- Consuming a diet rich in sugar, salt, fat, increases the need for magnesium.2
- Flouridated water interferes with magnesium. Do you drink tap water?
- You need sufficient levels of calcium, vitamin D and selenium for magnesium to work properly.
- It’s not food related but STRESS depletes magnesium in the body.
- Having a yeast overgrowth and/or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) form barriers to the absorption of minerals like magnesium.2
Know that you know magnesium rich foods aren’t so rich it’s time to talk about how you can actually get magnesium! I’m the first person to say I don’t like to take many supplements, but in my practice – magnesium is one of my top 5!
Magnesium supplementation requires an acidic stomach so taking it between meals or at bedtime is recommended, added bonus it might help you sleep. As your deficiency lessens you’ll need less; it takes about 6 weeks to replenish your optimal magnesium stores. 3 Please talk to your medical professional about the right supplement (there are various forms of magnesium) and dosage best suited for you!
Taking magnesium as a laxative:
High concentrations of magnesium can be used for its laxative effects. Store bought laxatives are not recommended as they can remove beneficial bacteria and electrolytes and cause a dependency.2 Developing loose stools from magnesium supplementation does not necessarily mean you are absorbing too much and losing the rest it simply means you are taking too much at once, so if you are not taking magnesium for it’s laxative effect do not take your daily dose all at once.
1 Haas, M.D., E.M. (2006). Staying Healthy with Nutrition: The Complete Guide to Diet and Nutritional Medicine. Berkley, CA: Celestial Arts
2 Dean, Carolyn. M.D. N.D. (2003) The Magnesium Miracle. New York, NY: Ballantine Books
3 Lipski, Elizabeth. (2005). Digestive Wellness. McGraw Hill