While magnesium is generally safe, one of the most common side-effects of taking a magnesium supplement is diarrhea (and sometimes explosive diarrhea!).
Why can magnesium cause diarrhea? It can happen for a number of reasons, such as a poor quality supplement or taking way too much.
Fortunately there are ways to prevent this uncomfortable problem from happening.
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be used in place of the advice of a healthcare professional. While my wife and I have been taking magnesium supplements every day for years, I can't say how they might affect you. Always consult a doctor if you have health concerns: don't try to self-diagnose!
Why Does Magnesium Cause Diarrhea?
Magnesium is a mineral, and when taken as a supplement one of its properties is that it tends to attract water.
If too much unabsorbed magnesium reaches the intestines then you can end up with diarrhea and cramping.
Not everyone who takes a magnesium supplement gets diarrhea though.
How To Prevent Diarrhea When Taking Magnesium
As I mentioned, diarrhea is the result of unabsorbed magnesium reaching your intestines.
Ideally you want all of the magnesium you are taking to be absorbed by your body rather than leaving again through diarrhea.
So in order to prevent diarrhea you need to:
- take only enough magnesium to satisfy the needs of your body
- absorb as much of the magnesium you take as possible
If you can find a type of magnesium that your body absorbs well and then take just enough to make your body happy then you should be able to avoid diarrhea entirely.
How Much Magnesium Do I Need?
The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for magnesium is roughly 300-400mg per day for the average adult, though it varies based on age and gender.
While many foods are enriched with calcium there are few that have added magnesium. Also, the common farming practice of overusing soil can reduce the magnesium content of our food over time. This means it can be tough to get enough magnesium from food alone.
The key is to add enough magnesium through supplementation to get you to the 300-400mg range based on the foods you tend to eat. If you are getting enough through food alone then are doing well!
You can click here to see some foods high in magnesium.
Based on these numbers you should be able to get a rough estimate of how much magnesium you are getting from food each day. From there you can try supplementing a small amount of magnesium and work your way up.
How Do I Increase Magnesium Absorption?
So how do you improve absorption?
First, don’t consume all of your magnesium in one sitting. Instead take supplements in smaller doses over the course of the day.
Next you can try taking magnesium on an empty stomach in order to prevent the fiber in food from binding up the mineral and preventing absorption into the body.
Lastly, take a better quality magnesium supplement. There are a lot of different types of supplements out there and they vary a great deal in their quality and absorption properties.
Magnesium Oxide in particular is very common yet I found it to be the worst when it comes to diarrhea.
For me, Magnesium Glycinate worked wonders, letting me take the magnesium I needed while not giving me diarrhea.
Your Turn: Does Magnesium Cause Diarrhea For You?
If you have experience with magnesium making you go, and especially if you have a found a way around it, please let us know in the comments below!
As always, you are strongly encouraged to consult with your physician or other qualified medical professional to help determine your own optimal level of magnesium, and to see whether magnesium supplementation is right for you.