Keeping it regular: How magnesium helps digestion

Keeping it regular: How magnesium helps digestion

Magnesium is an essential mineral responsible for hundreds of enzymic processes in the body, playing a role in regulating muscle and nerve function, blood sugar levels, heart health and bone health.

And just as your heart muscles need magnesium for proper function, so does the peristaltic movement that moves and digests food as it moves along the gut. Insufficient magnesium can cause your bowels to become sluggish and you may become constipated or get painful stomach cramps.

But before you reach for a laxative, consider the reasons for constipation – essentially a combination of too little fibre and water in the diet, abnormal gut flora, and low magnesium. By eating more vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds, you are simultaneously getting fibre, magnesium and promoting healthy gut flora.

In addition, magnesium — and specifically magnesium sulfate (Epsom salts), magnesium hydroxide (milk of magnesia), magnesium oxide, and magnesium citrate — draws water into the colon, softening the stool and making it easier to pass.

Research has shown that people with irritable bowel syndrome with constipation (IBS-C)1 may also benefit from magnesium supplementation, as it acts as a muscle relaxer and stool softener. Magnesium can help alleviate the pain and spasms associated with IBS, and magnesium citrate is effective in treating IBS-related constipation. Furthermore, magnesium supplementation may provide relief from anxiety, which can worsen IBS symptoms.

The role of magnesium in digestion doesn’t stop there, however. In her book, “The Magnesium Miracle,” Dr. Caroline Dean explains, “Magnesium and the B-complex vitamins are excellent examples of energy nutrients because they activate enzymes that control digestion, absorption, and the utilization of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates.” Additionally, she points out that magnesium plays a crucial role in the gastric proton pump, which acidifies the contents of the stomach. “When magnesium is deficient, gastric acid production is diminished, further hindering magnesium absorption. During times of significant physical or emotional stress, your body may not produce sufficient stomach acid, which is necessary for digestion and the chemical transformation of minerals into an absorbable form.”

Eating magnesium-rich foods is beneficial for your overall health, as it can help relax the bowel and ease IBS symptoms. This mineral can be found in various sources, including leafy greens, potatoes, broccoli, whole grains, avocados, legumes (such as lentils, chickpeas, and peas), seeds (like flaxseed and pumpkin seeds), nuts, and dark chocolate. In addition to dietary considerations, Dr. Dean also advises addressing any health conditions that could impede mineral absorption. She states, “I believe that IBS, yeast overgrowth, and food allergies must all be addressed in order to achieve optimal magnesium absorption.”

When choosing your supplement, always check if there is a full list of ingredients on the product, a package insert, a valid company address with contact details and compliance to Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP), which is a prerequisite for health product manufacturing. Read more on What to consider when choosing a supplement.


1 Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a gastrointestinal disorder characterized by constipation, diarrhea, bloating, excessive flatulence (gas), cramps, and abdominal pain.


  1. Bolan. B. (2022). Magnesium: Benefits, Side Effects, Dosage, Interactions. Very Well Health [Online]. Accessed on 24 May 2022.
  2. Cafasso, J. (2021). Does Magnesium Treat Symptoms of IBS?. Healthline [Online]. Accessed on 22 May 2023.
  3. Dean, C. (2019). Dr. Carolyn Dean Explores the Health Benefits of Magnesium. Dr Carolyn Dean [Online]. Accessed on 25 May 2023.
  4. Finkel, S. (2023). The 5 Best Supplements for IBS, According to a GI Dietian. Very Well Health [Online].
  5. Johnson, J. (2018). Does magnesium citrate work for constipation?. Medical News Today. [Online].
  6. Masson, L. (n.d.). The Importance of Magnesium. Mindd [Online]. Accessed on 24 May 2023.
  7. Murakami, K., Sasaki, S., Okubo, H., Takahashi, Y., Hosoi, Y., Itabashi, M., & Freshmen in Dietetic Courses Study II Group (2007). Association between dietary fiber, water, and magnesium intake and functional constipation among young Japanese women. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 61(5), 616–622.
  8. Office of Dietary Supplements. (2021). Magnesium Fact Sheet for Consumers. National Institutes of Health [Online].
  9. WebMD. (2022). Health Benefits of Magnesium Citrate. Nourish By WebMD [Online]. Accessed on 22 May 2023.


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