Before taking milk of magnesia for constipation, you should be aware that taking too much of it can result in diarrhea, electrolyte imbalances and nausea among other side-effects. This guide will take an in-depth look into realities pertaining to treatment of constipation with milk of magnesia.
Is Milk of Magnesia Good for Constipation?
What do people use as a home remedy for constipation? Is milk of magnesia good for constipation? This question is asked very often in online health discussion boards and forums. The straight answer to this question is, yes, milk of magnesia is a popular and good over-the-counter treatment option for acute constipation.
Milk of magnesia is mainly magnesium hydroxide which fits into two groups of medications namely, antacids and laxatives. As an osmotic-type laxative, milk of magnesia helps to relieve symptoms of occasional constipation.
It is thought to aid in drawing of water into the intestines which then effectively triggers bowel movements. Here is a brief overview of the process involved:
- The milk of magnesia for constipation is simply magnesium hydroxide suspended in water even though it usually has a little sodium hypochlorite added to act as a buffering agent. As an ionic compound magnesium hydroxide is comprised of magnesium (Mg2+) and hydroxyl (OH–) ions.
- When taken orally, magnesium ions are absorbed into the intestinal tract but the hydroxyl ions are not which creates higher concentration in the intestines. As a result, osmosis facilitates movement of water into the intestines. Remember osmosis is the movement of water molecules from a region of low concentration of ion to a region of higher concentration.
- Movement of water into the intestines soften things down there and ultimately facilitates movement of the intestines (i.e. bowel movement) and hooray! You just successfully overcame constipation.
While it is sold over the counter under different brand names, you should not use milk of magnesia for constipation (or as antacid) before talking to your doctor if you have kidney disease or are on a magnesium restricted diet.
Milk of Magnesia Dosage for Constipation
Milk of magnesia is available over-the-counter for treatment of constipation both as a liquid and in table form. It however comes with possible risks if proper dosage is not observed. As the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse points out, you should limit your intake of milk of magnesia to lower the risk of such side-effects as electrolyte imbalances and diarrhea.
For adults, it is generally advisable to take milk of magnesia once a day, just before retiring to bed in order to relieve acute constipation. Milk of magnesia may take anything between 30 minutes and 6 hours before it starts working and by taking it before bedtime increases your chances of having a bowel movement the following morning.
If nothing happens by the next morning, you should consider adding your dosage slightly over the course of the next few days.
The right dosage varies depending on your medical condition as well as response to treatment. For adults however, 2 tablespoon a day are generally recommended at the onset of the treatment course. It is absolutely important to measure the dosage properly as excessive intake of MoM may cause you watery diarrhea.
If that doesn’t seem to be working, you may then increase the dosage by 1 teaspoon per dose until you reach 3 tablespoons. You should not exceed 3 tablespoon each day without talking to your doctor. Persistent constipation may be an indication of a more serious problem such as bowel obstruction.
On the same note, milk of magnesia should not be used for long-term treatment of constipation as that increases the risk of diarrhea, electrolyte imbalance (e.g. high magnesium level), dehydration, and other undesirable side-effects especially among children and elderly. It can also lead to laxative dependence and continuous constipation.
It is also advisable to seek medical attention if you still need to use a laxative before you can get a bowel movement a week down the line or rectal bleeding is noted. In addition to using milk of magnesia for constipation, you will also want to:
- Drink plenty of water: The WebMD website recommends taking at least a full 8 ounce (240 ml) glass of water with each dose of milk of magnesia.
- Take lots of fiber-rich foods as well as fruits and vegetables
Milk of Magnesia Constipation Reviews
Reviews are the best way to judge the usefulness of a product as manufacturer’s claim alone may be misleading. Because reviews are left by actual users, they give you an insight into people’s real experience with the product in question.
We took the time to look for milk of magnesia constipation reviews in online shopping and health sites and Phillips seems to be particularly outstanding; it is arguably the king of the MoM jungle. It for example has a rating of 9.1 out of 10 on Drugs.com, 4.5 out of 5 on Drugstore, and 4.2 out of 5 (for the original flavor) based on 58 reviewers on amazon.
Here are some of the reviews left by the users:
“This is the perfect intestinal rocket blaster fuel. Take at least the recommended dose, and fasten your seat belt. Be sure you have plenty of toilet paper in stock.”
This user was however dissatisfied with the original taste,
“…I made the mistake of ordering regular flavor though – it’s pretty bland and vitaminy tasting (magnesium chelate anyone?)…”
If you don’t like the unflavored original formulation, you can always choose between the cherry and mint flavored alternatives.
Milk of Magnesia Constipation during Pregnancy
In addition to use of certain medication, inadequate water (and fluids) intake, changes in diet and lack of sufficient fiber in your diet, illness, and lack of physical activity, pregnancy is also a common underlying factor for constipation. As the American Pregnancy Association reports, approximately half of all pregnant women experience constipation. This is attributed to hormonal changes, intake of iron tablets, and reduce physical activity.
While using milk of magnesia poses no risk to pregnant mothers, you may still want to talk to our doctor before taking it. For example, your doctor will determine if the milk of magnesia can interact with or decrease the effectiveness of any drugs or dietary supplements you are taking and advise accordingly. This also applies to mothers who are breastfeeding.
If you remain constipated for more than 1 week even with MoM treatment, you should discontinue use and go back to your doctor. Immediate medical attention is also necessary if side-effects such as hives, vomiting, swollen lips or tongue, muscle weakness, difficulty breathing, and loss of appetite are observed. These may be signs of allergic reaction.
Milk of Magnesia for Baby Constipation
Constipation is common among infants and children, accounting for about 3 percent of all visits to pediatricians. You will know that your baby is constipated if she has infrequent bowel movements that are hard as well as painful.
Factors for constipation in babies range from poor diets (e.g. too much cow milk, low dietary fiber intake etc.) and inadequate fluid intake to physical and mental disabilities (e.g. Down syndrome, mental retardation, cerebral palsy) and side-effect of certain medications.
Is milk of magnesia for constipation a good treatment for babies? Milk of magnesia may be used to treat constipation in children. Some children may however not tolerate its chalky taste, but you can always overcome that by mixing it with a teaspoon or two of Tang or nestle Quick. You can as well make a milk shake with it.
In addition to milk of magnesia you should also consider modifying your kid’s dietary intake to include foods high in fiber such as fruits and vegetables, including baked beans, sweet potatoes, peas, raw tomatoes, lima beans, popcorn, and whole wheat bread among others.
Increasing your little angel’s fluid intake also helps other than using milk of magnesia for constipation. A minimum of 2-3 glasses is the recommended every day intake for kids. Apple juice, prune juice, and pear juice are all good for alleviation of constipation problems in children and adults alike.
Milk of Magnesia for Constipation after Surgery
Post-operative constipation is a common problem and is not uncommon for people to experience it as part of the recovery process following a surgery. It is commonly characterized by discomfort and significant pain. It may also be accompanied by other symptoms such as nausea and vomiting. Constipation after surgery (or post-operative surgery if you like) is attributed to several factors including the use of anesthesia, stress, use of certain medications, dietary changes, and low physical activity.
A common intervention measure to constipation after surgery is taking a laxative such as milk of magnesia. You should however talk to your surgeon before taking any medications – including laxatives – during the post-surgery recovery phase.
Drinking plenty of fluids – assuming that your surgeon has not advised otherwise – can also help with easing of constipation. In addition to plain water, prune juice and apple juice make for excellent choices.