Eating a well-balanced meal regularly is the most practical way of staying healthy. A complete meal with varied food items ensures the consumer gets the recommended daily doses of the necessary vitamins and minerals to keep the body functioning well. 

This includes the appropriate amount of the often-neglected micronutrients, such as Magnesium, which is essential in many bodily processes.

But in reality, there are people who inevitably are unable to follow the ideal regular meal plan for different reasons. This can eventually lead to different health problems due to the deficiency of the necessary vitamins and minerals.

Fortunately, food science has come up with a solution in the form of supplements. For Magnesium, which has many roles in the functioning of different body systems, Magnesium citrate preparation is available over-the-counter for several indications, you may need it for. 

In this article, learn more about the Magnesium citrate supplement and the helpful ways to increase its effects.

What is Magnesium?

magnesium citrate
Source: Canva

Magnesium is an essential mineral for living organisms. Although considered a micronutrient,  it is the fourth most abundant mineral in the human body. 

It is primarily found in the intracellular space as an electrolyte and distributed mostly in bones and teeth. Magnesium acts as a cofactor in more than 300 enzymatic reactions within the body. It plays a key role in overall health, from brain function to bone physiology.

Magnesium is also important for maintaining muscle function and heart health, supporting the immune system, regulating glucose, and improving insulin metabolism. 

Hence, insufficient magnesium intake has been linked to the development of a wide variety of metabolic disorders, such as insulin resistance, and common diseases that may result from irregularities in metabolism, such as bowel problems. [1][2][3]

Magnesium-containing supplements aim to address conditions that result from a deficiency of the mineral. Magnesium supplements are formulated in various salts and forms, including magnesium oxide, magnesium citrate, and magnesium amino acid chelate.

Among these preparations, magnesium citrate is more bioavailable than others. This means that the amount of magnesium that reaches the blood circulation to exert its effects at the target organs after ingestion, is higher with magnesium citrate than other forms. [4][5]

What is Magnesium citrate?

Magnesium citrate is one of the available formulations of the element magnesium bound to a citric acid molecule. This combination effectively induces defecation because the body easily absorbs it. It is an FDA-approved dietary supplement commonly used as a laxative agent. It is an over-the-counter solution for the relief of occasional constipation.

Magnesium citrate shortens the travel time of food contents within the gastrointestinal system. As a result, the intestinal muscles push food and water down the colon faster, thereby shortening the absorption period and promoting defecation. 

Immediately after ingestion, there is a waiting time of 30 minutes to 2 hours before magnesium citrate works. Once it starts to exert its effects, it stays within your system for 4 hours before it gets eliminated in the urine. 

The effect of magnesium citrate is highly dependent on the body’s hydration status. Since magnesium is highly soluble in water, the more hydrated you are, the shorter time it takes for its effects to wear off, and vice versa. [6][7]

Other Indications for Magnesium Citrate

magnesium citrate
Source: Canva

Magnesium can be used for various clinical conditions besides the aforementioned bowel problem. This is due to the variety of effects magnesium has on the body. 

The role of magnesium is dependent on which organ system is involved. According to different studies, the following diseases have reported benefits with the intake of supplementary magnesium. [3][4][6]

  • Eclampsia and Preeclampsia
  • Arrhythmia
  • Asthma
  • Headache
  • Dyspepsia
  • Osteoporosis
  • Metabolic syndrome

Adverse Effects

There is no evidence of adverse effects from magnesium occurring naturally in food. However, the same cannot be said about the supplement forms. While magnesium citrate is generally well-tolerated, adverse effects from supplement consumption have been reported. These untoward effects range from common to serious adverse effects, as listed below. [4][6]

magnesium citrate
  • Flushing
  • Impaired reflexes
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Flatulence
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Electrolyte disorders
  • Respiratory depression
  • Hypotension
  • Cardiac arrhythmia
  • Coma
  • Death


Magnesium is an essential mineral involved in several biochemical reactions in the body. Magnesium citrate is an FDA-approved dietary supplement, which, when taken at the recommended dose, helps alleviate the various signs and symptoms of mineral deficiency.

It is indicated for several conditions but is most commonly bought over the counter to aid in constipation.


The Institute of Medicine has set the upper tolerable limit of magnesium supplementation with no side effects at 350 mg of elemental magnesium daily. Side effects may vary depending on the preparation of the magnesium supplement ingested.

Also, it is worth mentioning that higher dosages have been studied and may be used for specific medical problems.
Because magnesium is excreted mainly in the urine, it should be used cautiously in patients with kidney disease. Hence, it is crucial to assess renal function before giving magnesium citrate. Renal failure can cause decreased magnesium excretion leading to toxicity. It is also advisable to closely monitor magnesium levels in patients with reduced renal function.
Taking magnesium citrate and other drugs, especially those that inhibit urination, such as calcitonin, glucagon, and potassium-sparing diuretics, may increase magnesium levels in the blood circulation leading to signs and symptoms of magnesium overdose.

In addition, intake of magnesium citrate may affect the absorption rate of certain drugs, such as fluoroquinolones, aminoglycosides, bisphosphonates, calcium channel blockers, tetracyclines, and skeletal muscle relaxants. For this reason, intake of magnesium citrate with other drugs should be monitored or avoided when possible. 

Disclaimer: This article is only a guide. It does not substitute the advice given by your healthcare professional. Before making any health-related decision, consult your healthcare professional.

Editorial References And Fact-Checking

  1. Porri, D., et al. (2021) Effect of magnesium supplementation on women’s health and well-being. NFS Journal. Vol 23. PP 30-36.
  2. Schutten, J. C., Joris, P. J., Mensink, R. P., Danel, R. M., Goorman, F., Heiner-Fokkema, M. R., Weersma, R. K., Keyzer, C. A., de Borst, M. H., & Bakker, S. J. L. (2019). Effects of magnesium citrate, magnesium oxide and magnesium sulfate supplementation on arterial stiffness in healthy overweight individuals: a study protocol for a randomized controlled trial. Trials, 20(1), 295.
  3. Schwalfenberg, G. K., & Genuis, S. J. (2017). The Importance of Magnesium in Clinical Healthcare. Scientifica, 2017, 4179326.
  4. Allen MJ, Sharma S. Magnesium. [Updated 2023 Feb 20]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from:
  5. Walker, A. F., Marakis, G., Christie, S., & Byng, M. (2003). Mg citrate found more bioavailable than other Mg preparations in a randomised, double-blind study. Magnesium research, 16(3), 183–191.
  6. Guerrera, M. P., Volpe, S. L., & Mao, J. J. (2009). Therapeutic uses of magnesium. American family physician, 80(2), 157–162.
  7. National Center for Biotechnology Information (2023). PubChem Compound Summary for CID 6099959, Magnesium citrate. Retrieved May 13, 2023 from


  • Dr. Kara Marcella Barro, M.D.

    Dr. Kara Marcella Barro is a licensed physician who has been serving as a General Practitioner at her local health center. She has devoted her skills and knowledge as a public health doctor to serve the poor and marginalized. At the same time, she is also an educator who passionately promotes preventive medicine through her lectures and writing in the hopes of a better health outcome for everyone. LinkedIn


Dr. Kara Marcella Barro is a licensed physician who has been serving as a General Practitioner at her local health center. She has devoted her skills and knowledge as a public health doctor to serve the poor and marginalized. At the same time, she is also an educator who passionately promotes preventive medicine through her lectures and writing in the hopes of a better health outcome for everyone. LinkedIn