Magnesium Citrate Side Effects

Magnesium tablets

One of the ways many people prefer to supplement their magnesium is by taking magnesium citrate, but are there magnesium citrate side effects? When you go to any health food store, you will find magnesium citrate as one of your choices in the magnesium aisle. Is this an effective form of magnesium supplementation, or do the side effects make it a poor choice?

What Is Magnesium Citrate?

Magnesium citrate is a magnesium salt of citric acid. It can be found in health food stores in the magnesium aisle, and can be taken as a form of magnesium supplementation. Adequate intake of magnesium has a number of positive effects on the body including:

  • Bone and tooth strength
  • It is a calcium channel blocker and promotes relaxation of vessels to prevent over constriction
  • It aids in proper nervous system functioning
  • It promotes healthy heart and cell functions

Magnesium citrate in larger, stronger doses is also an extremely effective over the counter laxative. Physicians may recommend magnesium citrate prior to colon procedures such as colonoscopy or to help with constipation from opioid pain killers. It can be found in the laxative aisle of your local pharmacy, usually in liquid form.

Magnesium Citrate Side Effects and Precautions

Magnesium citrate is generally recognized as a safe supplement for people over six years of age. At proper dosages, side effects are rare and relatively mild; however, there are magnesium citrate side effects you may want to be aware of before you begin supplementation. Most side effects occur in instances of large or excessive doses that raise blood serum levels of magnesium citrate well above normal, and some can be quite serious. The University of Maryland Medical Center reports several side effects may occur with magnesium citrate use, and consequently appropriate precautions should be observed when taking this supplement.

Side Effects

  • Due to the laxative effects of magnesium citrate, severe diarrhea may occur when taken in excessive amounts. This can lead to dehydration and loss of electrolytes or electrolyte imbalances.
  • Bloating and nausea may be present.
  • Stomach pain may be present, especially when someone who is constipated takes magnesium citrate because stool will be moved into the large intestines. In extremely rare cases, this can even lead to intestinal blockage.
  • It may cause headaches.
  • Long term use of high doses of magnesium citrate can lead to loss of normal bowel response.
  • It can exacerbate anal fissures.
  • It can exacerbate other conditions like kidney problems and heart disease.
  • Because of the relaxation response promoted by magnesium, high doses of magnesium citrate can lead to muscle laxity, loss of reflexes and muscle and tendon weakness.
  • Excessive intake of magnesium citrate can result in breathing difficulties and mental confusion.
  • Magnesium citrate acts as a central nervous system depressant. Excessive intake can lead to sleepiness and an inability to stay awake. This may be worse in people with kidney disease.
  • High doses of magnesium citrate can lead to low blood pressure.
  • Excessively high doses of magnesium citrate (blood serum levels above 10 mEq/L) can result in death from arrhythmia or breathing suppression.
  • Fluid retention may result from magnesium citrate supplementation. This is contraindicated with heart disease, pregnancy and renal disease. Check with your doctor before taking magnesium citrate if you have any of these conditions.
  • Magnesium citrate may interact with medications you are taking including blood thinners, heart medications, certain antibiotics and laxatives. If you are taking any of these, talk with your health care provider or pharmacist before taking magnesium citrate


  • Magnesium citrate predates the FDA approval process and therefore has not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
  • It's always best to check with your personal health care provider before self-prescribing any supplement or over the counter treatment. Consultation with a doctor or pharmacist can help you to assess safe dosages and discover any dietary or pharmaceutical contraindications.

As you can see, magnesium citrate does have side effects. It is unlikely supplementing with small amounts of magnesium citrate will result in serious side effects; however, larger doses may result in consequences that can be quite severe. To minimize your chance of experiencing side effects, always supplement with magnesium citrate under the supervision of your physician.

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Magnesium Citrate Side Effects