What should I do after drinking magnesium citrate?

Magnesium citrate is an osmotic laxative that is often used to clean out the colon before a colonoscopy or surgery. It works by drawing water into the colon, which stimulates bowel movements. While magnesium citrate is generally safe when used as directed, it can cause some side effects. Here are some tips for what to do after drinking magnesium citrate.

Expect diarrhea

The main effect of magnesium citrate is to cause diarrhea. This allows the colon to be emptied before a medical procedure. Be prepared to have loose, watery stools after taking magnesium citrate. The onset of diarrhea usually occurs within 1-3 hours after ingestion. Make sure you have easy access to a toilet once you take magnesium citrate. The diarrhea can last for several hours as the magnesium citrate moves through your system.

Stay near a bathroom

Since magnesium citrate works quickly, it’s wise to stay close to a bathroom after taking it. Don’t make plans to go out or travel far from home. Be prepared to make several trips to the bathroom as the osmotic effects of magnesium citrate kick in. Having a bathroom nearby will make things easier as the laxative takes effect.

Use over-the-counter medications if needed

While diarrhea from magnesium citrate helps clear out the colon, it can cause other temporary symptoms like stomach cramping, bloating, and nausea. Consider taking over-the-counter anti-nausea or anti-cramping medications if the magnesium citrate causes significant discomfort. Products like Imodium can help slow things down if the diarrhea becomes too frequent or watery. Just don’t take medications that will constipate you and counteract the magnesium citrate.

Stay hydrated

Diarrhea can lead to dehydration as fluid is lost from the body. Be sure to stay well hydrated while the magnesium citrate moves through your system. Drink plenty of clear fluids like water, broth, juice, or electrolyte solutions. Avoid alcohol and caffeine, which can worsen dehydration. Drinking extra fluids will help prevent headache, fatigue, dizziness and other symptoms related to dehydration.

Hydration Tip Reason
Drink water Replaces fluid lost from diarrhea
Drink electrolyte solutions Replenishes electrolytes
Avoid alcohol and caffeine Can cause further dehydration

Eat easily digested foods

After taking magnesium citrate, stick to eating easily digested foods that won’t irritate your GI tract. Bland foods like bananas, rice, applesauce, toast, crackers, chicken broth or yogurt are good choices. Avoid spicy, greasy or fried foods, raw veggies, beans and cruciferous vegetables, which could worsen diarrhea and cramps. Stick to a limited, bland diet until the laxative has moved through your system.

Avoid strenuous activity

It’s wise to take it easy and rest while the magnesium citrate works through your system. Avoid activities like vigorous exercise, heavy lifting or straining that could worsen diarrhea or cause dehydration. Just relax as much as possible until the effects wear off. You may feel fatigued, lightheaded or unwell as the magnesium citrate causes frequent bowel movements, so take it easy.

Change into a pad or Depends

Since magnesium citrate causes urgent, frequent bowel movements, leakage accidents can happen as you rush to the toilet. Consider wearing an absorbent pad or adult diaper as protection in case you can’t make it to the bathroom in time. This can save you from soiling your clothing. Having protection can give some peace of mind as the magnesium citrate kicks in.

Use wet wipes and ointment

All that diarrhea can lead to a sore, irritated bottom. Be sure to cleanse gently after bowel movements – wet wipes are gentler than toilet paper. Apply a protective ointment with zinc oxide or petroleum jelly to soothe the irritated area. Take a sitz bath to relieve discomfort. Be gentle as you wipe to avoid further irritation of the sensitive area. Keep the area as clean and dry as possible.

Don’t go far from home

It’s best not to stray too far from home after taking magnesium citrate. You’ll want easy access to a bathroom without having to rely on public restrooms as the laxative starts working. Avoid going out to run errands, going to work or school or traveling. Stay home so you can deal with the bowel effects of magnesium citrate in privacy and comfort.

Rest and relax

Take advantage of the downtime to rest and relax while waiting for the magnesium citrate to pass through your system. Catch up on reading, watch some movies, or engage in other quiet activities. Avoid stressful tasks. The magnesium citrate may cause stomach cramping, chills, nausea or weakness making you feel unwell for several hours. Resting will make this time more comfortable.

Call your doctor with severe reactions

In some cases, people may have severe adverse reactions to magnesium citrate like severe vomiting, arrhythmia, confusion, muscle weakness or paralysis. If you experience concerning symptoms, call your doctor right away or go to the emergency room. Stop taking the magnesium citrate unless your doctor advises you to continue. Seek medical care if the side effects seem dangerous.

Wait for bowel movements to return to normal

It may take a day or two for your bowel movements to return to normal after taking magnesium citrate. Avoid foods that could constipate you like cheese, meat or refined grains. Stick to high fiber foods like fruits, vegetables and whole grains to get your bowel habits regular again. Drink plenty of water. If you don’t have a normal bowel movement within 48 hours after taking magnesium citrate, call your doctor.


Magnesium citrate provides an effective colon cleanse before medical procedures but can cause loose stools and discomfort. Stay near a bathroom, drink plenty of fluids, rest, and use medications as needed to manage side effects. Avoid strenuous activity and eat bland foods until the laxative has passed through your system. Be very diligent about hygiene. With some preparation and self-care, the bowel-cleansing effects of magnesium citrate can be more tolerable.

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