How Does Milk of Magnesia Work?

Magnesium is a very important mineral which humans require for many processes. Muscles and nerves need this naturally occurring mineral the most to function properly.

How does milk of magnesia work? Magnesium hydroxide, which is commonly known as milk of magnesia, is an over-the-counter (OTC) medicament. You do not need a prescription to buy it at drug stores. For the most part, people use milk of magnesia as a laxative, but it can also serve as an antacid. The former aids with constipation and the latter is used for heartburn, sour stomach, and aid for indigestion.

Read on to find out more about the uses, side effects, and proper dosage of magnesium hydroxide.

How to Take Milk of Magnesia

There are two forms of magnesium hydroxide: liquid and tablet.

The tablet form is pretty simple; you just need to chew it before you swallow.

The liquid milk of magnesia comes in the original form and the concentrated form. As a rule, the concentrated form is not recommended for children 12 years of age or younger.

To take the liquid form of magnesium hydroxide, you should follow these expert tips:

  • Keep it at room temperature, in a dark and dry place.
  • Prior to measuring a dose, shake the bottle.
  • Use a special spoon or a medicine cup to measure the dose of the liquid. You can get these at a drug store.
  • Mix the milk of magnesia with water or milk.
  • Use the doses which are prescribed to you and vary depending on the condition.

Both versions should be used according to the instructions on the label or as advised by your doctor. Do not exceed the amounts you take or the period of time you are taking it for.

Milk of Magnesia Used for Constipation

Magnesium hydroxide is an effective OTC tool against constipation, a condition characterized by a patient’s inability to pass stools regularly. To be precise, people who are constipated pass stool less than thrice a week.

What milk of magnesia does is reduce the levels of stomach acid and increase the amount of water in the intestines, which may cause a person to defecate. It draws water from the surrounding bowel tissue directly into the gut and flushes all the content out.

In its original form, milk of magnesia requires between half an hour and six hours to take effect and initiate a bowel movement.

How to Know You Are Constipated

If you are experiencing constipation, you may have some of these symptoms:

  • You need to put in a lot of effort when passing
  • You are bloated all the time
  • Your abdominal area feels irritated
  • Your stools are irregular and too solid
  • You feel like you still need to go after a bowel movement

Recommended Dosage

Before going into detail about the correct dosage based on age, here are some general tips which apply to people of all ages.

For every dose of magnesium hydroxide, drink a full glass of water (eight ounces). You can use the medicine cup or measuring spoon mentioned before to be sure you took the right dose.  The recommended time of day to take milk of magnesia is in the evening before you go to bed.

Regular Version

If you are using the basic version of milk of magnesia to treat constipation, you should use the following doses in milliliters (ml):

  • Adults can take between 30 and 60 ml.
  • Children who are 6 to 11 years old can take between 15 and 30 ml.

Consult your medical practitioner prior to giving this medicine to children under the age of 6.

Concentrated Version

For this version of magnesium hydroxide, you should use a lower dosage. Adults can take between 15 and 30 ml. Consult your medical practitioner before giving this medicine to your child.

Chewable Tablets for Children

Chewable tablets of magnesium hydroxide are given to children with a full glass of water or milk for every dose. If the child is between the ages of 6 and 13, you can give them 3-6 tablets a day. If your child is between the ages of two and six, you can give him or her 1-3 tablets a day.

You should not be taking magnesium hydroxide for constipation for longer than a week unless the doctor advised you to do it. If you use milk of magnesia and still have no bowel movement, there may be an underlying health issue, so you should visit a doctor.

Milk of Magnesia Used for Other Digestive Problems

In addition to constipation relief, magnesium hydroxide can aid with acid indigestion and heartburn relief. If you are using it as an antacid, you might also feel its laxative properties. Milk of magnesia should not be used in this manner for longer than two weeks, though.

Consult with your medical practitioner before you use milk of magnesia to treat your child’s digestive problems. If you are an adult, you can take several 5-15 ml doses with water. The maximum daily intake is 60 ml, which means that you can take up to 4 doses of 15 ml or up to 12 doses of 5 ml a day.

Common and Rare Side Effects

Milk of magnesia causes no side effect for most users. If you are not so lucky, the most common side effects are nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach cramps.

There are also some severe side effects, but they occur very rarely. They may include reduced heart rate, dizziness, bleeding from the anus, intense vomiting and nausea. If you experience any of them, stop using milk of magnesia right away and visit a doctor.

The Sweet Relief

Constipation is no joke; it can be very persistent, inconvenient, and downright frustrating. This article has hopefully provided a satisfying answer to your question: “How does milk of magnesia work?” and helped set you on the path to relief.

Milk of magnesia can assist with other digestive problems besides constipation, but whatever the ailment, you should take caution and follow the instructions from the manufacturer and, of course, your trusted doctor.