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Taking Epsom salt by mouth has a laxative effect. It can increase the amount of water in your intestines and make stool easier to pass but may cause mild side effects.
Constipation happens when your stool takes longer to move through your digestive tract and becomes hard and dry. This can lead to fewer bowel movements or none at all. It may be chronic or temporary. Either way, the condition can be very uncomfortable.
Epsom salt is known for its ability to soften skin, soothe tired feet, and relieve muscle aches. It’s often used in do-it-yourself bath salts and skin scrubs. You can take it by mouth to relieve constipation.
It’s thought to be easier on the body than stimulant laxatives.
Epsom salt looks like table salt, or sodium chloride, but it isn’t made of the same ingredients. It’s made from the minerals magnesium and sulfate. It was first discovered centuries ago in Epsom, England.
Epsom salt is available at drugstores, grocery stores, and some discount department stores. It’s usually found in the laxative or personal care section. When you take Epsom salt for constipation, use plain varieties. Don’t ingest scented varieties, even if the scent is made from natural oils.
In most cases, Epsom salt is safe for adults and children over 6 years old to use. Infants and children under 6 years old shouldn’t use Epsom salt internally or externally.
Consuming Epsom salt increases the amount of water in your intestines, which softens your stool and makes it easier to pass.
To treat constipation with Epsom salt, follow dosage guidelines.
For adults and children 12 years old and older, dissolve 2 to 4 level teaspoons of Epsom salt in 8 ounces of water and drink the mixture immediately.
For children 6 to 11 years old, dissolve 1 to 2 level teaspoons of Epsom salt in 8 ounces of water and drink immediately.
If you find the taste is hard to tolerate, try adding fresh lemon juice.
Epsom salt usually produces a bowel movement within 30 minutes to six hours.
After four hours, the dose can be repeated if you don’t get results. But taking more than two doses of Epsom salt daily isn’t recommended.
Don’t use it for more than one week without consulting your doctor, and contact your doctor if you don’t have a bowel movement after two doses.
Using Epsom salt externally might also relieve constipation. Soaking in it may help relax your gut and soften your stool as you absorb magnesium through your skin. This may help produce a bowel movement.
Talk to your doctor before using Epsom salt if you have:
- kidney disease
- a magnesium-restricted diet
- severe stomach pain
- a sudden change in your bowel habits lasting two weeks or more
Side effects of Epsom salt | Side effects
When it’s used correctly, Epsom salt is considered safe. Since it has a laxative effect, it’s important to drink plenty of liquids to avoid dehydration while using it.
All laxatives, including Epsom salt, may cause mild gastrointestinal issues like:
If they’re overused, laxatives may cause an electrolyte imbalance in your body. This may lead to symptoms like the following:
- an irregular heartbeat
Causes of constipation | Causes
Constipation is often caused by lifestyle factors, such as:
- a low-fiber diet
- a lack of exercise
- laxative overuse
Women may also experience constipation during pregnancy.
Serious conditions that are linked with constipation include:
- intestinal blockages
- pelvic floor muscle problems
- neurological conditions, such as stroke, multiple sclerosis, neuropathy, or Parkinson’s disease
- thyroid problems
Epsom salt is just a temporary fix. If you don’t identify the cause of your constipation and take steps to prevent it, you’ll likely experience it again. Your constipation may even become chronic. Ironically, the more you depend on laxatives, the worse your constipation may become.
Try the following tips to avoid chronic constipation:
The more you sit, the harder it is for waste to move through your intestines. If you have a job where you’re sitting most of the day, take a break and walk around each hour. Try setting a goal of taking 10,000 steps per day. Regular cardio exercise also helps.
Eat more fiber
Add more insoluble fiber to your diet from food sources like:
- whole grains
Insoluble fiber adds bulk to your stool and helps move it through your intestines. Aim to consume 25 to 30 grams of fiber per day.
Drink more water
When your body becomes dehydrated, so does your colon. Be sure to drink plenty of water or other non-sugary beverages, like decaffeinated tea, throughout the day.
For some people, stress goes right to their gut and causes constipation. Try managing stress through:
Talk to your doctor if your stress feels unmanageable.
Check your medications
Some medications, like opioids, sedatives, or blood pressure drugs, may cause chronic constipation. If you take medications that cause constipation, ask your doctor if a non-constipating alternative is available.
When it’s used as directed, Epsom salt is an effective alternative to stimulant laxatives for relieving constipation.
As long as you use Epsom salt in recommended doses, the side effects are generally mild. In the case of laxatives, less is more. Use as little as necessary to get results.
If you have any concerns about Epsom salt or you experience serious side effects, stop using it and contact your doctor.