Magnesium Citrate Colon Cleanse: Benefits, Side Effects, & How To Use In 2024

Jill Levy, Health & Nutrition Writer
Sevginur Akdas, RD
A magnesium citrate colon cleanse rapidly empties the colon and cleanses the bowel prior to colonoscopies or other procedures in 2024.
magnesium citrate colon cleanse
Magnesium citrate is available in most local pharmacies. Photo: Ba Le Ho

A magnesium citrate colon cleanse involves drinking an oral supplement solution containing magnesium citrate to completely empty, cleanse, and prepare the bowel[1] (colon) before medical procedures. 

As an osmotic laxative, magnesium citrate increases the water content inside the intestine, rapidly stimulating contractions to push out the stool. The magnesium citrate solution causes repeated, watery bowel movements that will clear all waste remnants from your colon and rectum. This allows fully cleansed and empty colon for healthcare providers to access the bowel.

What Is A Colon Cleanse With Magnesium Citrate?

  • A magnesium citrate colon cleanse involves drinking a magnesium citrate solution to rapidly empty and cleanse the bowel. 
  • It works as an osmotic laxative, drawing water into the colon, which stimulates forceful intestinal contractions. This leads to the elimination of stool contents.
  • It is used to thoroughly clear out the bowel before procedures like colonoscopies or surgeries requiring an emptied colon.

What Is A Magnesium Citrate Colon Cleanse?

A magnesium citrate colon cleanse involves taking a magnesium citrate supplement to completely empty and clean out the bowels before procedures like a colonoscopy. It works as an osmotic laxative, drawing water into the colon to induce bowel movements. It is widely used before medical procedures that require a cleared bowel.

But it’s important to understand what a magnesium citrate colon cleanse does and how to use it properly. 

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Is It Safe To Use Magnesium Citrate?

When used as directed, magnesium citrate can effectively achieve complete colon cleansing and is generally considered safe for most people. Here are precautions to remember[2] when attempting a magnesium citrate colon cleanse:

  • Closely follow dosage guidelines provided by your healthcare provider based on your health history and goals.
  • Don’t use magnesium citrate if you have kidney disease,[3] colitis, or toxic megacolon[4] without consulting with a doctor first and being monitored. Magnesium citrate can cause GI complications as well as dehydration among people with and without these conditions, especially if adequate fluids are not consumed before, during, and after use. These studies show the importance of monitoring serum magnesium when using bowel preparations containing this mineral.
  • Those with cardiovascular problems[3] or who are taking digitalis should avoid magnesium citrate unless under a doctor’s supervision and monitoring. It can potentially disrupt calcium levels, causing disruptions in cardiac rhythm and hypotension.
  • Certain medications may interact with magnesium citrate, so drug interactions should be screened and discussed with a healthcare provider.

Potential Drug Interactions

Here are some medications[2] that may potentially interact[5] with magnesium citrate:

  • Diuretics: Magnesium citrate can increase urinary output. Using it with diuretics like furosemide (Lasix), hydrochlorothiazide, etc., can worsen dehydration and electrolyte imbalances.
  • Antibiotics: Magnesium can bind some antibiotics like tetracyclines, quinolones, and other medications with antibiotic effects in the GI tract, reducing their absorption. However, magnesium citrate is taken in the short term, so the interaction risk is low.
  • Antiarrhythmics: Magnesium citrate may increase the effects of antiarrhythmics like amiodarone, sotalol, and digoxin by exacerbating electrolyte disturbances that affect heart rhythm.
  • Proton pump inhibitors: PPIs like omeprazole and lansoprazole may potentially lead to increased magnesium levels, so close monitoring is needed.
  • Muscle relaxants: Magnesium citrate may enhance the effects of muscle relaxants.
  • Blood pressure medications or blood thinners: Magnesium may lower blood pressure. Using antihypertensives can exacerbate this effect.
  • Medications that alter potassium levels include serum potassium, like ACE inhibitors, potassium-sparing diuretics, and angiotensin receptor blockers.

Benefits Of Magnesium Citrate Colon Cleanse

When used appropriately, a colon cleanse with magnesium citrate can provide the following benefits:

Effective For Colonoscopy Preparation

It will reliably clear all waste material from the colon before procedures like colonoscopy, barium enema, or colon surgery. This allows for optimal access to the bowel and maximum effects from the test or procedure.

Non-Invasive Method

As an oral supplement that’s taken by mouth, magnesium citrate is non-invasive and convenient compared to enemas or other mechanical bowel prep methods.

Less Harsh Than Mechanical Cleansers

Magnesium citrate performs an osmotic cleanse by drawing water into the colon, which is gentler on the gut lining than mechanical preps.

Better Colon Prep Compliance

For emptying and cleansing the colon prior to medical procedures, a magnesium citrate liquid formula combination with sodium picosulfate offers a relatively effective and well-tolerated prep solution.[6] The diluted drink form is easier to tolerate for colon prep than large-volume mechanical cleansers. This improves procedure prep compliance, meaning patients are more likely to follow through[7] with the cleanse because it involves fewer side effects on average.

Short Duration

The magnesium citrate bowel prep must only be taken the day before a procedure[8] rather than following several days of dietary restrictions or repeatedly using laxatives. Most patients can find it at a local pharmacy, making it simple to obtain.

Magnesium Citrate Side Effects

While magnesium citrate is generally considered safe and well-tolerated, it can potentially lead to side effects. Magnesium citrate side effects may include:

  • Diarrhea: Magnesium citrate helps cleanse the colon by inducing loose, watery bowel movements or diarrhea that empties waste and stool. This can lead to dehydration if fluids are not replenished.
  • Abdominal cramping: Some intestinal cramping and bloating are expected when doing a colon cleanse, although severe pain warrants medical attention. Drinking fluids and walking around can help relieve cramps and remove gas that’s contributing to pain.
  • Nausea and vomiting: Some people experience nausea when doing a magnesium cleanse. Vomiting can also occur, although rarely, as a sign of severe dehydration.
  • Electrolyte disturbances: Magnesium citrate colon cleansing can disrupt other minerals like calcium, sodium, and potassium levels. 
  • Irregular heartbeat: Electrolyte shifts can cause temporary irregular heartbeat and arrhythmias. Consult your doctor if you have arrhythmias during magnesium citrate use or if you have any chronic disease. 
  • Dizziness and weakness: Fluid/mineral loss and dehydration can cause lightheadedness and weakness. It’s important to drink plenty of water.
  • Consult your doctor if these side effects occur.

While it effectively empties the colon before procedures, correctly using magnesium citrate is important to minimize adverse side effects. Also, consult your doctor and dietitian about what to do after a colon cleanse and bowel operation. 

How To Use Magnesium Citrate For Colon Cleanse 

Follow these directions when taking magnesium citrate for a colon cleanse:

  • The best way to drink magnesium citrate for colonoscopy is to first speak with your doctor about their recommendation. A standard dosage is around 10 to 20 ounces[9] (or up to two bottles) of magnesium citrate solution. However, always follow their advice if your doctor prescribes a different dosage.
  • It’s possible to take magnesium citrate in either pill or liquid form.[8]
  • Generally, patients are suggested to follow a clear liquid or low-residue diet[10] one to two days before a planned colonoscopy and stick to clear liquids after taking magnesium citrate doses. This ensures a full bowel flush.
  • Drink the full magnesium citrate dose, which is typically taken in liquid form, and require extra fluids within two to three hours for best results. Most often, it’s recommended[11] that patients split their doses[12] by drinking one bottle or dose first, and then a second bottle later if prescribed.
  • Expect bowel movements to begin within 30 minutes to three hours after drinking the first bottle or dose. Remain near a restroom for convenience.
  • Stay well hydrated. 
  • Rest once bowel movements subside to recover from fluid/mineral losses.
  • Consume the final bottle or dose around five hours prior to your scheduled colonoscopy appointment time. Avoid solid foods after taking the first dose.

The Bottom Line

Magnesium citrate can be used to empty the colon safely and effectively when needed before procedures like a screening colonoscopy. It works by drawing water into the bowel to induce bowel movements without the need for harsh mechanical cleansing. Following provider guidelines for dosage and timing is essential to prevent dehydration and other side effects.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you use magnesium citrate as a detox?

Limited evidence supports magnesium cleansing as an effective standalone detoxification agent. It acts solely as an osmotic laxative to clear the bowel before procedures or colonoscopies, not to detox your body.

How long does it take for magnesium citrate to clean your colon?

Magnesium citrate typically begins cleansing the colon within 30 minutes to three hours after ingestion. However, the full effect can take five or six hours or more.

How much magnesium citrate should I take for a colon cleanse?

The standard recommended magnesium citrate dosage[9] for colon cleansing is one or two separate 10-ounce doses, usually taken 12 hours apart. Sometimes other laxatives are also used in combination with magnesium. Dosages vary, so following your doctor’s specific dosage instructions is essential.

Does apple cider vinegar cleanse the colon?

There is limited evidence that apple cider vinegar provides any significant colon cleansing benefits. It does not induce bowel movements.


  1. Arora, M., Viplove Senadhi, Arora, D., Weinstock, J., Dubin, E., Okolo, P.I. and Dutta, S.K. (2013). A critical evaluation and a search for the ideal colonoscopic preparation. Clinics and Research in Hepatology and Gastroenterology, [online] 37(2), pp.200–206. doi:
  2. Schwalfenberg, G. and Genuis, S.J. (2017). The Importance of Magnesium in Clinical Healthcare. Scientifica, [online] 2017, pp.1–14. doi:
  3. (2023). Magnesium citrate Side Effects: Common, Severe, Long Term. [online] Available at:
  4. Sugiyama, M., Kusumoto, E., Ota, M., Kimura, Y., Tsutsumi, N., Oki, E., Sakaguchi, Y., Kusumoto, T., Ikejiri, K. and Maehara, Y. (2016). Induction of potentially lethal hypermagnesemia, ischemic colitis, and toxic megacolon by a preoperative mechanical bowel preparation: report of a case. Surgical Case Reports, [online] 2(1), p.18. doi:
  5. Uwe Gröber (2019). Magnesium and Drugs. International Journal of Molecular Sciences, [online] 20(9), pp.2094–2094. doi:
  6. Janisch, H.D., Bernd Koppold, Helmut Deißler and Riemann, J.F. (2016). Observational multicentric study to evaluate efficacy, adverse effects and acceptance of bowel cleansing prior to colonoscopy with sodium picosulfate / magnesium citrate formulation CitraFleet®. Zeitschrift Fur Gastroenterologie, [online] 54(01), pp.19–25. doi:
  7. Liu, F.-X., Wang, L., Yan, W., Zou, L.-C., Cao Yue-an and Lin, X.-C. (2021). Cleansing efficacy and safety of bowel preparation protocol using sodium picosulfate/magnesium citrate considering subjective experiences: An observational study. World Journal of Clinical Cases, [online] 9(15), pp.3586–3596. doi:
  8. Yehuda Eidensohn, Mond, Y., Labowitz, I., Greenberg, P., Brielle Formanowski, Eidensohn, C., Dutta, S.K. and Dubin, E. (2021). Magnesium Citrate Capsules in Colonoscopy Preparation: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Cureus. [online] doi:
  9. Rosen, S. (2016). Colonoscopy Preparation Instructions – Magnesium Citrate | Gastroenterology and Hepatology. [online] Available at:
  10. Song, G., Tian, X., Ma, L., Yi, L.-J., Ting Shuai, Zeng, Z. and Zeng, X. (2016). Regime for Bowel Preparation in Patients Scheduled to Colonoscopy. Medicine, [online] 95(1), pp.e2432–e2432. doi:
  11. Efficacy and Patient Tolerability of Split-Dose Sodium Picosulfate/Magnesium Citrate (SPMC) Oral Solution Compared to the Polyethylene Glycol (PEG) Solution for Bowel Preparation in Outpatient Colonoscopy: An Evidence-Based Review. (2020). Clinical and Experimental Gastroenterology. [online] doi:
  12. César Prieto-Frías, Muñoz-Navas, M., Maite Betés, Ramón Angós, Riva, S., Carretero, C., Maite Herraiz, Alzina, A.P. and L.F Llopis López (2016). Split-dose sodium picosulfate–magnesium citrate colonoscopy preparation achieves lower residual gastric volume with higher cleansing effectiveness than a previous-day regimen. Gastrointestinal Endoscopy, [online] 83(3), pp.566–573. doi:

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