Milk of magnesia is a liquid laxative that works by pulling salt into the intestines from the blood, creating a flushing action in the intestines. It is intended to provide temporary relief from constipation or heartburn and should only be used for a short time. There are several minor side effects including nausea, weakness and vomiting. In addition to side effects associated with short-term use, there are problems that can arise from ongoing use of milk of magnesia.
Diarrhea is a frequent side effect of using milk of magnesia. It is usually not serious, but prolonged diarrhea is dangerous. Frequent use of milk of magnesia can result in chronic diarrhea, leading to a variety of other problems. In addition to health problems, chronic diarrhea is a major inconvenience and social embarrassment. Nobody wants to visit the bathroom several times throughout the day, even if it is a result of relief from constipation.
Dehydration occurs when you are drinking less fluid than your body is losing. It is a common side effect of diarrhea. Mild dehydration is remedied by drinking plenty of fluids, so if you are using milk of magnesia to relieve constipation, drink at least 64 ounces of water throughout the day. Severe dehydration can lead to a variety of serious problems including seizures, swelling of the brain, low blood volume leading to reduced blood pressure and oxygen in the body, kidney failure, coma and possibly death.
Ongoing use of milk of magnesia leads to bowel dependence. This occurs when your body relies on the external support to cleanse itself and your constipation worsens. This is a common occurrence with overuse of medication because it overrides your body’s natural systems. If you experience persistent constipation, try natural solutions such as fibrous food and water, before turning to milk of magnesia. Contact your doctor if your stools are black, tar-like or bloody when suffering from constipation or taking milk of magnesia.
Imbalance in Electrolytes
Frequent use of milk of magnesia affects the electrolyte balance in your body. Too much milk of magnesia results in a condition called hypermagnesemia, which is an increased level of magnesium in your blood. Symptoms of hypermagnesemia include confusion, weakness, vomiting, poor appetite, severe nausea, heart palpitations and slowed reflexes. While you are using milk of magnesia, avoid alcohol and caffeine because both are known to cause electrolyte disturbances. Drink plenty of water and relieve your constipation with fresh fruit and high-fiber foods instead of milk of magnesia.