Magnesium Citrate As a Colonoscopy Preparation?

Summary: Using Magnesium Citrate in preparation for a colonoscopy is very effective and, in some cases, may be the preferred method. However, it’s important to drink plenty of fluids with Magnesium Citrate (like Gatorade) because it is hypertonic and can draw water from your body and cause dehydration. Make sure to ask your doctor which colors of Gatorade to avoid.

Dear Curtis: I’m going in to have a colonoscopy performed in a few days and my doctor told me to drink a bottle of the Magnesium Citrate along with a clear liquid diet (including Gatorade). That’s fine but I know that most doctor’s use those big jugs that you mix that are a laxative. It seems like Magnesium Citrate would be a lot easier to take but maybe I heard my doctor wrong. Is this all I need to take?

Irregardless of whatever preparation your doctor prescribes for you, the goal is the same: to clean out your intestines with the primary goal that your doctor doesn’t ‘miss’ anything (i.e., polyps) while he is in there.

With that being said, the truth of the matter is many of the bowel preparations out on the market work. But, some of them are ‘preferred’ more than others and I’ve found it really depends on the experience of the doctor performing the procedure.

In my experience your statement about most folks going with the PEG solutions (the big jug you were referring to) is correct. The vast majority of patients who are getting a colonoscopy performed will be prescribed one of these preparations. There are reasons for that.

But, taking Magnesium Citrate is also an approved way to go through a bowel preparation and does have a few advantages.

Less Volume

One of the biggest complaints I get from patients undergoing a bowel preparation is the sheer amount of volume they have to drink. The PEG solutions are big jugs and, no matter which form they take, I have never had one patient say that they ‘taste’ good or even tolerable. So, they’re very tough to get down.

Better Taste

Let me get this straight: Magnesium Citrate does not taste good. But, it is usually better tolerated taste-wise then the PEG solutions. This has been the general feedback I’ve gotten from colonoscopy patients.

Disadvantages of Magnesium Citrate

On the flip side of the coin I’m sure you’re doctor has talked to you about the need for you to drink plenty of fluids while you are using the Magnesium Citrate. That’s because Magnesium Citrate is ‘hypertonic’. Meaning it draws a lot of water from your body into your colon to produce a bowel movement. Over time, you can become dehydrated.

So, it’s important to rehydrate with things like Gatorade to replenish electrolytes. However, make sure to only drink certain colors of Gatorade (your doctor will have his preference).

The PEG solutions above are isotonic. So you don’t have to drink extra fluids.

In Conclusion

Magnesium Citrate works just fine. Each doctor will have his or her own preferred bowel preparation preference. Usually, it is one of the PEG solutions because patients don’t have to drink extra fluids. But Magnesium Citrate works very well when taken correctly and has a long history of use as a bowel preparation.

While this document is pretty heavy on medical jargon and so forth, it is a really nice breakdown of some of the bowel preps that are available. You may want to check it out:


  1. […] You’d be surprised how many colonoscopy preps there are out there. Again, it’s a lot like anything else: it’s up to the personal preference and experience of your doctor. They do these things a lot and I can promise you as long as it allows you to have a clean colon for the procedure that is the biggest overriding goal. […]

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