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Milk of magnesia or magnesium hydroxide is a familiar medication to many. It’s most associated with treating heartburn or constipation. There are several forms of the medication on the market, but a lot of people best know the liquid forms, which are available over the counter in most places in brand names and generics. The best advice on how to use milk of magnesia can be obtained from physicians or from the labels on the medicine. Yet it’s possible to discuss uses in general terms, though people should always ask their doctors or a pharmacist for more specific and individualized information.
As mentioned, folks most often use milk of magnesia for heartburn or as a laxative. It should be noted that using magnesium hydroxide for one condition might result in the other. It’s worth understanding that treatment for acid indigestion could cause loose bowel movements or actual diarrhea, though the dose is lower. If constipation is not a problem, people might want to consider getting a medicine targeted to indigestion treatment, alone.
When people use milk of magnesia in liquid form, the experience can be slightly unpleasant. Though the medicine is flavored with things like mint or cherry, many people consider the consistency unpleasant. A dose should be taken with a full glass of water for fewer problems, and refrigerating the medication in between uses is an excellent idea, too. Colder magnesium hydroxide tends to produce less taste and unusual mouth feel. An alternative for some people is to take the medicine in pill form, though doctors sometimes recommend the liquid, particularly for treating constipation.
There are some varying schools of thought on using milk of magnesia to treat other conditions. It has been proposed as a means to cure dandruff and as a facial treatment to cure acne. Another suggested use is as a deodorant. These are not typically prescribed or recommended uses, though there is some evidence that this form of magnesium might be of service in a variety of applications.
The fact that people might use milk of magnesia in other ways does not mitigate that it is a medication that can have serious health consequences for some people. Those who take certain types of antibiotics should not use this med, and heart medications like warfarin(Coumadin®) and digoxin can cause adverse reactions. Magnesium hydroxide may occasionally cause serious allergic reactions that need immediate medical attention. People should get emergency care if they develop hives, skin rash, swollen mouth or lips, asthma, or other symptoms that make breathing difficult.
Most folks should not plan to use milk of magnesia on a daily basis, unless they are given instructions by a doctor to do so, and daily use could require supplementation with other minerals like potassium. It’s especially important if people are taking this medication to relieve constipation that they see a doctor if constipation continues after use. This might suggest serious intestinal problems that need more care.
My dad practically lived on milk of magnesia when his stomach ulcers flared up. He'd carry the entire bottle around and take an occasional swig throughout the day. I don't know if he had to deal with its laxative effects, though. I don't know if milk of magnesia was meant for long term use or not. He didn't seem to have any long term damage from daily usage, but I think there are better medications for bleeding ulcers nowadays.
I will use milk of magnesia for serious indigestion or constipation, but it's not my first choice. Some liquid medications can taste bad after the fact, like cough syrup, but to me milk of magnesia tastes bad from the very fist time it hits my tongue. I have to drink it very quickly or I actually feel a little nauseated. The added flavors help a little, but not that much.
This is one reason why I now only take liquid milk of magnesia if I have bad constipation. I'll take the pill form if I have indigestion.
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