Constipation can be an uncomfortable digestive health problem. A sedentary lifestyle, poor diet, illness or some medications can change a person's normal bowel movements. Constipation is characterized by a bowel movement that is fewer than every two days, or hard, dry stool. Experts recommend using Epsom salt as a laxative for occasional constipation. When used in moderation, an Epsom salt and water drink is an effective laxative and will usually move the affected person's bowels within one to four hours.
Epsom salt is magnesium sulfate and an Epsom salt drink is known as an oral hyperosmotics laxative. It works by taking water from the body and bringing it into the colon. The magnesium can cause muscle contractions, pushing the stool out. It also softens hard stools, making them easier to pass through the digestive system. Epsom salt as a laxative is an inexpensive, natural alternative to laxative pills.
People who are experiencing trouble with constipation should follow the manufacturer's suggestion for making a laxative drink, which can be found on the package. Epsom salt is available in different strengths, making it important to follow the manufacturer's instructions. The general directions would be to mix two to four teaspoons of Epsom salt in a glass of juice or water and drink it all in one sitting. Lemon juice can be added to the salt water drink to make it more palatable.
Using Epsom salt as a laxative does have some possible side effects. These can include diarrhea, cramping, nausea and gas. As with any type of laxative, the body can become dependent on the laxative to move the bowels. Doctors recommend using the preparation as a laxative only occasionally to reduce the possibility of becoming dependent.
An Epsom salt bath can be used as a more gentle laxative. A handful or two of Epsom salt can be added to a bath of warm water. The person can soak in the bathtub for about 10 to 20 minutes. Used in this fashion, the body will not experience the same side effects as the drinks or tablets.
Another alternative to an Epsom salt laxative is milk of magnesia. This is magnesium hydroxide, an over-the-counter liquid laxative that works in much the same way as Epsom salt as a laxative. It is also available in tablet or capsules that are swallowed with a full glass of water. Chewable tablets should be chewed thoroughly and followed with a full glass of water. Whether using milk of magnesia or Epsom salts as a laxative, at least one full glass of water should be consumed to replace the water that is taken from the body into the colon.