Milk of Magnesia or Magnesium Hydroxide is a common antacid as well as laxative. It gets its name from the fact that it has a milky appearance when mixed in water. When milk of magnesia is taken in small quantities, it acts as an antacid thereby reducing acid levels in the stomach and reducing stomach ache and other acidity related problems. However, a higher dose of milk of magnesia gives it the role of a laxative. Unlike other laxatives, Milk of Magnesia is an osmotic laxative which means that once it enters the intestine, it performs osmosis process and absorbs all water from the tissues of the intestines and increases the volume of water in the intestines thereby forcing out excretions as part of laxative effect.
When one takes Milk of Magnesia for longer periods, it is always advised that they should take a potassium supplement. The reason for this is that Milk of Magnesia while performing laxative property on the body, also forces out potassium from the body. As we know, Potassium is an important mineral that helps in the proper functioning of all organs of the body. It is very crucial for good heart, muscular and digestive functions in the body. While this is true about Potassium, it is also to be noted that the body needs only a certain amount of potassium. Maintaining this balance is very crucial and indirectly depends on the person’s sodium consumption too. High potassium levels in the blood result in a condition known as hyperkalemia which is seen in patients having kidney disorders and in people consuming high salt diet. People with renal failures have a tendency to not push out excess potassium from the body and hence problems like heart attack, nervous breakdown etc occur.
When potassium levels in the body fall below the required limit, a condition known as hypokalemia occurs. Since Milk of Magnesia is a laxative, it may cause diarrhea in a few people. Conditions like diarrhea might cause an outflow of more than normal potassium from the body thereby resulting in potassium deficiency. This condition leads to complications like weakness, muscular cramps and an irregular heart and digestive function. While these complications may not appear so serious, it should be noted that all these problems lead to a life threatening situation and need to be treated immediately to prevent any fatality. Since diarrhea, vomiting and excess sweating are the most important reasons for low potassium levels in the body, one should take care when such problems occur in the first place. Thus Milk of Magnesia dosage should also be taken only after consultation with the doctor and if any problem arises, the doctor should be consulted immediately.
Like they say, a medicine is good only as long as it is taken in the right dose at the right time and any extreme doses or untimely dose may result in problems, Milk of Magnesia should also be consumed very carefully. Persons suffering from kidney disorders or those who have a tendency to get diarrhea or nausea should stay away from it. Such people should consume it only at the prescription of a doctor and also take some potassium supplements along. Potassium is present in common foods like bananas, citrus juices, tomatoes, potatoes, beans and meat.