Milk Thistle Constipation

By Dr. Shrey Lakhotia, BDS

Milk thistle constipation relief

Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) is a flowering herb belonging to the Family Asteraceae.

It is native to the Mediterranean area. It has been used since ancient times for a variety of disorders.

The uses of milk thistle are based on both tradition and scientific theories. Milk thistle has not been extensively tested in humans and its safety & effectiveness have not been clearly shown in clinical studies.

How Milk Thistle Relieves Constipation

A flavonoid complex called silymarin present in the seeds of milk thistle is believed to be the biologically active component.

Resulting phytosomes reach the blood and ultimately the liver where they exhibit their liver-protective effects, which may help with constipation as well. The flavonoid complex called silymarin contains 3 flavonoids:

  • Silybin
  • Silydianin
  • Silychristin

When silybin is complexed as a phytosome it provides significant liver protection and enhanced bioavailability. This results in the liver producing more bile. Bile is what helps to break down fats in the small intestine.

This results in quicker digestion, and less time that these fats must stay in the intestines. The extra bile helps to lubricate and soften stool, which is a help in relieving constipation. 

Bile also protects the lining of the intestines, which helps to guard against Crohn's disease.

Available forms of milk thistle

The majority of products made from milk thistle contain adhere to the standard of between seventy and eighty percent silymarin.

It can be found in 4 forms:

  • A silymarin phosphatidylcholine complex
  • A tincture
  • A liquid extract
  • Capsules. Silymarin capsules contain 120 to 140 mg of dry herb

How effective is milk thistle for constipation relief

No clear-cut efficacy of milk thistle has been established. It very few side effects besides a bit of distress in the intestines and some allergic responses. Generally speaking, toxicity isn't a problem, either. 

Oral forms containing seventy to eighty percent silymarin appear to be safe to use for as long as 3 or 4 years. There are studies being done to try and determine whether milk thistle might prove helpful in treating certain infectious diseases and various types of cancers.

While in animal studies it has been shown that milk thistle protects the liver from toxins, human studies have not demonstrated this benefit. In general, milk thistle is well tolerated. However, it may lower blood sugar levels, so caution should be used by anyone at risk of hypoglycaemia.

Safety in children, pregnant or nursing women and patients with severe renal disease has not been formally established. Milk thistle might reduce the effectiveness of oral contraceptives. 

Those with breast cancer, uterine cancer or prostate cancer should not take milk thistle.

Also, it is not for those on blood thinner medications or for those who take medicine for seizures, to lower cholesterol, for anxiety or for allergies. 

Furthermore, the consequences of combining herbal and drug therapies remains largely unknown.

A magnesium supplement - an excellent alternative

Magnesium draws water into the colon. This helps to keep stool moist, bulking up the stool and making it softer and slicker. A bulkier stool causes the natural wavelike motion of the intestinal muscles leading to evacuation.

Because of these effects, I feel that the magnesium in a magnesium supplement is one of the best remedies available for constipation.

Since most Americans don’t get enough magnesium in their diet, taking a magnesium supplement may result in certain health benefits.

Conclusion, milk thistle constipation

Milk thistle has been used for centuries for constipation relief. By promoting increased bile production by the liver, it can help to relieve constipation. However, its safety for human use has not been clearly established in clinical trials.

Note: You might want to talk with your doctor first before beginning a daily magnesium supplement, as it might negatively affect the absorption of certain prescription meds.

In order to avoid magnesium toxicity, a person with kidney disease should only take daily supplemental magnesium if their doctor approves it first.

(Return from Milk Thistle Constipation to Natural Remedies for Constipation)

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