What Is Calcium & Why Do We Need It?
by Dr. Thomas K. Lo, Advanced Chiropractic & Nutritional Healing Center
Calcium is a mineral your body needs to build and maintain strong bones and to carry out many important functions. Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body.
Almost all calcium in the body is stored in bones and teeth, giving them structure and hardness.
Your body also needs calcium for muscles to move and for nerves to carry messages between your brain and every part of your body. It also helps blood vessels move blood throughout your body and helps release hormones that affect many functions in your body.
Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium.
What Foods Provide Calcium?
Calcium is found in many foods. You can get the recommended amounts of calcium by eating a variety of foods, including the following:
Milk, yogurt, and cheese are the main food sources of calcium for most people in the United States.
Canned sardines and salmon with bones contain calcium.
Certain vegetables such as kale, broccoli, Bok choy, collard greens, dandelion greens, arugula, watercress, spinach, okra, scallions, leeks, zucchini, cucumber, Brussels sprouts, celery, green beans, lettuce, squash, and onions also contain calcium.
Calcium is added to some beverages, including milk substitutes such as soy and almond beverages, as well as some brands of tofu and ready-to-eat cereals. To find out whether these foods have calcium added, check the product labels.
Most grains (such as bread, pasta, and unfortified cereal) do not have high amounts of calcium.
Types of Calcium Dietary Supplements
The two main forms of calcium in dietary supplements are calcium carbonate and calcium citrate. Calcium carbonate is absorbed best when taken with food.
Calcium citrate is absorbed well on an empty stomach or a full stomach. People with low levels of stomach acid—a condition most common in older people—absorb calcium citrate more easily than calcium carbonate.
Other forms of calcium in supplements and fortified foods include calcium sulfate, calcium ascorbate, calcium microcrystalline hydroxyapatite, calcium gluconate, calcium lactate, and calcium phosphate.
Calcium is absorbed best when you take 500 mg or less at one time. If you take 1,000 mg/day of calcium from supplements, for example, it is better to take a smaller dose twice a day than to take it all at once.
Calcium supplements might cause gas, bloating, and constipation in some people. If you have any of these symptoms, try spreading out the calcium dose throughout the day, taking the supplement with meals, or switching the form of calcium you take.
Do You Get Enough Calcium?
Many people in the United States get less than recommended amounts of calcium from food and supplements, especially: Children and teens (ages 4 to 18 years); people who are Black or Asian; and adults aged 50 and older and living in poverty.
Certain groups of people are more likely than others to have trouble getting enough calcium, including:
Postmenopausal women. The body absorbs and retains less calcium after menopause. Over time, this can lead to fragile bones.
People who don’t eat dairy products. Dairy products are rich sources of calcium, but people with lactose intolerance, people with milk allergies, and vegans (people who don’t consume any animal products) must find other sources of calcium. Options include lactose-free or reduced-lactose dairy products; canned fish with bones; certain vegetables, and milk substitutes such as soy and almond beverages, tofu, and ready-to-eat cereals; and dietary supplements that contain calcium.
What Happens If I Don’t Get Enough Calcium?
Getting too little calcium can cause several conditions, including the following:
Osteoporosis, which causes weak, fragile bones and increases the risk of falls and fractures (broken bones).
Rickets, a disease in children that causes soft, weak bones.
Fatigue due to your cells being undernourished.
Poor oral health due to the teeth being more susceptible to decay and loosening and possibly even periodontal disease.
Muscle pain and spasms. Calcium is needed to help our muscles function properly. Specifically, it helps them to contract and relax.
Numbness and tingling in the fingers. Calcium plays a vital role in many parts of the central nervous system. If we are deficient, we may see those nerves impacted, particularly in our extremities (hands, finger, feet and toes).
Abnormal heart rhythm could be a sign of severe calcium deficiency.
What Are Some Effects of Calcium On Health?
Scientists are studying calcium to understand how it affects health. Here are several examples of what this research has shown.
After about age 30, bones slowly lose calcium. In middle age, bone loss speeds up and can lead to weak, fragile bones (osteoporosis) and broken bones. Although bone loss is more common in women, it can affect men too.
The health of your bones is measured with a bone mineral density test, which will tell whether your bones are healthy and strong or weak and thin. Some studies have found that calcium supplements with vitamin D may increase bone mineral density in older adults.
Some research shows that people who have high intakes of calcium from food and supplements have a lower risk of cancers of the colon and rectum. Some studies have shown that men with high intakes of calcium from dairy foods have an increased risk of prostate cancer. For other types of cancer, calcium does not appear to affect the risk of getting cancer or dying of cancer.
Preeclampsia is a serious complication of late pregnancy. Symptoms include high blood pressure and high levels of protein in the urine. Calcium supplements might reduce the risk of preeclampsia in some pregnant women who consume too little calcium.
Metabolic syndrome is a serious medical condition that increases your risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
You have metabolic syndrome if you have three or more of the following:
A large waistline;
High blood levels of fat (triglycerides);
Low levels of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (good cholesterol);
High blood pressure;
High blood sugar levels;
Some research suggests that a higher intake of calcium might help lower the risk of metabolic syndrome in women but not men.
Does Calcium Interact With Medications or Other Dietary Supplements?
Calcium dietary supplements can interact or interfere with certain medicines, and some medicines can lower calcium levels in your body.
Tell your healthcare provider about any dietary supplements and prescriptions or over-the-counter medicines you take. They can tell you if the dietary supplements might interact with your medicines, or if the medicines might interfere with how your body absorbs, uses, or breaks down nutrients such as calcium.
Calcium and Healthy Eating
People should get most of their nutrients from food and beverages, according to the federal government’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Foods contain vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber, and other components that benefit health. In some cases, fortified foods and dietary supplements are useful when it is not possible to meet needs for one or more nutrients.
If you are struggling with health issues, call the Advanced Chiropractic & Nutritional Healing Center at 240-651-1650 for a free consultation. Dr. Lo uses Nutritional Response Testing® to analyze the body to determine the underlying causes of ill or non-optimum health.
The office is located at 7310 Grove Road #107, Frederick. Check out the website at doctorlo.com.
Source: Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS).