Calcium is a tricky mineral. It’s the most abundant mineral in the human body and is present in many different foods. However, people still suffer from calcium deficiency, low bone mass and osteoporosis.
Insufficient calcium intake doesn’t produce symptoms in the short term, making it really difficult to know when you’re not getting enough.
Also, only 1% of the calcium in the body is needed for important physiological functions including nerve, muscle, vascular and hormonal function. The rest is stored in the bones and teeth.
When your body doesn’t get enough dietary calcium, it simply draws from the reserves in your bones and teeth. This weakens your teeth and bones putting you at greater risk for fractures and cavities.
Are You Having Any Of These Symptoms?
• Muscle cramps
• Numbness and tingling in the face, hands and feet
• Joint pain
• Brittle nails
• Depression, confusion and memory loss
• Brittle and easily fractured bones
These are all symptoms of calcium deficiency or hypocalcemia.
If you think you have a calcium deficiency, talk to your health care provider to get a proper diagnosis. Your doctor will take a blood sample and check for low calcium levels.
Get Enough Calcium
Only 21% of the people in the United States are getting enough calcium. Many people who are at risk for calcium deficiency are unaware of their situation. Some of these people include post-menopausal women, folks with lactose intolerance and irritable bowel syndrome, and vegans.
In addition, the body only absorbs 20-30% of dietary calcium. To get enough calcium you need to eat lots of high calcium foods or take calcium supplements.
High calcium foods can be split into two main categories: dairy and non-dairy sources. Dairy sources include milk, yogurt and cheese, whereas non-dairy sources include poultry, lean meat, seafood, legumes, nuts, seeds, soy products, Chinese cabbage, spinach, kale and broccoli. Foods fortified with calcium such as fruit juices and cereals are also good sources (but be careful consuming fruit juices because of the high sugar content if you have prediabetes or are diabetic).
Your body needs Vitamin D to absorb calcium. This means that in addition to high calcium foods you also need to add Vitamin D rich foods like egg yolks and fatty fish to your diet; mushrooms and Vitamin D enriched foods are good sources too. And remember, sun exposure is a great way to get your daily allowance of Vitamin D. Lastly, discuss with your doctor if taking a Vitamin D supplement is a healthy option for you.
Calcium supplements are an easy way to get enough calcium. This way you don’t have to agonize over your food choices and grocery shopping.
Calcium supplements contain compounds such as calcium carbonate, calcium citrate, calcium gluconate and calcium lactate. These are the ingredients that you will see on the labels.
Talk to your doctor before deciding on a calcium supplement. This is important because different compounds have different amounts of calcium and will interact differently with prescription medication.
The easiest way to avoid calcium deficiency is to be more intentional about your calcium consumption. Eat more high calcium foods and talk to your doctor about taking calcium supplements. Take these simple steps and you should be well on your way to boosting your quality of life for years to come simply by strengthening your bones and teeth