Calcium is responsible for our bone health, but it benefits go far and beyond helping maintain our skeletal structure. Calcium is also necessary for regulation of heart rhythms, aiding in muscle function, regulating blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and is also involved in various nerve indicating or signaling functions, and more. Calcium along with vitamin D has the ability to help protect us against diabetes, cancer and the risk of heart diseases—these three conditions are the biggest threats to the health of the human population.
Unfortunately, most people don’t meet the numbers recommended for calcium intake through the natural food diet alone and therefore become calcium deficient. Other factors like Vitamin D deficiency, Magnesium deficiency, High Sodium intake, Chronic Kidney disease, Drugs, Thyroid issues and more can also cause calcium deficiency.
The calcium deficiency symptoms can vary- ranging from none to life-threatening ones. Low blood calcium levels and lack of calcium lead to the symptoms or health problems given below:
- Heart Failure
- Numbness around the mouth, fingers, and toes
- Muscle cramps, typically in the legs and backs
- Tooth Ache and Decay
- Coarse Hair
- Muscle Weakness and Spasms
- Chronic untreated calcium deficiency can cause critical conditions like rickets and osteopenia too.
All about Supplements
While it’s recommended to get the majority of your calcium from foods that naturally contain calcium, it’s often hard to meet the recommended number. That’s when supplements come into the picture. But that poses some questions – Are calcium supplements right for you? How much supplements should you be taking? What are the risks? Is there an alternative?
Speak to a nutritionist about taking calcium supplements. Discussing the pros and cons beforehand is beneficial. There are various calcium supplements available , each has its own calcium compound type as an active ingredient. Some common calcium supplements include:
- Calcium carbonate (40 % elemental calcium)
- Calcium citrate ( 21% elemental calcium)
- Calcium gluconate (9 % elemental calcium)
- Calcium lactate ( 13% elemental calcium)
Experts suggest choosing calcium citrate and calcium carbonate supplements over other options., to take with meals for best calcium absorption. Remember, Calcium is usually better when taken along with food. Calcium citrate can even be taken without food.
Aim to only consume about 500 milligrams of calcium supplements at one time, as your body can’t absorb more than that at once. In case there is a need for a larger dose, divide the dosage and consume throughout the day.
Real food sources of calcium come packed with all the other nutrients like enzymes, minerals, vitamins and more vital nutrients. Supplements on the other hand, often don’t meet the nutrient needs that real foods do. Also, eating bad quality, synthetic and harmful ingredients in cheap supplements can cause our body to respond negatively. So, it’s most beneficial to find a high-quality food-based supplement that also contains vitamin D and magnesium.
Risks of taking calcium supplements
Nowadays, it’s quite popular for people to turn to various supplements instead of adjusting diets and that in itself is a serious health risk.
- Calcium supplements are often associated with ineffective bone health
- Even normal doses cause gas, bloating and constipation.
- High dosage can cause kidney stones and interfere with cardiovascular health
- Excess calcium in the blood can cause nausea, dry mouth, and irregular heartbeat and can be fatal even.
- People with epilepsy, bone tumors, heart diseases and other conditions should totally avoid calcium supplements.
The bottom line is if your bone health concerns you, try to maintain it by ensuring adequate daily intake of calcium with natural foods. Having adequate levels of nutrients leaves no need for supplements, which often do more harm than good.