Calcium is Essential for Vital Functions
Calcium is essential for our health for many reasons. Many people take it because it is necessary for building and maintaining healthy bones. However, did you know that it is used in many other vital functions? Research shows it is also used to make the muscles and internal organs work properly, and the nervous system uses it to carry messages throughout the body.
Where is Calcium Found in Our Diets?
It is in a wide array of foods including dairy products (yogurt, milk, and cheese), canned salmon and sardines with the bones, vegetables such as broccoli, kale and collard greens, and fortified cereals or juices. Even with foods that are rich in the mineral and a healthy diet, research has shown that more than a third of the population isn’t getting enough of this essential mineral.
People Who Need Supplementation
Individuals with health or dietary restrictions including veganism, lactose intolerance, osteoporosis, bowel or digestive diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease or celiac disease, and if your diet contains high protein or sodium levels due to the fact it forces the body to excrete calcium, should strongly consider taking a supplement. Calcium supplements are especially imperative after receiving extended treatment with corticosteroids. Talk to your physician to clarify if supplementation is right for you.
What is the Recommended Daily Dose?
Adults require 1,000 milligrams of calcium every day; this includes dietary sources. However, that requirement goes up as we age, women over 50 and men over 70 need 1,200 milligrams per day.
It is important to remember that more is not better in this case! According to the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, a 2011 study found that taking more than the daily recommended dosage is harmful. Extra calcium is sent through the kidneys to be excreted in your urine which raises the risk of kidney stones. Higher quantities of the mineral can also lead to hardened blood vessels and tissue; studies have linked calcium with an increased risk for heart disease although the medical community has not fully established this yet.
Due to the fact it is hard for us to process in larger amounts, aim to take no more 500 milligrams unless otherwise prescribed by your doctor. Some people find smaller amounts with each meal is easier to tolerate.
There are several types used in supplements. Each compound comprises different amounts of elemental calcium.
- Commonly found supplements include:
- Calcium carbonate (40 percent elemental calcium)
- Calcium citrate (21 percent elemental calcium)
- Calcium gluconate (9 percent elemental calcium)
- Calcium lactate (13 percent elemental calcium)
Calcium carbonate and citrate are the most common types of supplements found in pharmacies. Calcium carbonate should be taken with food for better absorption while calcium citrate is taken with or without food. When you compare supplements, check the labels to find out how much elemental calcium you’ll be getting in each dose.
Side Effects and Interactions
Gas, bloating, and constipation is common with calcium carbonate. Drinking plenty of fluids may help you to avoid these symptoms. Start taking smaller dose initially, 200-300 milligrams a day for a week, and gradually increase to 500 milligrams as tolerated.
This mineral can decrease the effectiveness of certain prescription medications including those for blood pressure, calcium channel blockers, antibiotics, thyroid, and bisphosphonates. Ask your physician or pharmacist about interactions with your current medications.
Until more is more known about these possible risks, it’s important to be careful to avoid excessive amounts. As with any health issue, it’s important to talk to your doctor to determine what’s right for you.
Cathie Glennon – BCRPA/SFL
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