Many menopausal women and men take calcium, almost always in the elemental form of calcium carbonate, to prevent or help reduce osteoporosis. This form is not highly available for the body to utilise because it is basically crushed limestone.
About 70 per cent of bone, the majority of which is not calcium but collagen, is a protein. Of course, there is calcium in bone but it needs phosphorous and collagen to absorb properly.
Some well-proven research studies show calcium alone does not prevent fractures. Also, there is now strong evidence that taking calcium supplements in the carbonate form can increase cardiovascular issues.
The main minerals that bones require are a combination of cobalt, manganese, magnesium, phosphorous and other trace minerals such as boron.
Bone is made from protein, so we need to ensure our diet includes all of these. This will be more beneficial to build your bones, rather than taking 1000mg of a calcium carbonate supplement daily.
You also need vitamins to help transport the minerals, which are even more critical than calcium. These are vitamin D3 and K2 which work together making calcium available to produce bone, while also helping deliver calcium in the blood directly to the bones.
Some calcium-rich foods can unfortunately block calcium uptake into the blood due to containing high amounts of oxalates. A few examples are spinach, eggplant, and beetroot.
Better supplementation is through a combination of dairy and plants together.
If you want to check the amount of calcium available in your body, request an Ionised Calcium Test, not the general test received with full blood tests.
If calcium deficient, symptoms may include muscle spasms and tetany (little muscle twitches, usually in the left eye or arm area). These symptoms can also be due to a lack of magnesium and potassium.
If this is the case, you may also experience numbness around the mouth, fingertips, and feet, or spasms in your larynx with hoarseness and rough-sounding vocal cords.
Calcium is not needed in large amounts. Low calcium activates the parathyroid glands to increase vitamin D, thereby increasing calcium absorption in the intestine and sending signals to the bones to release calcium. If vitamin D deficient, you will have trouble absorbing calcium as vitamin D can increase calcium levels up to 20 times.
Another factor is magnesium, which is commonly deficient and can lead to experiencing difficulties achieving the levels of calcium needed.
Factors that decrease calcium levels (besides the vitamins and minerals mentioned above) are consuming excessive amounts of protein, sodium, drinking a lot of caffeine, soft drinks, and taking certain medications.
If exposed to a lot of phosphorous, you can lose calcium from your bones. Phosphorous is in a lot of animal meats, but also in soft drinks. Refined sugar can also deplete levels.
Additionally, vitamin A is needed for healing and repair, and vitamin E protects your body against free radicals, environmental toxins and keeping the immune system healthy.
Cod liver oil is the best way to get a natural dietary form of a combination of bioavailable vitamins A, E, D and K.
Thankfully, it’s now possible to get it without the potent taste.
As always, check before embarking on any treatment program.
Trudy Kither is a naturopath and owner of Nature’s Temple. Visit naturestemple.net