Calcium. It’s the most plentiful mineral in your body, and around 99 percent of that calcium is found in your bones and teeth. So, it’s easy to think of bone health when you think of calcium. But calcium intake is also important for the functioning of your heart, nerves, muscles, and other body systems.1
The body obtains calcium for these other functions by releasing the calcium stored in the bones back into the blood. This is called “bone remodeling,” and it’s an ongoing process – where bone is broken down and rebuilt.2
It’s helpful to understand bone remodeling because it can help you better understand osteoporosis – a serious condition caused by decreased bone density.
When you have osteoporosis, your bones lose calcium (bone is broken down) at a faster rate than it is replaced (rebuilt). This results in brittle, weak bones.3
What Causes Low Calcium Levels?
Low calcium, or calcium deficiency, is known as hypocalcemia, and it can be caused by several factors, including:
- Certain medications that prevent proper calcium absorption, like proton pump inhibitors, chemotherapy, or anti-seizure drugs (talk to your doctor to learn more)
- Intolerances to foods rich in calcium, like dairy
- Hormonal changes that usually come with age, such as menopause
- Genetic factors
- Vitamin D deficiency, which can be caused by a lack of sunlight
- Magnesium deficiency
- Too much sodium in the diet
- Issues with the parathyroid glands, which regulate calcium
Vitamin D is an interesting factor here, because of its close relationship with calcium levels. Your body needs vitamin D to absorb calcium. If your body doesn’t get enough vitamin D, it pulls calcium from your bones, which can weaken them.8
You can get vitamin D from certain foods (like egg yolks, saltwater fish, and liver), but it’s also important to get enough sunlight.
Even just a few minutes of sunlight each day can help boost your body’s vitamin D levels.
(After that, slather on the sunscreen if you’re staying outdoors, to protect yourself from the sun’s damaging rays).
Those most at risk for a deficiency include people who are homebound, live in very northern locations, wear religious coverings, or those with an occupation that prevents adequate sun exposure.9
Similarly, calcium and magnesium are closely linked, because magnesium helps regulate calcium levels in your body.10
Symptoms of Low Calcium Levels
Calcium deficiency symptoms can vary, and you might not always associate some of these issues with low calcium. Some of the health problems that can result from low calcium include:
- Easily broken bones
- Muscle cramps
- Dry skin
- Low moods
- Confusion, or memory loss
- Tingling in lips, tongue, fingers, or feet
- Brittle nails
- Coarse hair
- Abnormal heart rhythms11
How Can You Get More Calcium In Your Diet?
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If the body doesn’t get enough calcium from the foods you eat, it will start to pull calcium from your bones instead. So, it’s important to keep your blood calcium levels up, especially if you have some of the risk factors for low calcium mentioned above.
So, how can you enrich your diet with calcium?
Here are some of the best foods to reach for – all of which are Gundry-approved:12,13,14
- Cow, goat, or buffalo milk (Choose A2 or )
- Collard greens
- Bok Choy
- Oranges (in moderation)
- Sardines or salmon (wild-caught)
- Goat’s Feta (seek out Southern-European)
- Blanched almonds
How Much Calcium Do You Need?
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) of calcium required by the body is:
- Adults 19 – 50 years old, 1000mg
- Senior Male Adult, 1000mg
- Senior Female Adult, 1200mg
- Pregnant and Breastfeeding Adults, 1000 mg
Why do senior women require more calcium than men? Because the hormone estrogen plays an important role in bone strength. Estrogen levels drop dramatically during menopause, and postmenopausal women experience a greater incidence of bone loss. It’s because they don’t absorb calcium as well.
In fact, some research has suggested that around half of all women over the age of 60 will fracture a bone due to osteoporosis.15,16
Food For Thought
A blood test from your doctor can help determine whether your calcium levels are up to par for your age group. If your results show a calcium deficiency, it’s important that you follow your doctor’s guidance.
The most common result of prolonged low calcium levels is osteoporosis, which can result in bone fractures – and drastically decrease your quality of life. And, contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to be elderly to develop osteoporosis. But the steps you take now to ensure you’re getting enough calcium intake can make a world of difference as you age.
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