Calcium is an essential mineral necessary for the survival of the human body. About 99% of the calcium in our bodies is located and stored in our bones and teeth. The remaining 1% circulates in the blood and is utilized to send nerve signals, which regulate secretion of hormones such as insulin as well as the constriction and relaxation of blood vessels to control blood pressure.
Calcium is commonly obtained from foods, such as:
- Seeds like sesame
- Sardines and salmon
Symptoms of Calcium Deficiency
Several symptoms indicate the presence of calcium deficiency, including:
- Muscle spasms.
- Numbness and weakness in the hands, feet and face.
- Muscle cramps.
- Weak and brittle nails.
- Frequent bone fractures.
- Psychological symptoms of calcium deficiency: During calcium deficiency, symptoms of depression and anxiety may be exacerbated, moreover if the deficiency is very severe, hallucinations may occur.
Lack of calcium in the bloodstream, forces the body to utilize stored calcium from teeth and bones, making them weak and fragile.
Benefits of Calcium
- Calcium & Osteoporosis
Maintaining a good supply of calcium to the body, especially by following a healthy balanced diet and incorporating calcium containing supplements, prevents many bone problems such as osteopenia and osteoporosis, specifically with older age. When calcium deficiency occurs in the body, it utilizes calcium stores in the bones and teeth thus weakening them and later on leading to osteoporosis!
Calcium is also included in the treatment protocol of osteoporosis, as it prevents the exacerbation of the condition and its poor prognosis. Also, people who take cortisone for other diseases are at a high risk of developing osteoporosis, thus they are advised to take prophylactic calcium supplements against osteoporosis.
- Calcium for Women
Women are generally more likely to develop osteoporosis than men. After a woman’s menstrual cycle has completely stopped, the rate of osteoporosis onset increases by two folds. Therefore, every menopausal woman is advised to begin taking prophylactic calcium supplements.
- Calcium & Indigestion
Calcium carbonate is an antacid used for relieving heartburn and improving indigestion.
- Calcium & Kidney Failure
Taking calcium carbonate or calcium citrate aids in reducing hyperphosphatemia as a result of chronic kidney failure. Oral calcium intake also reduces parathyroid hormone levels in people with kidney failure who suffer from hyperparathyroidism.
- Calcium & the Menstrual Cycle
Daily calcium intake appears to significantly reduce mood swings, bloating, food cravings, and cramps associated with premenstrual syndrome.
- Calcium & Cholesterol
Some studies have shown that taking calcium while following a low fat diet reduces levels of LDL (harmful fats) and increases the levels of HDL (good fats).
- Calcium & Blood Pressure
Studies have shown that taking calcium, along with a healthy diet, reduces both systolic and diastolic blood pressure readings in people with hypertension.
- Calcium & Pregnancy
Studies have shown that prescribed calcium intake during pregnancy may significantly prevent the incidence of preeclampsia, which is characterized by high blood pressure and proteinuria. Calcium reduces blood pressure readings and prevents hypertension.
Moreover, calcium intake increases the mother’s calcium reserve which is always advantageous as calcium levels decrease during pregnancy and if left uncorrected can lead to reduced fetal bone density.
- Calcium & Colon Cancer
Studies have shown that regular calcium intake may reduce the risk of colon and anal cancer. Therefore, people at risk of these cancers and those who have a positive family history of these diseases are advised to take prophylactic calcium supplements.
Side Effects of Calcium
Calcium intake is generally considered safe and beneficial in specified doses and overdose not recommended at all as it is associated with unwanted side effects.
- Calcium for Pregnant & Breastfeeding Women
Calcium is considered very safe for lactating and pregnant women in specific doses prescribed by their doctor.
- Calcium for Children
Calcium intake is safe for children in different doses according to their age, this is because calcium helps form and build bones and teeth.
- Some diseases in which calcium intake is contraindicated or must be taken with caution:
- Hypothyroidism: Calcium reduces the effectiveness of parathyroid hormone if taken concomitantly, so it is recommended to separate intake for a period of at least 4 hours.
- Sarcoidosis and tuberculosis: These are rare lung infections in which calcium levels are already high.
- Kidney problems: Presence of kidney problems may slow down calcium excretion from the body and increase its concentration significantly.
- Smoking: Avoid smoking as it reduces the absorption of calcium in the body.
Drug Interactions of Calcium
- Calcium and Quinolone
Taking calcium along with quinolone antibiotics might decrease their effectiveness. These antibiotics are commonly used in cases of urinary tract infections and pyelonephritis, such as:
- Ciprofloxacin (Cipro)
- Enoxacin (Penetrex)
- Norfloxacin (Chibroxin, Noroxin)
- Sparfloxacin (Zagam)
- Trovafloxacin (Trovan)
- Calcium & Tetracycline
Calcium intake reduces the effectiveness of tetracycline antibiotics.
- Calcipotriene & Calcium
Calcipotriene increases calcium absorption, therefore concomitant administration may cause elevated calcium levels.
- Calcium & Digoxin
Digoxin is used in patients with heart disease. It helps increase heart muscle strength. However, an increase in calcium concentration due to increased calcium intake may increase the effect of digoxin, resulting in heart rhythm disturbances.
- Calcium & Antihypertensive Drugs: Diltiazem and Verapamil
Diltiazem and verapamil are commonly used in patients with high blood pressure, however they interfere with calcium by blocking calcium channels, which helps lower blood pressure. Therefore, your doctor should be informed if you take these medications and avoid using them simultaneously with calcium pills.
- Calcium & Diuretics
Diuretics such as LasixR increase the concentration of calcium in the blood, resulting in problems such as kidney stone formation.
Other commonly used diuretics with such effects are:
- Chlorothiazide (Diuril)
- Hydrochlorothiazide (HydroDIURIL, Esidrix)
- Indapamide (Lozol)
- Metolazone (Zaroxolyn)
- Chlorthalidone (Hygroton)
- Calcium & Levothyroxine
Calcium reduces the effect of levothyroxine.
- Calcium & Lithium
Calcium and lithium interact, so a doctor should be consulted before concomitant administration.
- Calcium & Bisphosphonates
Calcium reduces the effect of bisphosphonates.