Holistic Health – NUTRIENTS A-Z: Calcium

by Janice Buckler

Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body and is vital for bone health.  99% of the body’s calcium is in the bones and teeth.

Females who have already experienced menopause can lose bone density at a higher rate than males (and younger females) and supplementation may be recommended.  

Calcium helps regulate muscle contractions. When a nerve stimulates a muscle, calcium helps the proteins in muscle carry out the work of contraction.  Then when the body pumps calcium out of the muscle, the muscle will relax.  Calcium is a great remedy for a build-up of lactic acid in the muscle after over-exertion and is often used on cows after they have given birth. 

Calcium also plays a key role in blood clotting and relaxes the smooth muscle that surrounds blood vessels and various studies indicate a possible link between high consumption of calcium and lower blood pressure.

Vitamin D is also essential for bone health, as it helps the body absorb calcium.  The same is true for magnesium.  Magnesium is needed to keep calcium in solution so that it can be utilized by the body.  As well, calcium is a co-factor for many enzymes and without it, some key enzymes would not work efficiently. 

Calcium and magnesium deficiencies are closely related; however, symptoms of a calcium deficiency can include:

  • Brittle fingernails, vertically ridged nails
  • Pain in forearm or bicep
  • Cramps in calf muscle during sleep or exercise
  • Painful cramping of feet or toes
  • Joint pains
  • Teeth prone to decay, frequent toothaches
  • Poor quality or malformation of bones
  • Nervous tics or twitches, twitching muscles
  • Nervousness, irritability, anxiety
  • Unusual sensitivity to noise
  • Insomnia
  • Heart palpitations

Food sources of calcium include: 

  • Milk, cheese, yogurt and other dairy foods.
  • Green leafy vegetables – such as curly kale, okra and spinach.
  • Soyabeans and soya-based drinks with added calcium.
  • Almonds, Peanuts, walnuts and sunflower seeds.
  • Bread and anything made with fortified flour.
  • Beans and Lentils. 
  • Figs.
  • Fish where you eat the bones – such as sardines and pilchards.

Below are the current recommendations from the Institute of Medicine, by age:

Women 50 and younger: 1,000 mg per day
Men 70 and younger: 1,000 mg per day
Women over 50: 1,200 mg per day
Men over 70: 1,200 mg per day

Supplementary range:
400 to 1200 mg daily

What happens if I take too much calcium?
Taking high doses of calcium (more than 1,500mg a day) could lead to stomach pain and diarrhea.

Remember a healthier you, is a more productive you, so stay safe, eat well, and keep healthy!