Calcium is the mineral that bodies need most for strong bones and teeth. Apart from bone development and regeneration calcium also allows:
- Muscles to contract properly
- Proper conduction of nerve impulses
- Normalization of blood pressure
Adults and children over 4 years old need at least 1000 milligrams of calcium daily. Individuals no longer get enough calcium from their diet. Calcium is lost through sweating, hair, nails and skin loss and waste elimination. Unfortunately, the body cannot make its own calcium. Calcium comes from milk, cheese and other dairy products. Nondairy sources include fish (sardines and salmon), vegetables and fruits (broccoli, Chinese cabbage, oranges, and apples).
Calcium can also come from dietary supplements. A dietary supplement is any product ingested by mouth which has a "dietary ingredient" intended to enhance the diet. A dietary ingredient can be a vitamin, a mineral, an amino acid or an herb to name a few.
Two of the most common types of calcium supplements are:
- Citrate – acid based; more expensive; does not require extra stomach acid for absorption; may be taken anytime; provides less elemental calcium, so you may need to take more pills as compared to carbonate.
- Carbonate – alkaline based; inexpensive, commonly available; best taken after meals or with a glass of citrus juice; provides more elemental calcium (actual amount) so you may not need to take as many pills as compared to citrate; calcium coral, made from limestone, is a form of calcium carbonate.
Studies have shown that only 10% of the actual calcium ingested is absorbed by the body. To increase calcium supplement absorption by the body:
- Take calcium supplements with vitamins D and C as well as lactose (milk sugar) to allow for better intestinal absorption. Exposure to sunrays before 10 am and after 2 pm allows good absorption of vitamin D from the sun.
- Take calcium together with magnesium for healthier bone development. A ratio of 1 mg of calcium to .5 mg of magnesium is adequate.
- Avoid foods high in sodium and protein. This decreases calcium absorption by increasing the elimination of calcium through the urine.
- As the amount of elemental calcium increases, the absorption rate decreases. This means that for a 1,000 mg/day of calcium, it may be better to take two 500 mg doses of the supplement at different times during the day.
- Decrease the intake of sodas, which are high in phosphorous. Too much phosphorous may decrease calcium absorption. Coffee and tobacco can also interfere with proper absorption.
- Do not take calcium and iron supplements together. When taken together, it lessens the effectiveness of the two minerals.
- Calcium supplements and medicines that need to be taken on an empty stomach should not be taken together.
- Limit eating a diet high in phytic acid, normally found in the bran of whole grains, as this interferes with calcium absorption. Fiber can be obtained from fruits and vegetables instead.
- Engage in anti-gravity exercises like walking, jogging and running.
- Medicines known as proton pump inhibitors block stomach acid production. Take calcium citrate instead of the other types, since this does not require stomach acid for better absorption.
- Certain beverages like sports drinks are fortified with calcium chloride. Shake the container well before drinking, since calcium tends to settle at the bottom.
Calcium supplements or any other dietary supplements are not intended to treat or cure diseases. However, they add essential vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that your body needs that you normally don’t get from the foods you eat.