Calcium Deficiency In Midlife

Why calcium is so important?

When we hear the word “Calcium deficiency” bones come to our mind. Calcium is extremely important for your bones which make up the frame, the skeleton of the body. This vital mineral is also a building block for our teeth. It is also needed for the contraction of our muscles. Very few people know that calcium is also very important for your nervous system. The role of calcium in the nervous system extends from the initiation of a nerve signal to the desired action taking place. This mineral is also vital for heart health. Calcium is responsible for helping the heart maintain the correct rhythm and pump the blood efficiently.

How calcium deficiency will affect you?

As calcium is important in multiple systems in our body, its deficiencies can cause a plethora of conditions. Here are a few most common ones.

  • Muscle aches, cramps, and spasms
  • Bone issues like osteopenia and osteoporosis
  • Dental issues
  • Painful PMS
  • Conditions with nails & skin
  • Sleep disturbances like insomnia or sleepiness
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Depression

Please note that the same symptoms might be due to many reasons. We highly recommend you talk to your doctor. They will mostly order blood tests to know the calcium concentration in the blood. Based on the results they will prescribe the correct supplement. There is a variety of calcium supplements available. Let your doctor decide which formulation is good for you.

Calcium in midlife, perimenopause & postmenopause

We get calcium mainly from our food. However, the absorption of calcium consumed via food depends on many factors. As we age, this efficiency of absorption starts to decline. This creates calcium deficiency. Whenever it is insufficient in the blood stored calcium is released from bones to blood. Due to this bones become thinner, porous, and brittle.

Women have lower bone mass than men. Further, during menopause, the estrogen levels start dropping drastically. The reduced estrogen results in reduced metabolism and absorption of calcium from the food. To compensate for this reduction, the body starts taking calcium from the bones. As a result bone density further decreases drastically. This increases the risk of osteoporosis or fractures.

Many people go on restrictive diets during midlife as a last resort to lose weight. Many of these diets cut down the dairy completely. Calcium deficiency can be developed if other calcium-rich foods or supplements are not included to compensate.

How to maintain calcium levels

Dietary intake

Diet is the best way to get your nutritional requirements fulfilled, including minerals and vitamins. Food has multiple nutritional components that complement the absorption of the nutrients. For example, Milk is a good source of calcium, and vitamin D. Vitamin D makes calcium absorption possible and the fat present in milk makes vitamin D easy to absorb. Moreover, the body has a fair understanding of how much is needed to be absorbed from food.

Vitamin D

As stated earlier Vitamin D is responsible for the absorption of calcium in the body. With low vitamin D, one can’t form enough of the hormone calcitriol. This in turn leads to insufficient calcium absorption from the diet. Check your vitamin D levels. If the levels are low, consult the doctor. Please do not take Vitamin D supplements on your own as an excess of Vitamin D is toxic for the body.

Magnesium

Magnesium promotes the synthesis of a hormone called calcitonin. It takes calcium out of the blood and refills it back into the bones to prevent bone disorders. Thus low magnesium levels also have an indirect effect on calcium absorption.

Supplements

In cases of extreme deficiencies or metabolic disorders, your doctor might prescribe you calcium supplements. It is very important to follow the dosage and duration that is suggested by the doctor. There are many forms of calcium like Calcium carbonate, Calcium citrate, Calcium gluconate, Calcium lactate. Depending on your other health parameters doctor will suggest the right match. Do not buy over the counter calcium supplements as excess calcium also may pose a health risk.

Calcium-rich food

  • Dark green leafy vegetables – Spinach, collard greens, kale, bok choi, and all sorts of dark green leafy vegetables. Similarly broccoli, okra
  • Beans – Mung beans, black beans, chickpeas, green peas, soya. Consume freshly home-cooked beans and not canned ones.
  • Dry fruits/seeds – Figs and almonds are good sources of calcium. Seeds like chia, sesame are also calcium-rich.
  • Fruits – Oranges, kiwi, blackberries, dates are some of the calcium-rich fruits.
  • Meat, Eggs & fish – Sardines and Salmon have high calcium as well as vitamin D, Chicken, and eggs also have a decent amount of calcium.
  • Dairy – Milk, yogurt, cheese, and most dairy products are high in both calcium and vitamin D making it the best food for calcium. However, if you are lactose intolerant, it might be difficult for you to accommodate dairy in your diet. Another important thing to remember is if you are consuming dairy for getting calcium, opt for high-fat options instead of low fat or skimmed ones. The fat in milk actually helps the absorption of vitamin D, which in turn increases the absorption of calcium.

Reduce salt or high sodium food. As sodium levels go high, the body excretes it via the urine. In this process calcium also gets urinated, depleting calcium levels in the body.

Reduce excessive coffee. Caffeine also may reduce calcium absorption by about 4 mg of calcium per cup of coffee. This can be offset completely by adding 1–2 tablespoons of milk to your coffee.

Limit alcohol. Alcohol affects the metabolism, resulting in reduced absorption of calcium as well as vitamin D.

References

Effect of estrogen on calcium absorption and serum vitamin D metabolites in postmenopausal osteoporosis

Dietary Reference Intakes for Calcium and Vitamin D.

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About

Shilpa is an entrepreneur, blogger, certified yoga instructor, and certified nutritionist.

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