Can self-prescribing with calcium supplements do more harm than good?

Calcium supplements

Photo credits: from top left: Anna Walker, Puamelia, Stacy Spensley; from middle left: Eunice, Cory Doctorow, Naturalflow; from bottom left: Keith McDuffee, Harsha KR, Frederique Voisin-Demery. Used with permission under Creative Commons license, Flickr.

By pH health care professionals

Calcium is a very important mineral for the body.  As you know, it keeps bones and teeth strong, but it does other helpful things as well.  For example, calcium plays an essential role in blood clotting, muscle contractions and nerve impulse transmission.  Studies further show that calcium plays a role in blood vessel contraction and dilation, which affect blood pressure. Women, in particular, need sufficient calcium to prevent osteoporosis, especially after menopause.

Because of its health benefits, calcium is one of the most popular supplements in the United States. However, despite its popularity, many reputable sources, including Harvard Medical School, recommend that you get the majority of your daily nutrients, such as calcium, from food. Why? Read on to find out.

How do you get calcium?

Your body does not naturally make calcium, so you must get it from other sources, meaning dietary and/or calcium supplements. The Insitute of Medicine recommends that adults between the ages of 18-50 should get approximately 1,000 mg of calcium per day. The general notion has been that calcium in any form is beneficial to your health. However, recent evidence suggests otherwise.

Your body metabolizes calcium from supplements very differently from the way it metabolizes calcium from food.  Calcium supplements are associated with bloating, constipation and interference with certain medications and antibiotics. In other words, the calcium that many of us receive from supplements may cause negative health effects, particularly in men, including heart attack and vascular calcification.  Given these findings, it appears that calcium supplements should be consumed with caution.

What does this mean for you?

Your body is best at absorbing nutrients when they come from your food, so it is always best to get your calcium from dietary sources. There are plenty of calcium-rich foods and drinks to satisfy your daily recommendation. For example, calcium-rich foods include spinach, oranges, kale, broccoli, salmon, yogurt and tofu.

If you are already taking calcium supplements, consult your doctor before you stop taking them. We highly recommend getting tested to determine your current calcium levels (which we can do at pH Labs) and to adjust your diet accordingly. You should regularly monitor your serum calcium levels to determine whether you are at an optimal level.

If you are considering taking calcium supplements, do so only after your dietary history has been carefully examined to see how much dietary calcium you are getting. Only after it has been determined that you are not getting adequate amounts of calcium should you consider supplementing. If you have been prescribed calcium supplements, be proactive and discuss concerns with your doctor.

Call us at 855-PHLABS1 to schedule a mineral test to ensure you are getting the amount of calcium your body needs.

The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.

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