Are you getting enough calcium?

This article has been inspired by Nicole Madden,from Completely Nutrition. I’ve heard Nicole speak a number of times and she has a way of captivating her audience with her straight-talking informative knowledge on all-things nutrition.

Today’s topic is calcium, but there’ll be others to follow in a similar vein.

Many of us women, sadly, don’t always take good care of ourselves. We are often more preoccupied with looking after others. We need to take care of our bodies while we can – they’re easier to maintain than to salvage. However, getting enough calcium can be particularly important for us, especially at different phases of our lives.

 

Why so important

Calcium is an essential mineral. It’s known for building and strengthening bones and teeth, with approximately 99% of the calcium in our bodies being found within our bones and teeth. The rest is in our blood. It also enables our blood to clot, our muscles to contract, our heart to beat and it ensures the right nutrients get into our body.

 

What happens if we don’t get enough?

If our bodies don’t get enough calcium to support these important functions, it is taken from our bones. This is known as losing bone mass. This can make the inside of our bones become weak and porous, putting us at risk of osteoporosis.

Furthermore, we’re at risk of developing hypocalcaemia which is deficient or low blood levels of calcium. This can make the nervous system highly irritable, causing spasms of the hands and feet, muscle cramps, abdominal cramps and overly active reflexes.

So, all being said it’s critical that we get enough calcium!

 

Signs that we’re not getting enough

Unfortunately, insufficient levels aren’t always immediately apparent but rather they can show up as longer-term problems.

  1. Frequent broken bones
  2. Dental cavities
  3. Rickets in children
  4. Osteopenia or osteoporosis
  5. High blood pressure
  6. Overweight
  7. Tingling and numbness in fingers
  8. Lethargy
  9. Muscle cramps
  10. Abnormal cardiac rhythms

If you think you may have some of the symptoms of calcium deficiency, check it out with a doctor or dietician.

 

How can we ensure we get enough?

Calcium can be taken as a supplement, but it’s easy enough to take it naturally through food.

Good dietary sources include:

  • Dairy products (e.g., milk, yogurt, kefir)
  • Boned fish (e.g., sardines)
  • Soy and tofu
  • Dark green vegetables

Others include nuts, calcium-fortified cereals, dairy replacements (soya milk etc), broccoli, oranges etc. Refer to the NHS guide as well as this list of calcium rich foods.

 

Absorption levels

It’s not just about how much calcium we’re taking in but also how it’s being absorbed into our body. There are certain food combinations that can optimise this e.g. Vitamin D can be taken to help calcium get absorbed into the body.

Too much salt, alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine impede absorption levels.

While diet can play a large role in calcium levels, there are other factors, including age, disease states, and medications, that can affect the amount we absorb.

 

How much do we need?

The average adult needs at least 700mg per day. Aim for 1,000 to 1,200 mg from food and supplements combined.

We’re actually still building our bones until we reach approximately 30 years old, so calcium is very important for younger women.

Kids, elderly, coeliac, pregnant and breastfeeding, osteoporosis; post menopause and those with inflammatory bowel disease also have higher needs.

Check out the recommended daily amount for different groups here as well as what this actually means.

Those on a dairy-free or lactose-free diet may also be at risk of calcium-deficiency so may need to take on more.

 

Is it possible to take too much calcium?

Yes, if supplemented. It’s more difficult to overdose naturally via food.

It’s just as important to avoid getting too much calcium from supplements as it is to get enough. Excessive amounts from supplements may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and kidney stones, so don’t overdo it.

 

Anything else?

Living a healthy lifestyle can also have a positive impact on our bones. This includes doing regular weight-bearing activities and not smoking (associated with an increased risk of osteoporosis).

 

Wrap-up

Calcium is an essential mineral known for building and strengthening bones and teeth. It also enables our blood to clot, our muscles to contract, our heart to beat and it ensures the right nutrients get into our body.

However, getting enough calcium can be particularly important for women, especially at different phases of our lives. Calcium can be taken as a supplement, but it’s easy enough to get enough naturally through food.

 

Thank you for reading! For more on Age Life Balance, browse the blog at www.agelifebalance.com to find out  more.