About calcium, there are many theories and many myths as well. But still calcium remains one of the most essential minerals required in the body. All of the human bones along with teeth are made up of calcium. Yet, the function of calcium does not end here. Calcium is involved in many vital functions going on inside the body. It is ranked as fifth in the order of abundance of elements in earth’s crust. In this article, all the details regarding calcium are discussed along with the causes of its deficiency and which specific groups of individuals are at risk. So, keep reading this article if you want to know more about Calcium!!
As mentioned before, calcium is one of the most important minerals involved in a large number of vital body functions. The name calcium is derived from the latin word calas that means lime. It does not occur in free form in nature but in the form of carbonates and sulphates. As carbonate, it occurs as limestone, chalk, marble and as sulphate in gypsum form. The highest reserves of calcium are bones and teeth which cover over 99% of the calcium and rest 1% is present in blood along with other tissues in the body. The calcium in the blood along with tissues and that in the skeleton are to be maintained in equilibrium. For maintaining this equilibrium the calcium in the bones can be drawn up to make up for deficiency of blood calcium and when the deficit is made up, it is deposited in the bone to maintain its density.
Now let’s start understanding some specific things about calcium and its functions.
The calcium helps in maintaining the bone density but what is bone density? Bone density refers to how much calcium and other minerals are present in the section of bone. It increases during the first 25 to 30 years of life and then gradually decreases with age when the rate of new bone formation and breakdown happens at the same rate. So, adequate calcium intake is required to maximize peak bone mass and limit the bone loss later in life otherwise the bone may become brittle and fragile and break easily.
Super Duper Functions of Calcium
- Combined with the phosphorus mineral, calcium constitutes hydroxyapatite, responsible for bone strength and its resistance to decay.
- Helps in normal contraction of heart muscles and skeletal muscles.
- Hasrole in clotting of blood.
- Assists nerves to carry messages between the brain and rest of the body.
- Helps normal contraction and relaxation of blood vessels.
How the Absorption of Calcium Works
- As the calcium is soluble in the acid medium of the stomach, the gastric acid results in ionisation of the calcium and increases its absorption.
- Now from the stomach, when it is pushed into the small intestine then the healthy lining of the small intestine favours the absorption of ingested calcium.
- Further, the ingestion of vitamin D or vitamin D rich food articles help in promoting the calcium absorption in the human gut and maintain adequate serum calcium concentration. So, normal growth of the bones can be enabled.
Factors Influencing the Calcium Absorption in the Body
- Active lifestyle: Active lifestyle like continuous involvement in the physical activities enhance the calcium density in the bones.
- Intake of protein sources: In take of protein sources helps in enhancing the calcium absorption.
- Caffeine: The caffeine is having a negative effect on the absorption of the calcium. It decreases the amount of calcium that can be absorbed from the ingested food articles or supplements.
- Alcohol: Excessive consumption of alcohol is the reason for less absorption of calcium from the intestine and can lead to various types of deficiencies in the body.
- Plant based food: The presence of oxalic and phytic acids in some plant foods decreases the bioavailability of calcium. Foods rich in oxalic acid are spinach, rhubarb, okra and beans. Food high in phytic acid included grains and nuts. The bioavailability of the food is from the plants such as broccoli, sweet potatoes and kale. In all of the plant based food only soybean is the one that has high quality of both oxalates and phytates yet provides an absorbable source of calcium.
Influence of Hormones on the Calcium
The hormones also play a very great role in maintaining the healthy level sof calcium in the body and sometimes deficiency of some particular hormone can affect the calcium levels in the body. Following are certain hormones that help in absorption of calcium from the body:
- One of such hormones , parathyroid hormone which helps in maintaining the levels of calcium in the blood and stimulates bone formation as well.
- Calcitonin hormone produced from vitamin D, increases the intestinal absorption of calcium and phosphorus. It maintains the normal blood calcium as well.
- Oestrogen is another hormone that helps in the absorption of calcium from the intestines.
Now we know almost all the essential things about calcium and its absorption along with the food articles that are the source of calcium. We have also discussed the hormones responsible for calcium absorption from the intestine or are responsible for maintaining the healthy levels of calcium in the body. The next part of this article covers the calcium deficiency, its causes, symptoms, risk groups and daily calcium requirement.
The calcium deficiency is the result of low levels of vitamin D in the body, impaired parathyroid hormone production, impaired bone reabsorption of calcium, critical illness or use of medicines like antacids. The deficiency of calcium can be asymptomatic when it’s mild.
Calcium Deficiency Symptoms
There are many symptoms related to deficiency of calcium and many of them can be gender specific. But there are certain symptoms which are common in males and females. These are as follows:
- Poor appetite
- Heart problems risk of fractures
- Muscle spasms
- Increase in the neuromuscular irritability like numbness, tingling in hands and feet
- Weak and brittle nails
- Numbness in hands and feet
- Confusion and memory loss
- Extreme fatigue
- Overall feeling of sluggishness
The Risk Groups for Deficiency of Calcium
At risk age groups are many but the most vulnerable are mentioned below:
1. Postmenopausal Feamles
The decrease in oestrogen and progesterone after the onset of menopause results in the decreased absoption of calcium from the intestines and finally deficiency of calcium takes place.
2. Diet Deficiency of Dairy Products
As we all know that dairy products are rich in calcium and if there is deficiency in their intake by an individual then they are at a high risk of calcium deficiency. Mostly lactose intolerant People are at a higher risk of calcium deficiency as they are forced to cut the dairy products from their diet
3. Old Age People
Old age males and females are also one another group that are prone to face calcium deficiency. The reasons for this are low calcium intake for longer duration, medication interactions that can result in the decrease of the dietary calcium, underlying chronic conditions and many others. So far we have discussed how calcium deficiency happens, what are its symptoms and what group of individuals are at risk.
Now, In the next part of this article we will discuss the effects of calcium on the body if taken in excess, what are daily calcium requirements in different age groups and also will discuss some Ayurvedic herbs that are rich in calcium.
Effects of Excess Intake of Calcium
The upper limit of calcium intake is 3500 mg on a daily basis. If taken more than this, there is increased risk of kidney stones, constipation, cancer and heart diseases as well. In addition, it can also interfere with the working of the brain. Due to excess intake of calcium, kidneys have to work harder than usual so as to filter the excess calcium, so it can have an impact on kidney parenchyma as well.
Daily Calcium Requirements
The daily calcium requirement varies according to the age of the patient and in pregnancy along with the period of lactation demands different levels of calcium in females. The brief values are given in the following table:
|Age||Mg per day (min)|
|0-6 months||200 mg|
|6-12 months||260 mg|
|1-3 years||700 mg|
|4-8 years||1000 mg|
|9-18 years||1300 mg|
|Till 50 years||1000 mg|
|51-70 years (male and female)||1000 mg (M), 1200 mg (F)|
|71 years and older||1200 mg|
|In pregnancy and during lactation||1300 mg|
Further let’s discuss some herbs of Ayurveda rich in calcium
Calcium Rich Drugs in Ayurveda
In Ayurveda, there is a vast mention of calcium supplements from natural sources which are classified under shukla varga dravyas. Their sources are shankh that are shells, praval also called coral, mukta which are commonly known as pearls, shukti that are oyster shells and hadjob (Cissus quadrangularis). All these contain high quality calcium carbonate and other essential minerals too.
They work best as calcium supplements in osteoporosis, dental caries, arthritis and gastric ulcers. Studies have also found that marine derived calcium has certain advantages over other calcium supplements. They are having enough potential to increase bone turnover and aid in preventing injuries and repairing damaged bones.
Some other calcium supplements
- Calcium citrate
- Calcium gluconate
- Calcium lactate
Food high in calcium
- Dairy products such as milk and yoghurt.
- Vegetables like broccoli, kale, collard.
- Calcium fortified breads, cereals, soy products
- Vitamin D fortified milk, seeds like sesame and poppy.
- Lotus seeds and figs
Along with sources of calcium, sources of vitamin D are equally important in the body so that proper absorption calcium can be there. So natural sources of vitamin D are as following:
- Wheat grass
- Egg yolk
- Seafood and fatty fish
So that’s all about calcium and its impact on the human body.
Calcium is really important in the body and so is vitamin D. So, if you are having deficiency of calcium and want to enhance the levels of calcium then you have to take vitamin D as well. In this article there’s a lot of information about calcium and about its natural sources. We usually get to know about our calcium deficiency when we are having some trouble with day to day working in our life. Before that we hardly bothered but we must. Taking natural sources of calcium and vitamin D helps in maintaining the required calcium in the body. In case of any query kindly visit www.PlanetAyurveda.com