Calcium Deficiency is highly prevalent across the world with elderly and young children being at the highest risk.
Women become more susceptible to low Calcium levels during different stages of life such as adolescence (childbearing age), pregnancy, and menopause.
Additionally, certain health conditions such as gastrointestinal disorders, thyroid disorders, and rheumatoid arthritis can also directly or indirectly (medications hindering the absorption of calcium in the body) cause Calcium Deficiency.
Other than natural stages of life requiring high calcium intake, there are several lifestyle choices that can lead to Calcium Deficiency in otherwise healthy persons.
For example, excess caffeine consumption, alcohol abuse, and insufficient availability of Vitamin D will decrease the absorption of Calcium, thus triggering calcium deficiency over long term.
In this post, we will learn about the lifestyle choices that lead to low calcium levels and what can you do about it. Let’s get started!
Calcium is critical for our physical and mental health!
As the most abundant mineral in your body, Calcium is essential for its overall functioning affecting both physical and mental faculties alike. Calcium makes up approximately 2% of the total body weight.
Calcium levels control and contribute towards many basic body functions such as disease prevention, muscle functioning, sleep patterns, and also absorption of other essential nutrients.
Our body uses 99 per cent of its calcium to keep the bones and teeth strong, thereby supporting skeletal structure and function.
Rest of the Calcium is present in plasma and bloodstream, helping regulate cell signalling, blood clotting, muscle contraction, and nerve function.
Cells use calcium to activate certain enzymes, transport ions across the cellular membrane, and send and receive neurotransmitters during communication with other cells.
Consuming enough dietary Calcium i.e. between 1,000 and 1,200 milligrams per day for healthy men and women and is a must for optimal nutrition and health.
Diet and Lifestyle that cause Calcium Deficiency
It is difficult to control some natural factors related to health conditions and life stages that lead to Calcium Deficiency.
But, one can vigilantly focus on either increasing their calcium intake or avoid factors resulting in low absorption to avoid running into low Calcium levels.
For the lifestyle choices that lead to poor absorption of calcium from your diet, lower intake, or even higher excretion of Calcium; one needs to consciously and persistently avoid such situations and actively manage their health.
So, here we go and learn about the primary lifestyle patterns that cause Calcium Deficiency.
Vitamin D Deficiency
Inadequate exposure to the Sun, milk allergies or a vegan diet may put you at risk of vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D occurs naturally only in a few foods including some fish and fish liver oils.
Rest is made available via fortified functional foods such as egg yolks, dairy, and grain products. Vitamin D is essential for strong bones because it helps the body to metabolize calcium from the diet.
Improper calcium absorption due to Vitamin D deficiency doesn’t allow the bone tissues to mineralize, leading to soft bones and skeletal deformities, a condition also termed as Rickets.
Excessive consumption of alcohol adversely affects bone density in multiple ways. Alcohol hampers bone growth and remodelling process leading to low bone density.
Additionally, excessive alcohol consumption interferes with the working of hormones that regulate the calcium level in the blood.
For example, alcohol negates working of steroid reproductive hormones and growth hormones that indirectly control Calcium metabolism in the body.
Also, alcohol abuse damages the liver. This results in absence of the enzymes needed to convert vitamin D, hence further hampering calcium absorption.
Parathyroids control the level of calcium in the blood and hence eventually calcium concentration in the bones. This, therefore, determines the strength and bone density.
If the calcium levels in the body fall due to insufficient intake of dietary calcium, it results into an excessive release of parathyroid hormone. This leads to lower calcium levels in the plasma stream causing the brain run-downs as well as muscle spasms.
Consumption of caffeine and soda
Caffeine and sodas contain high amounts of phosphoric acid and phosphates which leech the calcium out of the bones. This leads to osteoporosis, a situation with very low bone density.
Additionally, women in their forties and fifties are naturally highly susceptible to osteoporosis during their post-menopausal stage due to multiple changes in their body system.
Somebody who is facing low Calcium levels needs to totally avoid caffeine and soda. Another measure would be to phase out intake of caffeine-rich foods and calcium-rich foods to minimise the impact of interference.
Excessive Sodium Intake
High quantities of sodium in the bloodstream could also be behind lower calcium levels in your body. As sodium facilitates absorption of calcium into the urine, this can result in excessive excretion of this essential mineral from your body.
As much more Calcium is being rejected from the bloodstream due to high Sodium levels, Calcium levels drastically drop in the blood.
The blood then compensates for its lower levels by absorbing more calcium from the bones. This whole cycle would eventually result in the symptoms of Calcium Deficiency.
Excessive Sodium level in the bloodstream is also the culprit behind many other health disorders such as elevated blood pressure levels, excessive sweating and unease, and even kidney failure.
Hence, one should reduce their salt intake and avoid foods that have unnecessarily high levels of sodium salts in them. Processed foods usually fall into the category of high sodium foods.
Mineral Equilibrium: Calcium-Magnesium-Phosphorus
The three key mineral elements of the body, Calcium, Magnesium, and Phosphorus go hand in hand in performing the major bodily functions.
Calcium helps in the formation of bone and teeth, but it also plays a role in keeping the heart and muscles working the right way by governing contractions.
Magnesium is also a constituent of bone but serves as the principal player for controlling potassium and calcium uptake, assisting nerve electrical activity, and managing the metabolism of carbohydrates.
Phosphorus seconds in abundance to calcium, and is necessary for bone growth, kidney function, cellular health and acid-alkaline balance.
As these three elements work together to regulate the functioning and maintain the respective balance amongst themselves; deficiency of even one can lead to a huge imbalance in the other two mineral levels.
Top Health Tips to Boost your Calcium Levels
When looking to boost your calcium levels naturally, age-old wisdom stays true about eating calcium-rich foods and getting enough Vitamin D from the sunshine.
While both of these would definitely aid in keeping your calcium levels umpteen, you also need to look into Calcium absorption or bioavailability of Calcium from the measurements you are taking to boost your levels.
Your lifestyle habits, food choices, and food combinations affect the absorption of ingested calcium inside our body.
So, it is vital that you learn about both increasing your natural calcium intake and at the same time focus on the healthy habits that would help you make the most of your calcium-rich foods.
Let us look into the lifestyle changes that you can employ to naturally boost your calcium levels and hence overcome symptoms of Calcium Deficiency.
Calcium-Rich Foods to Increase Your Calcium Intake
Calcium is better absorbed in the body from naturally Calcium-rich foods rather than from fortified options or Calcium supplements.
In fact, Calcium supplements are more often than not responsible for an excessive dosage of Calcium that deposits on the arteries, causing peripheral diseases including coronary disorders.
Hence, it is always better to selectively increase your intake of Calcium-rich foods and combine them with other elements that would in turn help to enhance the absorption of this essential mineral in the body.
- Leafy greens, especially kale, collard greens, and dark green lettuce, and green herbs such as basil, Moringa, parsley, and dill.
- Dairy sources such as milk, cheese, yogurt, and buttermilk. You can opt for low-fat options should you be worried about weight gain, however at Medhya we believe in wholesome food options and least tempering with natural food combinations to get the maximum benefit out of it.
- Plant-based calcium-rich foods such as sesame seeds, fenugreek seeds, almonds, and basil seeds.
- Fish with soft bones such as sardines and salmon.
- Black beans, pinto beans, and kidney beans.
Minerals that help to increase the absorption of Calcium
Boron helps to prevent the body from losing calcium through urine by maximizing the activity of estrogen and vitamin D in bones. Eat prunes and raisins. They contain a good amount of calcium and boron.
While Magnesium does not impact the absorption of Calcium in the body, it does impact the assimilation and utility of Calcium as the functioning of both go hand in hand. Hence, to avoid the health conditions from Calcium deficiency, one also needs to focus on Magnesium-rich foods.
Good sources of magnesium include Avocado, Oily fish, leafy greens, oats, whole grains, almonds, and dark chocolate.
Vitamin D helps the body to absorb calcium and also regulates calcium in the blood. And the best way to let your body soak up Vitamin D is from direct sunlight!
Other sources of vitamin D include fatty fish, fortified milk, fortified cereal, cheese, liver, eggs, butter, margarine, shrimp and oysters.
Lifestyle Tips to Naturally boost Calcium Levels!
Cut back on salt
Excess sodium is excreted into your urine and it takes calcium with it. The recommended daily sodium intake for adults is 1600 mg. This is actually less than one teaspoon of salt.
Reduce your consumption of salt in your meals. Increase the use of herbs and spices to naturally enhance the flavor.
Also, processed foods and snacks have a much higher content of salt, sugar, and even trans fats.
Eliminate processed foods, ready to eat meals, and extremely salty snacks such as potato chips to reduce your daily salt consumption.
Reduce consumption of Caffeine and Caffeinated drinks
Caffeine leaches calcium from the bones, zapping their strength!
Do not drink more than 2 cups of coffee a day and avoid excess intake of caffeinated beverages such as energy drinks, energy shots, and colas.
Also, to buffer the effects of caffeine, avoid drinking coffee along with your Calcium-rich foods or meals.
The caffeine content also varies upon the brewing time and type of coffee you consume.
Espresso brings you the highest concentration of Caffeine, followed by brewed coffee, which is still further higher than the instant coffee.
So be vigilant of what you are taking apart from the amount.
Other options would be to go for decaffeinated coffee or even green tea with which you would reduce your caffeine intake by 70%.
Alternatively, healthy herbal teas such as mint tea, fruit teas, or basil tea can help you reduce your caffeine intake.
They also bring an additional pack of anti-oxidants and bioflavonoids that are hard to get via regular meals.
Quit Drinking Soda
Soda, including diet and decaffeinated soda, can interfere with calcium absorption. Hence, it is better to avoid excess intake of soda drinks.
An excess of soda beverages leads to an increase in phosphate levels in the blood.
This, in turn, can leach calcium from your bones and increase calcium excretion in your urine. High phosphate levels also prevent calcium absorption.
Do not combine bran & beans with Calcium-rich foods and meals
Both bran and beans are rich sources of natural proteins and B Vitamins, hence highly desirable and recommended for your daily nutrition.
However, they also have phytic acid and oxalic acid that binds with calcium and hence can inhibit its absorption. The acids are also found in spinach, Swiss chard, beets, rhubarb, berries, beans, wheat bran, seeds, and grains.
So, avoid combining your calcium-rich foods and meals with the mentioned food ingredients to reduce wastage of ingested Calcium from food.
Interested to join like-minded people to share and learn about healthy food, Ayurvedic Diet and lifestyle? Join Medhya’s Ayurvedic Diet and Lifestyle Community on Facebook.