If you’ve ever seen a commercial for a dairy product, especially milk and yogurt, then you’ve likely heard the word “calcium” used a lot.
Even outside of commercials and marketing, calcium is still one of the most recognisable nutrients nowadays. And many people hear it in contexts such as children’s health.
And that’s for a good reason: calcium is an essential nutrient that we all need to live healthy lives. And despite that, the body doesn’t naturally produce calcium, so we need to acquire it through our diet.
But what exactly is calcium? How can it benefit the body? And if it’s so nutritious, how can we get enough of it if our bodies don’t produce it?
That’s what we’ll discuss in this post, along with other things you should know about calcium. So stick around for more!
What Exactly Is Calcium?
Calcium is a mineral nutrient that plays a vital role in several body functions, such as blood circulation, muscle contraction, and communication between the brain and other organs.
Although calcium is the most abundant nutrient in the body, almost all of it is in the bones and teeth. As a result, calcium improves the bone’s structural strength, which is one of its most popular benefits.
However, about 1% of the calcium in your body is stored in the nerves, muscles, and blood. And that 1% is enough to take part in several crucial body processes, as we’ll soon talk about.
Despite its importance, calcium doesn’t occur naturally in the human body. Instead, you’ll have to source your calcium from your diet. And as many people know, some of the foods highest in calcium are dairy products, such as milk and cheese.
However, you can also find calcium in other foods like certain vegetables or legumes. Alternatively, you could also use supplements as a direct source of calcium.
Forms of Calcium Supplementation
Unlike other nutrients that come in many forms, calcium is a pretty simple mineral and is only essential in one form. However, it varies in how you can take it as a supplement.
There are ways to prepare and deliver calcium, such as citrate (this post’s namesake), malate, oxalate, and more. However, only four, namely carbonate, citrate, lactate, and gluconate are predominant as supplements. The former two alone constitute the majority of calcium supplement forms.
- Calcium Carbonate
At face value, calcium carbonate, also known as calcite, sounds like the best way to take calcium since it has the highest amount of elemental calcium at 40%.
It’s also the cheapest and most widely available form on the market, so many “calcium newbies” tend to flock towards it since they hear it mentioned a lot.
One big downside to calcium carbonate is that it’s difficult for the body to absorb as it needs stomach acids to be fully absorbed.
As a result, if you’re taking calcium carbonate, you should do so after a meal and have a glass of water right after taking it.
But even when you take these measures, calcium carbonate tends to cause an upset stomach, sometimes with constipation, gas, and mild bloating.
- Calcium Citrate
Calcium carbonate may be more popular, but calcium citrate is quickly catching up as more people are realizing its benefits. So what’s calcium citrate?
Although calcium citrate contains less elemental calcium than its carbonate counterpart, with “only” 21% calcium, it’s widely considered the better option for calcium supplementation since it’s much easier to absorb than calcite and doesn’t require high levels of stomach acid.
The lower elemental calcium percentage means that one calcium citrate tablet might not be enough for you, and instead, you’ll have to take two. However, this isn’t an issue for most people considering the upsides of taking calcium citrate over carbonate.
Since it’s easier to absorb, calcium citrate is by far the better choice for people with digestion problems, those with low stomach acidity, or those who take medication that reduce acidity, such as heartburn medications.
Moreover, it’s often prescribed to senior citizens or those with gastric or digestive diseases, such as irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, gastritis, or celiac disease.
And since it requires minimal acid to absorb, calcium citrate can be taken without eating a meal beforehand. So if you opt for it, you’re not restricted by your dietary schedule.
- Calcium Lactate
Just like calcium citrate, calcium lactate can be taken on an empty stomach and requires very little stomach acid to absorb, which makes it convenient in that regard.
However, its 13% elemental calcium content is nearly half that of calcium citrate, which makes it inconvenient and expensive compared to the latter option.
- Calcium Gluconate
Calcium gluconate is rarely used as a calcium supplement due to its low 9% elemental calcium availability. And just like calcium carbonate, calcium gluconate tends to cause an upset stomach.
The most common use of calcium gluconate is for patients with hypocalcemia who require emergency care. And those patients often take calcium gluconate intravenously (IV) for quick delivery.
Why Is Calcium Good for You?
As we’ve mentioned a few times, calcium is an essential nutrient since it serves a vital role in several important body functions, as we’re about to discuss.
Moreover, you can easily notice the importance of calcium when you look at people who suffer from calcium deficiencies and the problems they subsequently face, ranging from dizziness and fatigue to serious bone diseases like osteoporosis. But we’ll talk about that in due time.
For now, let’s focus on the benefits of calcium.
🦴Improving Bone Health
Calcium plays a huge role in your bones' strength and structural stability. And that's no surprise when you consider that 99% of calcium in your body is stored in the bones.
Nobody is above or below the age threshold for needing calcium. Everybody needs it from childhood to old age.
For instance, young children need calcium to help develop and grow their bones, while senior adults need it to maintain as much bone mass as possible in late life, during which many people lose a lot of bone mass.
Even healthy adolescents and adults can benefit from calcium, which helps them maintain bone strength and reduce the risk of developing bone diseases, such as osteoporosis.
And it's not just bones, but teeth as well. Adequate calcium levels can help prevent and combat dental problems such as tooth cavities, decays, and even loss of teeth. Just make sure you bundle it with proper dental hygiene.
💪Helping Muscle Movement
In science terms, calcium plays a role in nerve functions related to muscles by transmitting nerve impulses to the muscle fiber. Moreover, calcium helps the myosin and actin inside the muscle fiber interact, facilitating the contraction and relaxation of muscles.
In simpler terms, calcium helps the protein inside muscles carry out its roles. When calcium is inside the muscle fiber, the muscle contracts. And when the muscle pumps out calcium after using it, the muscle relaxes.
This is important as it helps with muscle movement.
🦠 Assisting Nerve Functions
Calcium is a key player in the "internet" of neurons moving around the body. Not only is calcium involved in moving neurotransmitters around the body and transmitting electric signals down nerve endings, but it also plays a role in brain development.
Although brain development doesn't rely on calcium, it can still benefit from it, as calcium helps with cell growth and metabolism.
🤒 Alleviating Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)
Premenstrual syndrome, or PMS for short, is a widespread problem that many menstruating women face every month. If your menstrual pain is so severe that it interferes with your daily life, then it's probably PMS.
But before you buy an over-the-counter PMS pain reliever or something similar, you should consider what your body needs. And in this case, one of the most potent nutrients to alleviate PMS is calcium.
One study found that taking calcium can reduce the effects of mood disorders during PMS, specifically anxiety, depression, mood swings, and water retention.
These changes happen due to how calcium regulates hormones and nerve functions. So if you struggle with PMS, you might want to consider increasing your daily calcium intake.
👩🏻 Maintaining Bone Mass in Older Women
Some groups of people need calcium more than others due to their nature. One of these groups is older (postmenopausal) women, whose bodies stop producing estrogen around age 50, which causes them to lose bone mass and could lead to other serious diseases.
And although calcium is not an estrogen replacement, it can still go a long way in helping postmenopausal women retain their bone mass for as long as possible and avoid developing other diseases related to poor bone health.
🩺 Reducing the Risk of Colon Cancer
There are many more examples of similar studies, all of which demonstrate a link, but an inconclusive one that needs to be further researched.
That link is likely due to calcium protecting colon cells from being eaten away by bile acids roaming around the digestive tract.
However, until further research confirms or denies it, we won't rule out the possibility that calcium supplements help prevent colon cancer because even if it doesn't, you're still getting plenty of benefits out of calcium, and there's no added risk.
As we said above, you can easily notice how essential calcium is when you look at cases of calcium deficiency, also known as hypocalcemia.
In most people, the main reason for calcium deficiency is a bad diet. Not eating enough foods that contain calcium or taking enough supplements can result in deficiency since the body doesn't naturally produce calcium.
However, some conditions can lead to calcium deficiency, such as age-related diseases, genetic disorders, or congenital disabilities.
Whatever the source of calcium deficiency in a person, it's relatively easy to get it treated by taking enough calcium either through natural sources or supplementation.
But first, we think it's important you know the complications of hypocalcemia, so let's dive in.
Common Causes of Calcium Deficiency
As we said above, the most common cause of calcium deficiency is simply not intaking enough calcium over a long period, especially during childhood when development is essential for the child's health.
This doesn't happen overnight, though. For example, you won't be deficient in calcium if you don't eat enough dairy for a day. On the contrary, it typically happens due to unideal eating habits.
In these cases, the most straightforward solution is to incorporate foods rich in calcium into your diet.
Sometimes, though, the deficiency is outside of a person's control. For example, suppose you're lactose intolerant. In that case, you probably consume very little to no dairy products, such as milk and yogurt, which happen to be some of the richest natural sources of calcium.
In other times, you may be taking an amount of calcium that's typically adequate for your age and sex, but due to factors such as hormonal changes or injuries, your body requires more calcium.
Fortunately, it's relatively easy to alleviate hypocalcemia in these instances by taking calcium supplements in adequate amounts.
You can also get calcium deficiency from some less obvious causes, such as vitamin D deficiency. That's because vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium, so when there isn't enough vitamin D, calcium absorption is more challenging.
And if you take medication that inhibits the production of stomach acids, such as heartburn medication, it might be harder for the body to absorb calcium as well.
This might also result from diseases that also inhibit stomach acids or affect the digestive tract similarly, such as gastritis, celiac disease, or irritable bowel syndrome.
If you fall in that category, you could take more calcium to combat it, but it's best to speak with your doctor about this possibility and see what can be done.
Who Is at the Most Risk of Being Calcium Deficient?
Although calcium is essential for everybody regardless of age or sex, some groups are more dependent on calcium.
For example, calcium is necessary for all children to develop their bones and grow, which is why many food companies incorporate calcium in children's foods and formulas.
Apart from that, older adults need calcium to retain as much of their bone mass as possible. This especially applies to postmenopausal women whose bodies no longer produce estrogen and can lose bone mass far more quickly.
Symptoms of Calcium Deficiency
You won't notice symptoms of calcium deficiency if the case is relatively minor. However, if the problem goes untreated, the symptoms will worsen over time and lead to more severe conditions.
Some of the first symptoms you may notice are muscle problems. For example, you may experience muscle aches or cramps, especially if you put strain on them.
You might also not feel your muscles altogether. Muscle numbness is relatively common among patients with hypocalcemia, especially in their limbs.
Calcium deficiency can also leave you feeling weak or sluggish all the time. And we're talking extreme fatigue here, which could lead to lightheadedness, brain fog, and even insomnia.
Nails are also a big indicator of calcium deficiency as low calcium levels can lead to dry and brittle nails that break away easily.
Major Risks of Calcium Deficiency
If you leave a case of calcium deficiency to its devices, the condition will worsen, and more severe diseases will likely develop.
Bone health is probably the biggest loser in this unfortunate scenario. Because although the bones store almost all of the calcium in the body, you'll need to refresh their deposits if you want to keep them strong.
When calcium outside the bones is low, it borrows from the skeleton, making them weak and brittle.
Over the years, this can develop into skeletal diseases like osteopenia and osteoporosis.
These bone problems also affect dental health since both are so closely tied together.
If you recall from above, we talked about how calcium is probably the best nutrient to combat premenstrual syndrome in adult women. By that virtue, a calcium deficiency has the opposite effect: it can cause severe cases of PMS.
How Much Calcium Is Too Much?
The recommended daily intake of calcium is about 1,000 mg for adults and 1,200 for older adults, defined as women over 50 and men over 70.
There's no reason to go over this limit. In fact, doing so will likely result in more harm as your body develops hypercalcemia due to the calcium buildup, which can cause digestive problems.
Your body could also direct its resources to absorbing calcium and neglecting other nutrients like zinc and iron.
Sources of Calcium
Now let’s look at some of the best ways to source your calcium, both natural and supplementary.
Foods Rich in Calcium
This one goes without mentioning. Dairy products are renowned for their calcium content.
🥛One cup of cow milk has about 300 mg of calcium, meaning only 3 cups are enough to fulfill most of your daily calcium intake.
Milk is also a good source of protein, vitamin A, and, most importantly, vitamin D, which helps the body absorb calcium.
Dairy products like cheese and milk have slightly less calcium content but still plenty. For example, a cup of yogurt has nearly 250 gm of calcium.
Although fish meat itself isn’t a source of calcium, some types of fish are. We’re talking specifically about fish that are eaten with their bones, like small mackerels and sardines.
White beans, lentils, and tofu are all great sources of calcium. One cup of white beans or lentils delivers about 170 gm of calcium, while a cup of tofu is "only" 120 gm, which is still plenty.
Many seeds are considered superfoods due to their high nutritional value. For example, just one tablespoon of poppy seeds delivers over 100 gm of calcium. Sesame seeds don't carry as much calcium but are also rich.
🥬 Leafy Vegetables
We often talk about leafy greens like kale and spinach in these blog posts, and for a good reason.
Just like how they're rich in many other nutrients, leafy greens are packed with calcium. For example, one cup of kale has 100 gm of calcium.
The ultimate question many people face is whether to choose calcium citrate or carbonate. And we're here to answer that not with opinions but with science.
Apart from the fact that calcium carbonate can cause a mildly upset stomach, calcium citrate is more easily absorbed than calcium carbonate by about 25%.
So although calcium carbonate has a higher percentage of elemental calcium, more of it goes to waste and will be a nuance to your digestive tract along the way.
Instead, calcium citrate is better absorbed, doesn't require so much acidity in your stomach, and doesn't cause digestive problems.
That's why we're happy to provide you with the most effective and healthiest way to intake your calcium through our calcium citrate formula.
Just two tablets every day can go a long way in fulfilling your body's calcium needs, all in a cruelty-free and conscientious manner.
Calcium is an essential nutrient to the body. But unfortunately, the body doesn’t produce calcium on its own, so you must adjust your diet to eat foods rich in calcium or take supplements if that’s not enough.
One of the most popular forms of calcium supplements is calcium carbonate. And while it has a good amount of elemental calcium, it has its faults, such as causing an upset stomach and other digestive problems.
For these reasons, we recommend you stick with calcium citrate, which is much easier for the body to absorb and delivers a good amount of calcium.
That's why we're bringing you our recent calcium citrate supplement, which we've catered explicitly for two things above all: health and convenience.