Calcium is the most important mineral for maintaining strong bones and teeth. Fortunately it is found abundantly in human body, especially in bones and teeth. Calcium also has critical role to play in various other activities such as transmission of nerve signals, coagulation of blood, muscle contraction and relaxation, enzyme functioning etc. Your body absorbs calcium from the food that you eat. Calcium deficiency can develop if your body fails to absorb calcium or retain it even though you eat enough calcium containing food. This will lead to several calcium deficiency symptoms such as muscle spasm, weak bones and teeth, tingling numbness in limbs, bone fracture, memory loss etc.There are several causes for decreased calcium absorption. Detecting them at an early stage is essential to prevent problems related with calcium deficiency.
Causes of Decreased Calcium Absorption
Calcium gets absorbed from the food that you eat. After digestion, the intestine passes calcium into the blood stream. From blood it reaches wherever the mineral is needed. But sometimes calcium absorption is hampered. Here are few important reasons that may obstruct calcium absorption.
- Vitamin D deficiency: Vitamin D is extremely essential for proper absorption and processing of calcium in the body. If you have vitamin D deficiency, your calcium absorption gets reduced. Vitamin D is present in some of the food such as milk and other dairy products, fish, eggs and cod liver oil. The rich source of vitamin D however, is sunlight. Exposure to sunlight at least 30 minutes in a day is essential for maintaining healthy level of vitamin D in body. Vitamin D deficiency can occur if you are not exposed to enough sunlight or you eat a vegan diet or do not drink enough milk. Without enough vitamin D, your body is not able to absorb calcium efficiently.
- Medicines interaction: Certain medicines can hamper absorption of calcium. While certain medicines can increase calcium excretion from your body. Medicines that help to lower cholesterol may on the other hand increase calcium excretion through urine. Corticosteroids used for long time can also lower calcium level in the body. Other medicines such as antiepileptics and diuretics can also cause decreased calcium level in the body. Many physicians therefore prescribe calcium and vitamin D supplements when they prescribe these drugs.
- Diseases: Many diseases can inhibit proper calcium absorption. Chronic kidney diseases, pancreatitis, ulcerative colitis, celiac disease, parathyroid growth, all can cause reduced calcium absorption in the body.
- Foods that contain phytic acid and oxalic acid: Phytic and oxalic acid bind with calcium and prevent its absorption from intestine. Foods that are high in oxalic acid are collard, spinach, radish, celery, beet, sweet potato. Foods high in phytic acid are peas, wheat bran, soybeans, lentils, legumes etc. Avoid drinking milk with these foods simultaneously.
- Miscellaneous: Bariatric surgery, high intake of sodium, soft drinks, food additives and magnesium deficiency can also lower calcium absorption.
How to increase calcium absorption in the body:
The normal requirement of calcium in a day for an adult is 1000mg and for elderly above 50 years is 1200mg. You can increase calcium absorption by eating foods that are high in calcium, avoid eating foods that hamper calcium absorption and ensure enough exposure to sunlight for getting enough vitamin D.
- Eat foods that are high in calcium: Drink milk and eat low fat dairy products every day. Yogurt, cheese, fish and various other sea food, green lettuce and green leafy vegetables, oats and sesame, Chia seeds, beans and lentils, almonds, whey protein, amaranth, tofu etc all are rich source of calcium.
- Avoid eating foods simultaneously with calcium rich foods or milk if you are suffering from calcium deficiency. Particularly avoid foods that contain oxalic acid and phytic acid with milk and other calcium rich food. Foods that are high in calcium include
- Avoid alcohol if you are having calcium deficiency as it inhibits absorption of calcium.
- Vitamin D is necessary for good calcium absorption. Sunlight is the best source for vitamin D. Spend at least 30 minutes in sunlight daily.