Decades ago, it was common practice when a woman needed to supplement with calcium, her doctor would recommend popping a couple of Tums. We have certainly learned a great deal since the 1980’s about calcium supplementation!
Once the science caught up with the medicine, doctors realized that there were a number of better ways to supplement with calcium – from coral calcium, calcium citrate, to calcium carbonate. Some calcium supplements are buffered, while others are more readily absorbed. Dosing varied depending on need, however many individuals starting to take large dosages, thinking more was better. The average one-time-daily-dose was 1500 mg.
Unfortunately, it was soon discovered that the body was not able to assimilate such a large dose of calcium at one time; Only 500 mg of calcium at a time can be assimilated, anything over that is excreted from the body.
Therefore the best way to take a calcium dose of 1500mg is to divide it into three- 500mg doses spread out over the course of a twenty-four hour period.
Women in their childbearing years rarely have to supplement with calcium as estrogen aids in the absorption and utilization of calcium. However the opposite is true for menopausal women who lack estrogen.
Menopause and certain medications will rob the body of calcium and lead to osteoporosis. To reduce the incidence of osteoporosis, some doctors recommend estrogen replacement therapy (ERT) during the three to five year periods after menopause.
Since there are a number of risks associated with ERT many women are opting to take calcium supplementation instead.
Calcium supplementation is not without it’s own problems.The fact is there are many foods, prescriptions, herbal remedies, and other supplements that can interfere with the proper absorption of the mineral such as fiber supplements; foods containing oxalic acid such as: spinach, citrus fruits, cocoa, and tea, to name a few; iron supplements taken at the same as calcium supplements; many antacids: high protein diets; deficiencies in Vitamin D; low levels of hydrochloric acid and imbalances in the bodies phosphorous and calcium pump.
Calcium taken in conjunction with many prescription medications can interfere with the proper absorption of the medicine, such as: anticoagulants, digitalis, diuretics, estrogen, meperidine, corticosteroids, chlorpromazine, sulfa-drugs, and many others.
Many studies have been done to determine the best way to properly assimilate calcium. While calcium is the primary supplement in a plan of care for bone density, there are many other nutrients, which are either related to the absorption of calcium or play some other pivotal role in bone health & integrity, and I will mention them briefly below:
There are many other contraindications in the usage of calcium. For example, it should not be taken before a meal, alcohol and cigarette smoking will decrease its absorption, and certain other combinations such as with vitamin A will decrease the benefits of the vitamin.
Always consult with a physician when considering calcium supplementation.
In health and wellness.
Dr. Mundorff is the author of several books, Her latest book, Take Control: A Guide to Holistic Living, is an innovative health guide, which helps the reader learn how to regain control of their health by discovering the practical effectiveness of combining alternative and modern medicine. She is a Board Certified Naturopath, and not a medical doctor. The information in this column is for educational purposes only and should not be used to self-diagnose and treat diseases.