Postmenopausal women are most at risk of a calcium deficiency. Others may include people who are lactose intolerant or vegan as one of the common source of calcium is dairy products. The institute of medicine states that a certain amount of calcium dose is very much important for the bones to stay healthy and function properly. Te set dietary intakes (DRI) and recommended daily allowances (RDA) for calcium include 200 mg/day for 0-6 months infant, 1,300 mg/day for 9-18 years old, 1,000 mg/day for 19-50 years old, and 1,200 mg/day for 70+ year old.
Not just humans, calcium is a nutrient that all living organism needs. Calcium is vital for bone health and is the most abundant type of mineral found in the body. 99% of the human body calcium is present in the teeth and bones. It is necessary to maintain healthy communication between the brain and other parts of the body; muscle movement and cardiovascular function are also linked with calcium quantity in the body.
Even though calcium is such a crucial nutrient for our body, maximum people suffer from calcium deficiency; studies (teotia and teotia- 2008 report) have suggested that about 40.6% of the Indian population is calcium deficient. A lot of people are not well-aware to understand when they don’t have enough calcium. When there is an inadequate amount of calcium for the body to function activities of the heart, muscles, nerves, brain, the body takes it from the bones. This can lead to soft bones, unexpected fractures or sudden loss of a tooth.
Calcium is important for humans of all age group. Specifically, females who have already experienced menopause can experience a low density of calcium at a higher rate than males or infants. Doctors usually recommend calcium supplements at such a stage. Bone formation is a life-long process. During childhood, attention must be given to the diet to build strong bone mass.
Calcium plays a key role in bone formation and a deficiency in it can increase the risk of developing diseases like hypocalcemia, osteopenia, and osteoporosis. To know and learn more about calcium deficiency keep reading-
What is calcium deficiency?
A disease that affects the normal functioning of the body due to the presence of calcium amount in the body is known as calcium deficiency. Bones are the living tissue in the body which develops constantly. A dynamic balance is maintained where bone minerals are absorbed from the blood vessels and then released again.
At a time when there is no adequate amount of calcium in the blood vessel, the body tends to fall shortage on calcium and at such a stage it removes calcium from the bones. This entire process can be quite harmful to the entire mechanism of the body. Long term calcium deficiency can result in decalcification of teeth and bones which increases the risk of bone deformation and bone fractures.
Causes of calcium deficiency
Calcium is a necessary nutrient which the body naturally cannot produce. A German “National Consumption Study II” (National Verzehrsstudie) stated that men with a consumption (average) of 807 mg of calcium and 738 mg of calcium for women are known to be below the daily recommended intake; it has been estimated that only two-thirds are able to cover up their calcium requirement via food. Women who undergo menopause should pay attention to the amount of calcium intake as certain hormones like oestrogen decrease in concentration.
Some of the causes of calcium deficiency are-
- High alcohol or coffee consumption
- Hormonal disorders
- Disorder of calcium absorption
- Kidney diseases
- Increase demand for calcium requirement by the body due to stages/phases such as puberty, breastfeeding, pregnancy etc.
- Medication such as cortisone
- Athletes who sweat a lot
- Massive blood transfusions
- Thyroid diseases
- Elevated phosphorus level
- Dietary intolerance-lactose intolerant or people allergic to dairy products
- Genetic factors- Vitamin D resistance syndrome or inherited disorders of calcium and phosphate homeostasis
- Age-infants and children are known to absorb as much as 60% of the calcium-rich food they consume. With the increase in age, the absorption level gradually decreases to about 15-20%
- Hormonal changes- decline in estrogen levels (menopause)
Symptoms of Calcium deficiency
Calcium is required for a wide range of mechanism and therefore a deficiency of it can arise different kinds of signs and symptoms; the duration and intensity of the deficiency also play a huge role-
List of the signs and symptoms of calcium deficiency are-
- Brittle fingernails
- Digestive disorders
- Heart failure
- Numbness in hands
- Disturbances in bone metabolism
- Muscle problem- one of the earliest signs of calcium deficiency where people feel pain in the arms and thighs, especially the underarms. The pain can be accompanied by numbness or tingling sensation in the hands, feet, legs or mouth area.
- Extreme fatigue- low level of calcium can cause sleepless night and extreme levels of fatigue. Lack of energy, lethargy, lightheadedness, brain fog can lead to lack of focus and cause confusion.
- Memory loss (due to improper brain mechanism)
- Dry and itchy skin
- Tooth decay-due to weak roots, irritated gums, and brittle teeth
- Painful premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
- Anxiety and irritability
- Low blood pressure
- Intestinal cramping
- Loss of height
- Spinal or hip pain
- Difficulty in swallowing
- Compression fracture
- Spasms of the lungs
Diagnosis of Calcium deficiency
When a calcium deficiency is suspected, the first thing that the doctor recommends is to undergo a blood test. A blood sample will be collected to check your blood calcium level. If your test reveals that there is a low calcium level in your blood then the doctor proceeds for further treatment.
The normal calcium level for an adult ranges from 8.8 to 10.4 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL); If your calcium level drops below 8.8 mg/dL you may be at risk of developing a calcium deficiency. The doctor may also check your vitamin D and parathyroid levels. A 25-hydroxyvitamin D blood test is a vitamin D test, the normal blood levels of 250HD ranges from 50 to 80 nanograms per ml.
Diseases caused by calcium deficiency?
Calcium deficiency in children can lead to developing rickets. This condition results in bone deformities and growth retardation. In adults, it can lead to softening of bones or osteomalacia. An extremely low level of calcium amount can cause leg cramps and muscle spasms. Lack of calcium can also contribute to high blood pressure and osteoporosis
Precautions of calcium deficiency
The best and easy way to prevent calcium deficiency is to switch to a calcium-rich diet. In addition to that, one must also take precautions and preventive measures to keep intact a healthy lifestyle where vices like excess alcohol consumption, smoking and eating too much of junk food are kept at bay. Try to exercise regularly and maintain healthy body weight. If required you can also consult with a nutritionist who can help you plan your meals and suggest you increase certain food intake as per the nutrient/vitamin requirement of your body.
Sometimes when there is not sufficient amount of calcium supplements in the diet, the doctor may ask you to take calcium supplements along with watching the calcium count in the diet. If a patient is losing weight he/she might be told to take a specific form of calcium like calcium citrate for better absorption.
What to eat in calcium deficiency?
Dairy products like yoghurt, cheese, and milk are rich in calcium. You can also find calcium in rice drinks, fortified soy and fish which can be consumed with the bones (sardines). Beans, figs, broccoli, spinach, leafy vegetables, tofu, soy milk, nuts, seeds are some other calcium-rich ingredients that you can easily add to your daily diet.
Few tricks to add more calcium from dairy products to your diet:
- For breakfast or a snack try to use milk instead of water to prepare oatmeal or other cereal
- Make whole-wheat pancakes using yoghurt or milk
- Create your own dip sauce with yoghurt
- Add milk or yoghurt to your fruit smoothie
- Take tiny bits of cheese as a dessert or a snack.
Few tricks to add more calcium from non-dairy products:
- Add loads and loads of greens- cabbage, green peas, broccoli, lettuce etc
- Make a sandwich with all your favourite green vegetables; you can also add a sardine or a slice of salmon to add that extra flavour
- Stew, soup or sauté beans and legumes, you can also add few chunks of tofu; black beans and other dried beans are super healthy and calcium-rich
- Have oats for breakfast
- Prepare sandwiches on whole grain wheat bread
Mineral water is also a good source of calcium, mineral water with a content of 150 mg of calcium/L can be regarded as rich in calcium.
What to avoid during calcium deficiency?
Did you know? A person loses about 300 mg of calcium every day via sweat, stool, and urine. The amount of calcium a person should intake depends on factors such as age, hormones, and sex. Adolescents are known to have high calcium requirement as the bone mass is continuously increasing, calcium requirement during pregnancy and breastfeeding also increases since there is a necessity of minerals in the infant to develop healthy bone structure. Most pregnant women are prescribed calcium supplements.
Certain things should be avoided when a person is suffering from calcium deficiency. The first thing that must be regulated is to eat food that is low in salt. Try to include fresh ingredients to your meal and keep away processed and preserved food. Have whole grains, vegetables, and fruits in fresh form. Limit your caffeine and carbonated drink intake. Make sure that whatever food is consumed it is rich in calcium and vitamin D. Junk food is a big no as they are high in cholesterol and salt (at times). Baked products and canned soups, vegetables are also not safe to consume in a calcium deficiency situation.
Soy products are very rich in calcium content but at times too much consumption may lead it to form a barrier in the absorption of calcium content in the body and some studies have even shown that soy can cause problems with bone strength.
Que1. What is the best source?
Ans- the best source of calcium are dairy products
Que2. Which fruit as more calcium?
Ans- Oranges, blackberries, strawberries, and raspberries are rich in calcium
Que3. Is there any calcium in bananas?
Ans- Bananas are rich in calcium, magnesium, and potassium
Que 4. What disease is caused by a lack of calcium?
Ans- Disease like hypocalcemia can be caused due to lack of calcium
Que 5. Can lack of calcium make you tired?
Ans- Yes, lack of calcium can lead to extreme kind of tiredness
Que 6. Does calcium help you sleep?
Ans- Calcium helps the brain to use amino acid tryptophan to manufacture melatonin which induces sleep
Que 7. Is low calcium dangerous?
Ans- Yes, it can prove dangerous and can lead to sudden fractures, loss of height, and curved spine.
Que 8. Can low calcium cause anxiety?
Ans- Yes, due to low calcium level you may feel anxious, depressed or irritable.