Since I covered magnesium a couple weeks ago I thought it would be nice to cover it’s partner in crime and give calcium a little time in the spotlight…
The bone mineral. 99% of the body’s calcium is stored in the bones and teeth, where it supports their structure and function. The body uses the remaining 1% for vital processes such as vascular contraction and vasodilation, muscle function, nerve transmission, intracellular signaling and hormonal secretion.
A very important mineral but, as mentioned in the Mag-nify Your Health post, calcium needs to work in balance with magnesium. In the right proportions it is vital for health and function but unfortunately it’s quite misunderstood. More is not better with calcium. The right amount, management and use of it is key. The details matter quite a bit with calcium so let’s take a look at some notes and thoughts on the mineral that is believed to be the so called preventer of osteoporosis…
Calcium “intake” doesn’t matter.
It’s what your body does with it that matters. Do you absorb it? Then, can your body even use it properly? Calcium without vitamins A, D and K2 is lost. Calcium without magnesium is like chalk. Chalk is made of calcium carbonate, the same as antacids and many calcium supplements. What happens to chalk if you drop it? It breaks. On the contrary, what happens to ivory if you drop it? It bounces. Ivory is what happens when you add magnesium and phosphorus to calcium. On its own calcium isn’t too impressive.
Does your body even get the calcium you eat?
Low stomach acid is a big problem here. If you can’t cleave calcium, you don’t absorb it and your body and bones don’t get it. Higher refined food diets will end up lowering stomach acid production and lead to more minerals like calcium being unavailable. Antacids only hinder stomach acid more which leads to even less digestion and breakdown. Eating higher plant based diets, such as vegetarian and vegan, will also typically hinder stomach acid production over time.
Phytates are also a problem. They can bind to minerals and render them unabsorbable. One of the biggest issue with a high grain diet is the increased presence of phytates grabbing hold of calcium. One of the biggest offenders in the modern diet is wheat, but most grains, beans, nuts and seeds are also often high in phytic acid. Diets high in these foods will grab calcium and take it right through the body.
There is also some evidence suggesting that components in dairy foods block the absorption of calcium in humans, rendering it useless. That would mean if someone were to be drinking milk, eating cheese or yogurt for its high calcium content it would be a fruitless practice.
High carbohydrate diets require more calcium on a metabolic baseline level just to process all the carbohydrates in the body, leaving less for bone, teeth and body use.
Protein aids in calcium absorption. This is why low protein diets are often associated with low bone density.
Vegetables and animal products, such as bone broths, are much more “available” sources of calcium.
Does Your Body Use Calcium Properly?
Vitamins A, D and K2 manage and direct calcium. Minerals like magnesium, zinc and manganese partner with calcium to strengthen bones. Without these, calcium ends up not in the bones but elsewhere in the body. Being an excitatory mineral, you want it to be shuttled to the proper places and not roaming free. You also want to be in calcium-magnesium balance to optimize many other functions in the body.
Acidity in the body leaches calcium to attempt to alkalinize the body. So even if you are getting high levels of calcium you might be pulling it out of storage (bones) to deal with an acidic metabolism. Once it gets pulled out, it gets used up for that process. If not used for alkalinization it doesn’t get put back into storage unless A, D and K2 tell it where to go. Even with the right direction from those vitamins, without supporting minerals like magnesium and potassium, it can’t make a strong matrix in the bone.
What causes acidity?
Refined foods, particularly carbohydrates (e.g. wheat/flour)
The best way to allow the body to use calcium properly is to manage your acid producing behaviors and maximize your vitamin A, D and K2 intake along with complimentary minerals like magnesium, zinc and manganese.
Will calcium supplements help?
Probably not and they may even do more harm than good. As mentioned before, most supplements are calcium carbonate and without adequate mineral cofactors you are eating chalk and may just have extra calcium floating around. Excess calcium leads to calcification, not a good thing if we are talking about gall stones, kidney stones and plaque buildup in your arteries. Some recent research and meta analyses have even correlated calcium supplementation with increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Although it is correlative, we now understand why it’s something to be aware of.
Drugs like Boniva can get some calcium to your bones but not in the way it is commonly believed. This drug acts like a patch on the outside of the bone. It might fill in and cover up a few superficial holes but it doesn’t make the inside of the support beam any stronger.
Also be wary of calcium fortified foods. If you add calcium to a food (not natural, by the way) it will not have the other balancing nutrients to maximize its utilization.
How to Maximize the Calcium in Your Life
1. Eat natural sources of calcium, preferrably with high bioavailability and complimentary levels of other minerals and micronutrients… bone broth, fatty fish (sardines, salmon, herring), seafood (oysters, clams, shrimp, haddock), greens (turnip, collard, kale, spinach, swiss chard), cabbage (bok choi), broccoli, sesame seeds, brazil nuts, blackstrap molasses, kelp, and oranges.
2. Eat adequate amounts of vitamin A, D and K2 and magnesium from high quality, pastured animal products and vegetables.
3. Minimize acidity by limiting stress, refined foods, sugar, alcohol, caffeine and smoking.
4. Challenge your body with weight bearing activity (anything will do, even bodyweight exercise).
So there’s just a few notes on calcium, hope it gave you some things to think about…
Thanks for reading, have a great calcium maximizing day!