Lack of Calcium: Causes and Symptoms of Calcium Deficiency
When the body experiences a lack of calcium, more than the skeletal system will be affected by the deficiency. Calcium is one of several essential nutrients that the body has to have in order to grow and function properly. Without calcium the body would be unable to regulate blood pressure, create teeth, shed fat efficiently, or even maintain healthy blood vessels. The effects of a lack of calcium in the body aren’t always clear in the early stages of deficiency, but those who are familiar with the symptoms are more likely to take notice soon after the onset of symptoms.
What Causes a Calcium Deficiency?
A calcium deficiency can occur through lack of calcium in the diet, the inability to absorb calcium in the intestines, and also through a vitamin D deficiency. There are a lot of foods that contain calcium, such as dairy products, tofu, almonds, kale, collard greens, mustard greens, turnip greens, spinach, okra, and some species of fish. If one doesn’t consume these foods on a regular basis then it would be safe to say that any resulting calcium deficiency would likely be caused by not getting enough calcium through the foods that he/she eats.
Sometimes it’s not always a case of eating calcium-rich foods. For some individuals the issue can lie in being deficient in vitamin D. The body uses vitamin D to help it absorb calcium and if there isn’t enough vitamin D on hand then the body simply flushes out the unabsorbed calcium. A vitamin D deficiency is one of the more likely causes behind lack of calcium in the body because only a few foods contain vitamin D. In fact, studies suggest that the average person only gets about 20 percent of their daily recommended allowance of vitamin D from food. The primary source of vitamin D is sunlight.
Aside from being low on vitamin D, there are other reasons why the intestines might have trouble absorbing calcium from food. One such reason is medication. Some products, like medication designed to lower cholesterol, diuretics, and antibiotics, can interfere with the body’s ability to draw calcium from food. Other medications known to interfere with calcium absorption include corticosteroids and anti-seizure medicine.
What Are Some Signs That the Body Lacks Calcium?
The symptoms that arise with a calcium deficiency can vary depending on how long the deficiency has occurred and how severe the condition is. One of the early signs that the body is low on calcium is muscle cramping. In women, this is usually felt as increased menstrual cramps (among other enhanced PMS symptoms). Cramping in the legs, which may be particularly bad at night time, is likely a sign that one’s body is running low on calcium. Dry skin and brittle or cracked fingernails and toenails are other early signs of a calcium deficiency. Over time, if one does nothing to correct the deficiency, lack of calcium can lead to yellowing of the nails, feelings of depression, increased blood pressure, poor blood vessel health, increased risk of heart disease, weakening of the bones and teeth, and eventually brain damage.
How is Lack of Calcium Treated?
In order to treat a calcium deficiency, one must figure out whether the issue is caused by simply not eating enough calcium-rich foods, medication, or not getting enough vitamin D. In any case, it can certainly help to increase the amount of calcium in the diet. Foods like leafy green vegetables and low-fat milk, cheese, and yogurt are great foods to start with. Calcium-enriched orange juice can also help to raise calcium levels. Calcium supplements may be recommended in cases where the individual doesn’t like most calcium-rich foods or when the body needs a significant amount of calcium to replenish its deficit. If the likely culprit behind the calcium deficiency is a medication then it might be worthwhile to stop taking that medication, if possible. If the medication cannot be discontinued then one might consider asking his/her doctor whether it would be possible to switch to a medication that doesn’t interfere with calcium absorption. In cases where there is no alternative medicine, the patient will likely be instructed to increase their calcium and vitamin D content while using the medication.
Can Calcium Deficiency be Prevented?
The good news is that a calcium deficiency can usually be prevented with a bit of forethought. Eating a well-rounded diet with plenty of green vegetables, low-fat or fat-free dairy products, and seafood will help to ensure that enough calcium is being put into the body. A few hours of sunlight exposure each week should also help to ensure that one’s vitamin D levels are sufficient for calcium absorption. Women between the ages of 9 – 18 and 50 onward have a higher calcium requirement and should make an effort to consume between 1,200mg and 1,500mg of calcium every day. Women between the ages of 18 and 50 should have around 1,000mg of calcium every day. Unlike women, men are not as prone to developing osteoporosis, or bone loss, and only require about 1,000mg of calcium until the age of 70 when the recommended daily amount increases to 1,200mg.
The symptoms of a calcium deficiency are likely to be discovered before they become too severe. In any case, one should definitely attempt to speak to a doctor about any concerns regarding vitamin deficiency and the symptoms caused by this condition. In the event that a severe depletion of calcium occurs within the body, it can be dangerous to suddenly ingest large amounts of calcium without the supervision of a doctor.