What About Calcium?
Q: Hey Bill and Mike, What is the latest on Calcium requirements? It always confuses me, and my friends!
A: Well, you are not alone. If it makes you and your friends feel any better it confuses us too! Our best bottom line advice is do NOT overload on Calcium. We typically recommend 500-600mg supplemental daily in divided doses along with a diet that contains calcium. Check with your health care practitioner to be sure this meets your requirements.
Calcium is considered a major mineral meaning we need to consume a fair amount everyday for many reasons. It serves as a structural component in bones and teeth as well as a critical electrolyte used in the neuromuscular system. Calcium serves along with Magnesium and other electrolytes in an amazing capacity keeping nerve impulses moving along nerve pathways (remember those Anatomy/Physiology classes?) that is involved in every heartbeat and movement we make either voluntarily or involuntarily.
Calcium is available in several forms in vitamin stores. Calcium Citrate is a popular type because it is very well absorbed and affordable. Others forms are Calcium Gluconate, Calcium Chloride, Calcium Carbonate, etc. The carbonate form is used in Tums and other antacids. This type can neutralize stomach acid and help with heart burn or acid indigestion. Tums are not absorbed very well and generally we don’t recommend this form for general Calcium use.
Another common question is why are the pills so big? They are choking me! Well, here is your answer. If you weighed out 1000mg of calcium citrate powder which is about a quarter teaspoon, only 200mg of this is actually calcium. The rest is Citrate (citric acid). So to get 600mg calcium you would need to choke down over one-half teaspoonful of powder!
Another point is humans can only absorb 500-600mg calcium at one time, so you would want to take your pills in divided doses. It is available in capsules, tablets, chewable wafers, chocolate chews, liquids, powders, and many foods that are fortified with extra calcium and promoted for bone health. Common foods are dairy, almonds, sardines, many green leafy vegetables, and many others. Google search to find out other food sources.
Some reasons to be really careful of too much calcium might be a history of kidney stones or even family history of stones. Calcium can be constipating, so pay attention to your body when taking. Calcium can bind up many drugs and inhibit proper absorption. Ask your pharmacist about taking this along with your meds. General advice would be to take calcium 1-2 hours away from all meds.
To summarize, we probably should not megadose any supplement including calcium. It is better to take normal amounts in food or supplements on a consistent basis to reap the best benefits. If one type seems to cause digestive issues, switch to another type.
And as always, balance work and rest, hang with friends and family, do something kind for someone today, eat well, stay hydrated, exercise, and laugh a LOT more! Bill and Mike