5 Signs You’re Not Getting Enough Calcium in Your Diet. (Post may contain affiliate links).
I’ve been getting a lot of questions about the importance of calcium in the diet. Thus, I decided to put together an informative article with a few important facts. I’ve provided references for further study as well. (You can find the links at the bottom of the article).
5 Signs you’re not getting enough Calcium in your diet.
1. You get frequent fractures.
On the surface, this may seem obvious. However, the reason why low dietary calcium can lead to weak bones may not be so obvious. Let me explain.
When calcium in the diet is low, the first thing that will happen is that blood serum levels will drop. As a result, parathyroid hormone, which keeps serum calcium levels stable, will “borrow” calcium from bones. If insufficient calcium is being brought into the body through the diet or supplements, this will eventually result in calcium depletion in the bones. Thus, you will have weakened bones.
This is why having your Calcium blood level checked is not a reliable indicator of healthy calcium status. As long as calcium intake is low, the body will continue to pull calcium out of the bones to use it for other important body processes.
This is because Calcium is not just important for healthy bones and teeth. It is also important for:
- Muscle Contraction
- Normal functioning of many enzymes
- Blood clotting
- Normal Heart Rhythm
2. You have symptoms such as muscle spasms, numbness, bone and/or muscle aches.
These are very general symptoms and can mean many things besides calcium deficiency. Thus, it is important to see your doctor when you have symptoms such as these so that together you can determine the root of the problem.
3. When you have a broken bone, it takes too long to heal.
What constitutes too long and what is normal? Well, that depends…The amount of time a bone takes to heal after a fracture varies by
- The type and severity of the fracture
- The age and health of the person with the fracture
- Where the fracture is located.
For example, an athletic high school student with a hairline fracture might only require 3 weeks for the fracture to heal. In contrast, an inactive 50 year old might require as long as 8 weeks for the same fracture to heal.
Your medical doctor will help to explain what is a “normal” healing time. If your fracture is taking much longer to heal, then it might be time for a bone density test to make sure your bone is healthy.
4. Your bone density test comes back low.
A Bone Density Test, also known as a “DEXA,” measures the density of your bone in order to determine if you have osteoporosis.
According to Mayo Clinic:
“A bone density test uses X-rays to measure how many grams of calcium and other bone minerals are packed into a segment of bone. The bones that are most commonly tested are in the spine, hip and sometimes the forearm.”
The thing about bone density is that it is best to get a test before you start getting a lot of fractures. However, if you get a lot of fractures, this is one of the most accurate measures of the status of calcium and the health of your bones.
5. You don’t drink milk, or eat cheese, yogurt or other dairy products.
This is a common dietary concern because many people are lactose intolerant or have a milk protein allergy. Also, people are avoiding dairy more often these days because of other health concerns. For example, vegans do not eat any dairy products. If you do not consume dairy products, it is extremely important that you consume alternate sources of calcium.
Click here for free tables to help you determine your calcium needs and for lists of calcium rich foods, both diary and non-dairy.
What if it isn’t Calcium that’s the problem and it’s something else?
For example, insufficient vitamin D, inactive lifestyle, cancer of the bone, brittle bone disease can all result in weakening of the bones. The medical term for brittle bone disease is Osteogenesis Imperfecta.
The most common cause of non-calcium related weakened bones is Vitamin D Deficiency.
Vitamin D deficiency
Vitamin D is absolutely necessary for your body to properly use Calcium. Many people in the world are deficient in this important vitamin. Part of the reason is fear of skin cancer. People are afraid to go into the sun without high protection suntan lotion. And that’s understandable. However, when you put on that heavy 30 plus UV protection, you are filtering out important sun rays that help your body produce vitamin D naturally.
Another thing that puts a person at risk of vitamin D deficiency is if you live in a region above 45 degrees Latitude North or South of the equator, the sun isn’t as strong. Thus, people living in these regions are more likely to have vitamin D insufficiency and even deficiency.
Many experts agree that 400 IU vitamin D daily isn’t sufficient to keep vitamin D status in the normal range. This is why it is important to have your vitamin D serum level checked to make sure you are not deficient. If your doctor determines you are low, he or she will most likely prescribe a higher dose of vitamin D to get you within normal levels.
How to be sure you are getting enough Calcium in Your Diet.
- Calcium rich foods (Click here for Tables)
- Vitamin D rich foods to help body absorb calcium
- Be aware of what can interfere with Calcium absorption
- Exercise to help your body better utilize the calcium in your diet
Can exercise help?
Yes! Weight bearing exercise in particular helps the body re-build bone. In fact, the way it works is similar to the way weight lifting strengthens muscle.
Examples of weight bearing exercise include:
- Climbing stairs
- Playing tennis
- Jumping rope
- Step aerobics
- Anything that requires you to be on your feet, “bearing your own weight” is considered weight bearing exercise.
No matter what, if you suspect that you or anyone in your family might have a calcium or vitamin D deficiency, seek your health professional immediately.