The mineral, calcium, comes from many dietary sources. Dairy products, orange juice, spinach and broccoli are a few examples of foods rich in calcium. Calcium also comes in the form of supplements and antacids. Adding vitamin D to the diet increases the body’s ability to absorb calcium. The most common problem with calcium has to do with insufficient amounts. In rare cases, the body absorbs too much calcium and produces side effects.
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Calcium maintains healthy teeth and bones. According to the Office of Dietary Supplements, studies suggest that calcium can also lower blood pressure, help with weight maintenance and reduce the risk of colorectal cancer. Postmenopausal women can benefit from calcium supplements. Women with premenstrual syndrome gain some symptomatic relief with added calcium, according to the website of the Wall Street Journal.
While a proper diet would supply all of the nutrients needed, the reality of regulated eating does not take into consideration the skipped meals or fast food meals that result from busy schedules. The Office of Dietary Supplements reports that the Food and Nutrition Board recommends 1,000 mg of calcium per day for males and females, ages 19 to 50 years of age and 1,200mg of calcium per day for males and females, age 50 and older. Children and teens have varying needs as their bones continue to grow. Anyone taking calcium should also take 400 IU of vitamin D to aid in absorption of calcium. If taking a multi-vitamin daily, check the label. Vitamin D may already be a part of the vitamin, making it unnecessary to add more. Too much vitamin D can harm the body.
The possibility of taking in too much calcium from food happens occasionally. More often, supplementation causes higher levels of calcium in the blood. This can result in impairment of kidney function which then increases the absorption of iron, zinc, magnesium and phosphate. Kidney stones, consisting of calcium oxalate, might develop and cause pain. The increased levels of calcium, however, most often come from a condition called hyperparathyroidism, a condition in which the parathyroid glands over-produce parathyroid hormone. Supplementation with mega doses of 50,000 IU of calcium daily, when given to patients with advanced cancer, might also cause hypercalcemia.
Too much calcium in the body would manifest in severe fatigue, depression, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Too much calcium might also cause an irregular heartbeat and dangerously low blood pressure. Pain in the area of the kidney would suggest the formation and passing of stones.
The pea-shaped parathyroid glands, sit in front of the thyroid gland. They regulate the levels of calcium and phosphorus in the body, says FamilyDoctor.org. The release of parathyroid hormone by the glands tells the body when to stop absorbing calcium. A diseased parathyroid churns out too much parathyroid hormone, allowing excessive amounts of calcium to remain in the blood. The body reacts to what it perceives as a shortage by pulling calcium from the bones. This condition, called hyperparathyroidism, depletes the body of calcium via the kidneys. The most frequent victims of this disease include postpartum and postmenopausal women and the elderly.
Thiazide diuretics increase calcium levels when combined with calcium supplements. Other medications, such as mineral oil and laxatives, decrease absorption of calcium which results in too much calcium in the body.