What Is the Best Time to Take a Calcium Supplement?

If you have low levels of calcium, your doctor may suggest adding supplementary calcium pills to your daily routine. The best time to take calcium tablets depends on what other medications you're taking and what type of calcium supplement you prefer.

The best time to take calcium tablets is with a meal, and roughly two hours before and four to six hours after taking any other medications that might interact with the calcium pills.
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Tip

The best time to take calcium tablets is with a meal, and roughly two hours before and four to six hours after taking any other medications that might interact with the calcium pills. You can take Tums as a source of calcium with a meal, snack or acidic drink like orange juice.

If you're taking Tums as a source of calcium, make sure you do so with food. The over-the-counter antacid contains calcium carbonate, which requires stomach acid for your body to absorb it properly.

Why Take Calcium Pills?

The body uses calcium for a variety of things, including strengthening bones and teeth, nerve communication, releasing hormones and regulating your heartbeat. Your recommended daily calcium intake depends on your age, sex and whether you're pregnant or breastfeeding. The National Institutes of Health suggests:

  • 200 milligrams per day for infants up to 6 months old
  • 260 milligrams per day for babies ages 7 to 12 months
  • 700 milligrams per day for children ages 1 to 3 years
  • 1,000 milligrams per day for children ages 4 to 8
  • 1,300 milligrams per day for children ages 9 to 13
  • 1,300 milligrams per day for teens ages 14 to 18
  • 1,000 milligrams per day for adults ages 19 to 50
  • 1,000 milligrams per day for men ages 51 to 70
  • 1,200 milligrams per day for women ages 51 to 70
  • 1,200 milligrams per day for adults ages 71 and over
  • 1,300 milligrams per day for pregnant and breastfeeding teens
  • 1,000 milligrams per day for pregnant and breastfeeding adults

Most people can get sufficient calcium from their diet. Calcium-rich foods and beverages include dairy products, seeds, beans, seafood, fortified foods and certain leafy greens. However, if you don't get enough calcium from your diet, you may be at risk for calcium deficiency (hypocalcemia).

The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health explains that when you don't eat enough calcium, your body "borrows" stored calcium from your teeth and bones, which affects your bone mass, making your bones less dense. This can increase your risk of developing osteoporosis. Other symptoms of hypocalcemia include numbness, muscle spasms and tingling in the hands and feet.

In order to protect your bone mass, ensure that your diet is packed with bone-healthy foods. It's also crucial to introduce weight-bearing exercise into your workouts, if you don't already do so.

Read more: Do You Have a Calcium Deficiency? Here's How to Tell

When to Take Calcium Pills

According to the Mayo Clinic, the best time to take calcium tablets depends on what type of supplement you're taking. Calcium pills containing calcium citrate can be taken with or without food, but those containing calcium carbonate should be taken with food, either at a full meal or with a snack.

You should also ensure you don't take too many calcium pills too close together — consuming too much calcium can be toxic. There are recommended tolerable upper intake levels for calcium:

  • 1,000 milligrams per day for infants ages 0 to 6 months
  • 1,500 milligrams per day for infants ages 7 to 12 months
  • 2,500 milligrams a day for toddlers and kids ages 1 to 8 years
  • 3,000 milligrams a day for kids and teens ages 9 to 18 years
  • 2,500 milligrams a day for adults ages 19 to 50 years
  • 2,000 milligrams a day for adults 51 and older
  • 3,000 milligrams a day for anyone pregnant or breastfeeding ages 14 to 18 years
  • 2,500 milligrams a day for anyone pregnant or breastfeeding ages 19 to 51 years

Symptoms of hypercalcemia include excessive thirst or urination, nausea, vomiting, bone pain, muscle weakness and depression. The condition is also linked to weakened bones and a higher risk of developing kidney stones.

If you're taking calcium supplements, be sure to follow the instructions on the label to avoid a potentially harmful buildup of calcium levels. If you're concerned about the calcium levels in your diet as well, speak with your physician.

Read more: Can a Person Overdose on Calcium?

Drug Interactions and Calcium Pills

If you're taking other prescription medications, ask your doctor about the best time to take calcium tablets — or whether it's recommended for you to take them at all. Supplemental calcium can interfere with other drugs. According to the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University, specific medications you should probably not mix with calcium pills include:

  • Thiazide diuretics (Diuril, Microzide), prescribed to treat high blood pressure. Calcium pills taken alongside thiazide diuretics can increase the risk of hypercalcemia, which is when the calcium levels in your blood are higher than normal.
  • Tetracycline, a type of antibiotic, should be taken two hours before calcium pills or four to six hours after calcium pills. This is because supplementary calcium can decrease tetracycline absorption.
  • Levothyroxine (Synthroid, Levo-T), typically used for treating hypothyroidism, should be taken two hours before calcium pills or four to six hours after calcium pills. Supplementary calcium pills can decrease levothyroxine absorption, potentially making the medicine less effective.

These are just a few examples of how calcium pills can interact with other medications, so always check with your physician about any drugs you are currently taking before you add supplementary calcium to your regimen.

Read more: Should You Take Calcium and Magnesium Together?

Calcium in Tums

You can take Tums as a source of calcium, since it contains calcium carbonate. One serving of TUMS® Regular Strength provides 500 milligrams of calcium carbonate (200 milligrams of elemental calcium per tablet); TUMS® Extra Strength provides 750 milligrams (200 milligrams of elemental calcium per tablet); and TUMS® Ultra Strength 1,000 provides 1,000 milligrams of calcium carbonate (400 milligrams of elemental calcium per tablet).

The Arthritis Foundation cautions that Tums may cause gas or constipation and stresses that you should take Tums with food or an acidic beverage like orange juice. If you notice any gastrointestinal side effects from taking Tums as a source of calcium, stop taking it and talk to your physician.

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