Calcium Gluconate Vs. Calcium Carbonate

pack of yellow pills
Calcium supplement. (Image: Norasit Kaewsai/iStock/Getty Images)

Calcium gluconate and calcium carbonate are two commonly available forms of supplemental calcium. While calcium is best for you when obtained from food sources, you may need a supplement if you don’t get enough of this mineral on a daily basis. In addition to their common role in offsetting a calcium deficiency, both calcium carbonate and calcium gluconate have other specific uses.

Calcium Carbonate

Calcium carbonate is the most widely used form of supplemental calcium, according to the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Dietary Supplements. Because it contains a relatively high percentage of usable calcium, it also presents a good ratio of cost to effectiveness. Available forms of the supplement include capsules, tablets, chewable tablets and oral liquids. Typically, people who use calcium carbonate to combat deficiency take three to four daily doses either with or following meals. However, intakes may vary according to your doctor’s recommendation. Calcium carbonate also has antacid properties that can help you ease the symptoms of acid indigestion, an upset stomach and heartburn.

Calcium Gluconate

Calcium gluconate comes in forms that include tablets and powders. You may also receive a calcium gluconate injection. In addition to helping you treat or prevent a calcium deficiency, this supplement can be used to reduce your body’s levels of another mineral, called phosphate or phosphorus; it achieves this effect by lowering your ability to absorb the phosphorus content of your food during digestion. If you have too much phosphate in your body, you can develop a condition called hyperphosphatemia.

Calcium Carbonate Considerations

Calcium carbonate can interfere with the effects of certain vitamins and a variety of medications, include phenytoin, digoxin and tetracycline. Review your medication and vitamin use with your doctor first, and avoid taking this supplement within one to two hours of any other medicinal or nutrient product. Also review your pregnancy and breastfeeding status and any history of stomach problems or kidney disease. Potential side effects of calcium carbonate use include stomach pain, upset stomach, vomiting, constipation, belching, frequent urination, dry mouth and lack of appetite. Consult your doctor if you develop severe or ongoing versions of any of these effects.

Calcium Gluconate Considerations

Calcium gluconate can interfere with the effects of medications such as tetracycline, digoxin, doxycycline and minocycline. It can also interfere with other types of calcium supplements, as well as calcitriol or other vitamin D supplements and antacids. As with calcium carbonate, review your medication and supplement usage with your doctor before you take this supplement. Also tell your doctor if you have parathyroid gland problems or a history of kidney stones.

Potential side effects of calcium gluconate use include allergic reactions, constipation, increased thirst, dry mouth, nausea, vomiting and frequent urination. If you experience allergic effects such as breathing problems, hives or swelling in your tongue, lips, throat or face, seek medical assistance immediately.

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