Hypercalcemia is a condition marked by elevated levels of calcium in your bloodstream. Although calcium is necessary for bone health and proper heart function, too much calcium in your blood can cause symptoms such as gastrointestinal problems, irritability, bone pain and increased risk of fracture. In some cases, hypercalcemia may lead to coma. Although hypercalcemia is typically caused by an underlying condition such as parathyroid disease or cancer, high calcium intake can also cause this condition. A low-calcium diet may help you manage hypercalcemia. Talk to your physician before reducing your calcium intake to address the condition.
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Dairy products are the primary sources of calcium in the typical American diet. Opting for dairy replacements instead of cow's milk, cheese, yogurt and cottage cheese may help reduce calcium levels in your bloodstream. A variety of soy products, such as soy milk, yogurt and cheese, are available as replacements for dairy products. Some supermarkets and health food stores also carry dairy replacements made from rice and almond milk. However, check package labels carefully -- some manufacturers fortify dairy replacements with calcium.
Foods to Limit or Avoid
Although calcium is primarily found in dairy products, it is also present in a variety of other foods. Vegetables such as broccoli, kale, spinach, dandelion greens, asparagus, cabbage and watercress contain calcium. This mineral is also found in fish such as tuna, mackerel and herring. Almonds, sesame seeds, oats, hot peppers, alfalfa and kelp also supply calcium in the diet.
Although reducing calcium in your diet may help lower hypercalcemia caused by excess intake of dairy products and other calcium-rich foods, a low-calcium diet may also pose health problems. Over time, reduced intake of calcium may contribute to osteoporosis, a condition marked by a decrease in bone density and increased risk of fractures. Calcium is also necessary for proper blood clotting -- a prolonged decrease in calcium intake may lead to excessive bleeding from wounds, according to certified nutritional consultant Phyllis Balch, author of "Prescription for Nutritional Healing."
Decreasing your calcium intake may not help manage hypercalcemia caused by cancer, parathyroid disorders, kidney failure, poor adrenal gland function or excessive vitamin D intake. These conditions cause excessive calcium levels in your bloodstream by triggering your body to leach this mineral from your bones, where most of the calcium in your body is stored. Treating hypercalcemia caused by an underlying condition involves addressing the condition causing excess calcium in your bloodstream, rather than reducing dietary calcium intake. For example, removal of the parathyroid gland may cure hypercalcemia in patients with parathyroid disorders, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.
- University of Maryland Medical Center; Hypercalcemia; Elizabeth H. Holt, M.D., Ph.D.; March 2008
- "Prescription for Nutritional Healing"; Phyllis A. Balch, C.N.C., et al.; 2010