The majority of calcium in the human body is found in the bones. Calcium not only strengthens bones and teeth but also is needed for vascular contraction, vasodilation, muscle function and nerve transmission. Calcium is found in dairy products such as milk, yogurt and cheese and in broccoli and kale. Calcium deficiency is a serious condition that can lead to osteoporosis. Talk with your physician before taking calcium supplements.
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Calcium Deficiency (Hypocalcemia)
There are a variety of factors that can cause severe calcium deficiency, or hypocalcemia. Hypocalcemia occurs as a result of inadequate dietary intake or poor absorption. Unbalanced calcium levels in the blood or in the fluid that surrounds cells causes the body to demineralize or break down bone to re-establish normal levels. Symptoms of calcium deficiency include numbness, tingling in the fingers, muscle cramps, convulsions, poor appetite, abnormal heat rhythms and, in severe cases, death, according to the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements.
Hormonal imbalance can cause calcium deficiency. The parathyroid gland, which is located behind the thyroid gland in the throat, secretes parathyroid hormone, or PTH. Parathyroid hormone plays a vital role in maintaining and regulating levels of calcium and phosphorus in the blood. Hypoparathyroidism, a rare autoimmune disease in which the body produces low levels of PTH, causes calcium deficiency due to low calcium and increased phosphorus levels. Removal or damage to the parathyroid also interfere with parathyroid production.
Magnesium is a mineral that is also found in the bone. In addition to regulating blood-sugar levels, maintaining blood pressure and keeping bones strong, magnesium also helps the body metabolize calcium. Magnesium deficiency, which can occur from alcoholism, diabetes, taking diuretics or inadequate dietary intake, interrupts calcium metabolism, causing calcium deficiency. In addition, when levels of magnesium are low, bone cells are less responsive to parathyroid hormone, which further lowers calcium levels.
Vitamin D Deficiency
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is obtained from food or is made when the body is exposed to sunlight. According to Oregon State University's Linus Pauling Institute, vitamin D supports calcium absorption and maintains the balance between calcium and phosphorus. Although vitamin D deficiency primarily occurs from inadequate dietary intake, there are also certain conditions, such as cystic fibrosis, Crohn’s disease and cholestatic liver disease, that decrease the body’s ability to absorb vitamin D. Other risk factors for vitamin D deficiency include aging, dark pigmented skin and obesity.