Does Diet Affect the Parathyroid?

Grilled salmon and vegetables
A healthy salmon dinner. (Image: gbh007/iStock/Getty Images)

Your parathyroid glands help to maintain normal blood calcium levels -- between 8.5 to 10.2 mg per deciliter of blood. The parathyroid gland releases parathyroid hormone when blood calcium levels dip below 8.5 mg/dL, which causes the body to release calcium from bones, decrease the amount of calcium excreted in the urine and increase the amount of calcium absorbed from the intestines. Dietary factors also have an effect on the amount of parathyroid hormone the parathyroid excretes.

Calcium Intake

Dietary calcium intake affects the amount of parathyroid hormone your body needs. The failure to consume adequate amounts of calcium prevents the body from absorbing enough calcium through the intestines, which causes blood calcium levels to drop and promotes the release of parathyroid hormone. Consuming too much calcium, on the other hand, causes blood calcium levels to increase and decreases the amount of parathyroid hormone released by the parathyroid. Adults need between 1,000 mg and 2,500 mg each day. Dietary sources of calcium include milk, dairy products, canned sardines or salmon with bones and dark green leafy vegetables.

Vitamin D Intake

Your body’s absorption of calcium depends on the amount of vitamin D you consume and get from the sun. An easy way to get adequate amounts of vitamin D involves getting 10 to 15 minutes of direct sunlight each day. You also get vitamin D from eggs, fish and vitamin D fortified foods. Decreased levels of vitamin D means decreased calcium absorption, which causes the body to increase the production of parathyroid hormone. Consume 600 International Units, or 15 mcg, of vitamin D each day to keep your body healthy and keep calcium absorption at optimal levels.

Phosphorous Intake

Phosphorous affects the amount of vitamin D available to the body and the amount of calcium excreted from the body. A low intake of phosphorous results in low phosphate levels in your body, while a high intake of phosphorous causes high phosphate levels. A high level of phosphate in your blood reduces the amount of active vitamin D in your kidneys, which reduces your blood calcium levels and increases the amount of parathyroid hormone released by your parathyroid glands. Adults need 700 mg of phosphorous each day. Most foods contain phosphorous. Meats, fish, dairy products and eggs contain the highest levels of phosphorous.

Considerations

Calcium absorption decreases when you consume compounds that bind to calcium. Common foods that decrease your ability to absorb calcium include spinach, cocoa, soybeans, wheat bran and tea. Medications may also decrease your ability to absorb calcium, especially laxatives, corticosteroids and anticonvulsants. If you have any disease of the parathyroid glands, consult your physician or dietitian specializing in parathyroid dysfunction. Do not make dietary changes to control parathyroid disease without medical supervision, because excess production of parathyroid hormone increases your risk of osteoporosis.

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