Getting enough calcium can help keep your bones strong and protect you from developing osteoporosis. Because it can be difficult to meet the recommended dietary allowance through diet alone, your physician may recommend you take calcium supplements. However, these can cause side effects like stomach gas, especially if you take too high a dose. Talk to your doctor before taking calcium, and tell her if you experience gas or other side effects.
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Types of Supplements
Calcium supplements come in several different forms, including calcium carbonate and calcium citrate. Calcium citrate is the easiest for your body to absorb and digest, making it less likely to cause adverse side effects like gas. However, calcium citrate only contains 21 percent elemental calcium, while calcium carbonate contains 40 percent. Elemental calcium is the actual amount of calcium present in a supplement. If you take calcium carbonate, you need to have a certain amount of stomach acid to digest it, so this pill is often taken with orange juice. Two other types of supplements are calcium gluconate and calcium lactate, but these only contain 9 and 13 percent elemental calcium, respectively.
Side Effects and Remedies
Common side effects of calcium supplements include constipation, gas, bloating and other types of stomach upset. This is more common with calcium carbonate, but if you experience gas from your supplement, talk to your doctor about taking a different kind. Not taking more than 500 milligrams of calcium at a time can also decrease your chances of developing side effects. Your body cannot absorb more than 500 milligrams at a time, so it is best to spread your supplements out throughout the day.
High Intake of Supplements
If you take too many calcium supplements, this can cause gas and stomach upset as well. Do not take more than 2,500 milligrams of calcium a day if you are under 50, or more than 2,000 a day if you are over 50. This is the tolerable upper limit for the mineral. Taking more than this may cause nausea, vomiting, a decreased appetite, increased urination, an irregular pulse and other side effects. Always talk to your doctor before exceeding the recommended dietary allowance, which is 1,000 milligrams a day for those under 50 and 1,200 milligrams a day for those over 50.
Discuss calcium supplements with your doctor before you start taking them. Tell him about any other supplements or medications you take, as well as any conditions you have, as these can determine whether or not you can safely take calcium supplements. Avoid supplements that have been made from oyster shells, dolomite or bone meal, because these may contain lead, which is toxic.
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.