A while back, a fellow member of an e-mail list serve that I belong to, asked the following:
“What do you take for calcium if you are not getting enough from diet. I used to take Tums, but now I heard that they don’t do anything. Any suggestions?”
I said there are 10 facts you need to know in order to make sure that you are getting the calcium that you need.
The first fact that you need to know is that that you need an acidic ph in your stomach to help absorb the calcium. Our bodies supply this naturally w/ our own stomach acid. If you have a healthy digestive system that has not been abused w/ antacids, you are ok. But as we get older some people’s stomachs secrete less acid; to safeguard against this, some companies add Betaine HCl – a digestive enzyme and Vitamin C to their calcium supplements insure the proper Ph.
So what is Tums? It’s an antacid which uses a very cheap form of calcium called Calcium Carbonate that has an antacid effect all it’s own and therefore is mal-absorbed and you don’t get any calcium into your system. Remember, it’s not what you eat/take…It’s what you absorb!
The second fact that you need to know is that the two best-absorbed Calcium’s are Calcium Citrate and Microcrystallline Hydroxyapatite Concentrate (MCHC). MCHC is a complete bone food; it contains proteins (to produce collagen – the mesh that the calcium/minerals attaches it to form the bone) and other ingredients that comprise the organic portion of the bone, as well as calcium and other minerals.
Calcium citrate produces a higher peak calcium level in the blood. This is an interesting finding because the carbonate supplements actually contain more calcium per pill than those with the citrate.
I personally use a supplement that contains both MCHC and Calcium Citrate.
Your calcium supplement and/or your multi-vitamin/mineral should contain Vitamin K and boron as well as a complete mineral profile as these help your bones absorb calcium.
The third fact that you need to know is how to read the label of calcium supplements; most labels will list:
Calcium Citrate(1 tablet)………………….250 mg
But what you want to see listed is the Elemental Calcium; that is how much calcium you are getting; the rest of it is the citrate part of compound.
The four fact is that you need to take magnesium along w/ the calcium; magnesium helps activates the parathyroid hormone and Vitamin D that helps us to absorb the calcium into our digestive systems as well as working as a counterbalance to calcium in nerve stimulation/relaxation and prevent us from getting constipated from taking too much calcium. The present accepted ratio of calcium to magnesium is 2 to 1:( Ca 200/Mg 100).
The fifth fact is that you need Vitamin D in order to absorb the calcium. The current RDA is 200-400IU though with all the current research on Vitamin D and its effect on our immune system, some are suggesting that the new RDA be 800-1000IU. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin and can build up to toxic levels (above 10,000IU a day ) so be careful if you are taking cod liver oil or something similar. Always read labels carefully. Also try taking in sunshine for 20 minutes a day minus the sun block so that your body can make its own Vitamin D.
The sixth fact is that you should be taking your calcium supplement in the evening hours as that is when your Para-thyroid gland is most active. It increases gastrointestinal calcium absorption by activating Vitamin D and promotes calcium uptake by the kidneys
The seventh fact is that you should be taking calcium yrs before you enter menopause. Contrary to common misconception, bone is a living substance; one of the most active tissues in the body. It is constantly being dissolved and rebuilt in a process called remodeling and like any other living tissue, needs nourishment to stay strong and healthy. So in my opinion, a woman should take 400mg to 600 mg before she is 40 yrs. old (pregnant women need a lot more), take 600-1000 mg after 40. I recommend that you do not take more than 600mg in supplement form but try to get the majority of your calcium from foods like beans, leafy greens, almonds and some quality dairy products if you are not lactose-intolerant
The eighth fact is that some companies use fillers and binders that make it impossible for the calcium tablet to break down in your digestive system and be absorbed.
There is a simple test you can do at home: put 1/4 of a cup of vinegar in a jar (similar acidic ph as our stomachs), drop the Calcium supplement into jar, close and shake well for 15 min and then leave it on counter for 3 hrs…if it is not dissolved by then…then you are not absorbing it. You can do this to all your vitamins/minerals. I personally use and recommend a brand of vitamin/mineral that is highly absorbable…and I am of the opinion that you get what you pay for. Remember, it’s not what you eat/take…It’s what you absorb!
The ninth fact is that use of weight bearing exercise such as wt. training, swimming or using a cross-country machine accelerates the deposition of minerals into the bones.
The tenth fact is that there have been studies that show that overuse of animal proteins (western diet vs. eastern diet) and overuse of carbonated drinks (sodas/seltzer) accelerates the loss of minerals from our bones. There are also studies that show that the calcium in milk/ dairy products is not as well absorbed as the milk companies would have you believe. So I would suggest that you increase your intake of veggie protein (soy, nuts, beans and legumes , leafy greens and cruciferous veggies) and eat a moderate amount of animal protein and forget the sodas
© 2010-Dr. Vittoria Repetto / revised -2013