Calcium is a mineral that is vital to the strength and function of your body. Your bones and teeth contain calcium and rely on a steady intake to maintain density and prevent bone loss. Osteoporosis is a condition usually diagnosed in people over 50 where the bones become porous and brittle, and can easily break. It can be associated with a lack of calcium and vitamin D.
Calcium does other important jobs in your body, including involvement in blood production, muscle movement, and sending messages through the nerves. As your body loses calcium every day, it is important to take in the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for your age. As we will discuss, eating foods with calcium is better for you than taking supplements, but they can make up for any deficiency in your diet.
How much calcium do you need?
The amount of calcium you need depends on your age. It is recommended for women under 50 to take in 1000 mg of calcium per day, and women over 50 should consume 1200 mg of calcium per day. For men, the amounts are 1000 mg under age 70 and 1200 mg per day over age 70. The difference is because of hormonal changes that occur in women around menopause. Women are much more likely than men to develop osteoporosis.
There are many foods that can be incorporated into your diet that are rich in calcium, such as dairy and soy products, almonds, oranges, green leafy vegetables, and more. However, there are cases where either diet restrictions or absorption problems limit how much calcium can be obtained through diet alone. That’s where supplements can help, to bridge the gap to meet the suggested calcium intake for your age.
How to take calcium supplements
It is important not to exceed the recommended amount of calcium through supplements. The same is true of any dietary supplement. The way calcium is formulated affects how and when it should be taken. Supplements will state which type of calcium is in them and how much per serving.
- Calcium carbonate is affordable and is best absorbed by the body with stomach acid present. That means you should take it with a meal. Iron can make it harder to absorb calcium so it’s better not to take it with high-iron foods like red meat. If you take medication to reduce stomach acid, it may inhibit calcium absorption in this form.
- Calcium citrate is easier for your body to absorb without stomach acid, so you can take it without food.
- Smaller amounts are easier to absorb. Try not to take 500 mg or more at once, as your body will likely not be able to process it. If you need more than 200-300 mg per day in supplements, spread them out over the course of the day for the maximum benefit.
Possible side effects
Excessive calcium intake can cause some unpleasant side effects, like constipation, gas, and bloating. This can be minimized or avoided by testing the effects of a supplement and choosing a different one if you have a reaction. There are possible health risks linked to calcium supplements that have not been proven definitively. But it is best to take only the recommended amount.
Orthopedic physicians are experts in the musculoskeletal system and can help with any bone-related concern. If you are in Texas, call Tarpon Orthopedics at (972) 596-1059 for a consultation today in our West Plano, North Plano, or Addison, Texas locations.