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Are You Getting The Most From Your Calcium Supplement?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
I have previously shared that calcium is an important nutrient you may be missing in your diet. The newly released 2010 Dietary Guidelines lists calcium as a nutrient of concern because intake by many Americans is lower than recommended. There are also reports that getting too much calcium later in life can be detrimental.

Calcium is an essential nutrient, necessary for nerve transmission, hormone secretion, and muscle function in addition to vasodilation and constriction. Ninety-nine percent of the body's calcium supply is found in the bones and teeth. By the time we reach our 30's, we have reached the end of our bone building years. That means the bone building teen and early 20's are important ones for eating right. We can maintain healthy bone mass through healthy eating and this is especially important during our 40's and beyond. Adequate calcium from healthy eating becomes critical especially for post-menopausal women to limit bone breakdown and loss that increases osteoporosis risks. Male and female adults, ages 19-50, need 1,000 milligrams daily and those over age 51 should increase their intake to 1,200 milligrams daily. Males and females between the ages of 9-18 require 1,300 milligrams of calcium each day. A safe daily upper intake level has also been established as 2,500 milligrams for individuals between the ages of 19-50, and 2,000 milligrams for those over the age of 51.

There are many ways to boost your calcium intake but sometimes supplements are still necessary. Are you getting the most from yours?

Sometimes adding beans to soups, chili and pasta dishes or enjoying a smoothie made with yogurt just doesn't provide enough calcium. Don't drink milk? Regardless of why milk isn't in your diet, there are other sources of calcium rich and fortified foods to help you meet your daily needs. Foods such as collard greens, fortified juices, tofu and cereal as well as fortified non-dairy alternatives are included in many healthy diets. Because there are many natural and fortified foods rich in calcium, you may be meeting your estimated needs and taking a supplement unnecessarily and at risk of having too much. For this reason, it is important to talk with your medical provider about the need for a calcium supplement.

When a supplement is recommended, keep these tips in mind.
  • Avoid taking calcium with an iron supplement or a multivitamin with iron because calcium interferes with the absorption of iron which is also important for health.

  • Taking a supplement with food increases digestive secretions that help break down the supplement to increase calcium absorption. However, fiber reduces the absorption of calcium, so take your supplement with a meal or snack but not one that is high in fiber. Some find taking a calcium supplement with an evening snack or a glass of milk or juice before bed to be helpful.

  • Do not use dolomite, bone meal, unrefined oyster shell, or coral calcium as a source of calcium since they can contain lead or other contaminates and are poorly absorbed.

  • Look for supplements made from calcium carbonate or calcium citrate. Calcium carbonate will be cheaper and will be fine for most people but if you take any acid-blocking medications, select calcium citrate for best absorption. Do not take more than 500 milligrams of elemental calcium at one time since the body can only absorb and use so much at one time. If your medical provider recommends larger doses, take smaller doses several times during the day.

  • Calcium can impede the absorption of some medications such as the antibiotic tetracycline. It is important to talk with your pharmacist or medical provider about proper timing for calcium supplements when taking other medications.

  • If you take calcium supplements and experience gastrointestinal side effects such as gas, bloating, or constipation as well, it could be your supplement especially if you are taking calcium carbonate. To reduce or eliminate these side effects consider taking smaller doses several times a day and switching to calcium citrate, which is reported to cause fewer of these responses. You can also take a combination supplement that includes magnesium especially if constipation is your primary side effect.

  • Vitamin D improves calcium absorption so a combination supplement that includes this vitamin may be beneficial.
A healthy, well-balanced diet can meet the calcium needs of many people. When a stage in life such as adolescents, pregnancy or our older years make that difficult, supplementation allows us to make sure we get what we need. Following a few simple recommendations can ensure your body receives full benefit from the calcium supplement you take.

Do you take a calcium supplement? Which one of these tips provided you with new information to make the most it?

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