Minerals are specific kinds of nutrients that your body needs in order to function properly. A mineral deficiency occurs when your body doesn’t obtain or absorb the required amount of a mineral.
There are five main categories of mineral deficiency: calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, and zinc.
The human body requires different amounts of each mineral and vitamin to stay healthy. Specific needs are outlined in Recommended Daily Allowances (RDA). The RDA is the average amount that meets the needs of about 97 percent of healthy people and is determined by the WHO. They can be obtained from food, mineral supplements, and food products that have been fortified with extra minerals.
A deficiency often happens slowly over time and can be caused by a number of reasons. An increased need for the mineral due to different kinds of stress, lack of the mineral in the diet, or difficulty absorbing the mineral from food are some of the more common reasons. Mineral deficiencies can lead to a variety of health problems, such as anemia (which we already covered in Iron deficiency…http://www.cosmostotalhealth.org/2017/03/25/minerals-of-life/), fatigue, weak bones, or even a decreased immune system.
Calcium is to the bones what iron is in the blood
Calcium is needed for strong bones and teeth just as Iron is essential for the blood. It also supports proper function of your blood vessels, muscles, nerves, and hormones. Natural sources of calcium include milk, yogurt, cheese, and small fish with bones, beans, and peas. Vegetables such as broccoli, kale, and Chinese cabbage also provide calcium. Some foods are also fortified with the mineral, including tofu, cereals, and juices in some countries.
CAUSES OF CALCIUM DEFICIENCY
Unfortunately, most people, especially in the so-called developing world, don’t meet the current recommendations for adequate calcium intake which is now 1000mg for adults either through diet alone or through diet plus calcium supplements and they, therefore, suffer symptoms of low calcium.
Furthermore, numerous factors have been found to impair calcium absorption and/or to lower calcium levels in the blood. These factors include:
- Vitamin D deficiency
- Magnesium deficiency
- High sodium or salt intake
- Diet high in sugar
- High phosphorus intake (found in cola soft drinks and food additives)
- Chronic kidney disease
- Abnormal parathyroid function (due to neck/thyroid surgery or autoimmune disease)
- Bariatric surgery (gastric bypass)
- Low gastric juice in the elderly
- Drugs (proton pump inhibitors, chemotherapy, anti-seizure drugs, steroids, antacids, etc.)
22 CALCIUM DEFICIENCY SIGNS & SYMPTOMS
A calcium deficiency produces few obvious symptoms in the short term. That’s because your body carefully regulates the amount of calcium in the blood. Lack of calcium over the long term can lead to decreased bone mineral density called osteopenia. If left untreated that can turn into osteoporosis. This increases the risk of bone fractures and long-term disability, especially in older adults.
Calcium Deficiency Symptoms
Calcium deficiency symptoms can vary widely—ranging from nonexistent or mild to severe and life-threatening. Chronic untreated calcium deficiency can cause many severe consequences, including rickets, osteopenia, and osteoporosis. However, even though calcium deficiency may not be associated with any symptoms, especially early on, metabolic alterations or potential dysfunctions have already occurred.
Low blood calcium levels and the lack of calcium may lead to the following low calcium symptoms:
- Heart problems involving blood pressure &failure
- Chest pains
- Numbness and tingling sensations around the mouth or in the fingers and toes
- Muscle cramps, particularly in the back and legs; may progress to muscle spasm ( tetany)
- Difficulty swallowing
- Voice changes due to spasm of the larynx
- Irritability, impaired intellectual capacity, depression, anxiety, and personality changes
- Coarse hair
- Brittle nails
- Dry skin
- Chronic itching
- Tooth decay
- Numbness or tingling in the extremities
- Muscle weakness
- Sleep problems
Osteoporosis symptoms (a backache; a gradual loss of height and an accompanying stooped posture; fractures of the spine, wrist, or hip)
Severe Calcium Deficiency
Severe calcium deficiency is usually caused by medical problems or treatments, such as medications (like diuretics, steroids, antacids, pain relievers, etc.), surgery to remove the stomach or kidney failure.
Symptoms of severe Calcium deficiency include:
- Curvature of the spine
- Hump in the back
- Losing height (becoming shorter)
- Cramping of the muscles
- Numbness & tingling in the fingers
- Chronic fatigue
- Irregular heart rhythms
- Rickets, Osteopenia leading to Osteoporosis
- Spondylosis or inability to hold the body upright
Calcium Deficiency Treatment and Prevention
Just how much calcium from diet and supplements is needed, and in what form, to prevent calcium deficiency symptoms? How much is required to achieve optimal health? These questions are currently the subject of much controversy and debate among researchers, doctors, and nutritionally savvy individuals alike; but they all agree on the liabilities of long-term Calcium deficiency.
The Adequate Intake or AI for adults up to age 50 is currently 1,000 mg of calcium per day from food and supplements combined. For adults 51 and older, it’s 1,200 mg. These are the latest from the US Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine. They established Adequate Intakes (AIs) for calcium, which are the amounts thought to be sufficient to maintain bone health in healthy people. Failing to meet this requirement can result in bone deficiency symptoms outlined above.
ADEQUATE INTAKES (AIs) FOR CALCIUM
How to Increase Calcium Intake
If you experience low calcium in blood symptoms, try to get the majority of your calcium from food sources (see our post “Calcium-Rich Food: Tasty Choices Are Easy to Find“). While dairy is a concentrated source of calcium, other components in dairy make it a poor choice for maintaining bone health, especially for colored folks.
Instead, opt for foods high in calcium; examples: salmon and sardines canned with bones, kale, collards, broccoli, mustard greens, turnip greens, bok choy, and sesame seeds. For calcium supplements, choose calcium citrate or calcium citrate malate, and take it in at least two divided doses with meals for the best absorption.
Avoid Too Much Calcium from Supplements
Keep in mind that it is just as important to avoid getting too much calcium from supplements as it is to get enough. Excessive calcium from supplements may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and kidney stones, so don’t overdo it. Aim for 1,000 to 1,200 mg from food and supplements combined.