Calcium is an important nutrition needed for our bones and teeth. It's actually a mineral required for normal growth and development in animals.
Calcium plays an important structural role in maintaining bone health and strength, in fact around 99% of our calcium is deposited in the bones and teeth. The other 1% is responsible for a range of important metabolic functions that regulate muscle contraction, heartbeat, blood clotting and functioning of the nervous system.
How much calcium do you need?
Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) recommends 600 mg of calcium per day for children aged from 1 to 9 years of age. The recommendation increases to 800 mg per day for children 10 year onwards and continues to be the same till for adolescents till 17 years of age. Children need more calcium than adults for growing bones. A normal adult male and female requires 600 mg/day. Compared to men, women's bodies require more calcium. Calcium RDA increases to 1200 mg/d for pregnant and lactating mothers to meet the increased needs of the baby in the womb and to compensate for calcium secreted in the breast milk.
Signs of Calcium Deficiency
1. Muscle Cramps
Calcium is involved in muscle contractions, including that of the heart, skeletal muscles, and smooth muscle found in blood vessels and intestines, as well as the generation of nerve impulses. One of the early signs of calcium deficiency is muscle cramps. It is usually the muscles of thighs, arms, and underarms that hurt while moving.
Lack of sleep is an indicator of calcium deficiency in the body. Those who do not consume enough calcium in their diet can also have insomnia. In other cases, people may fall asleep but will not have a satisfactory or deep sleep because they are deficient in calcium.
3. Weak and Brittle Nails
Like bones, nails also need calcium deposits to remain healthy. If your nails are weak and brittle, deficiency of calcium might be a reason along with deficiency of biotin. The same can be said for hair too. If you’re noticing your hair has become lack-luster, check your calcium intake.
Calcium deficiency can cause a variety of problems in the nervous system, one of them being occurrence of seizures. Headaches that occur as a result of increased pressure within the head may also occur due to calcium deficiency. Several studies have linked the interplay of magnesium and calcium in determining whether one suffers migraines or not.
Tetany involves overly stimulated neuromuscular activity. These overstimulated nerves cause involuntary muscle cramps and contractions, most often in the hands and feet. But these spasms can extend throughout the body, and even into the larynx, causing breathing problems.
Severe episodes can result in vomiting, convulsions, and serious pain, as well as seizures and heart dysfunction. Tetany can be the result of an electrolyte imbalance. Most often, it’s a dramatically low calcium level, known as hypocalcemia.
6. Osteopenia and Osteoporosis
Osteopenia is a bone-weakening disease or loss of bone mineral density (BMD). It is more common in people over the age of 50, particularly in women. There are no symptoms of osteoporosis, but a painless screening test can measure bone strength. Certain lifestyle changes can aid in the preservation of bone density and the prevention of osteoporosis.
Dealing with Calcium Deficiency
1. Plant-based sources of calcium: Good sources include dark green leafy vegetables such as broccoli, kale, spring greens, cabbage, bok choy, parsley and watercress. Also rich in calcium are dried fruits, such as figs, dates, nuts, particularly almonds and brazil nuts, and seeds including sesame seeds and tahini (sesame seed paste) which contains a massive 680 milligrams of calcium per 100 grams.
2. Pulses: Pulses like soya beans, kidney beans, chickpeas, baked beans, broad beans, lentils, peas and calcium-set tofu (soya bean curd) provide a good source of calcium. Other fruit and vegetable sources include parsnips, turnips, lemons, oranges and olives. A good additional source is calcium-enriched soya milk.
3. Anticoagulant: Anticoagulant drugs may be used in the treatment of calcium deficiency. Though the primary use for drugs in this class is to prevent life-threatening blood clots from forming, some of them can help the body hold onto extra amounts of calcium. The prescription of these types of drugs to treat a calcium deficiency is uncommon, though, because supplements will often correct the problem.
4. Calcium Supplements: Vitamin and mineral supplements come to the rescue when there is a deficiency. It's a safe option to consume nutritional supplements before things go out of control. Calcium supplements are widely consumed worldwide. However, you need to know which supplement you are going to start with. Calcium citrate is the best to have, as it is high in absorption and safe compared to calcium carbonate. Vitamin D is best when combined with your calcium citrate supplement. Lifezen’s Tuskca Calcium with Vitamin D3 is a chewable tablet available in two flavors, i.e., orange and mixed fruits. These tablets are sugar-free, so they can be consumed by diabetics too.
5.Consult doctor: For critical conditions you need to see the doctor. They may test your blood to look for a calcium or vitamin D deficiency. Also ask your doctor about getting screened for low bone density with a dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) scan if you are a postmenopausal female older than 65 or a male over 70, or if you have any osteoporosis risk factors. And if you’re currently taking vitamin D and calcium supplements, don’t discontinue them before speaking with your doctor.