Growing up we’ve always been told that drinking a lot of milk will help build strong bones because of the calcium content. But through the years with inadequate diet and lifestyle, a significant number of people become calcium deficient regardless.

A lot of the time, we tend to be unaware of the problem and left unchecked over a long period leads to severe bone loss, which can cause fractures or spinal problems.

There are two main types of calcium deficiency

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Dietary deficiency and hypocalcaemia, or low blood calcium.

Calcium

An essential building block in your bones, and is also present in your blood, where it circulates to your nerves and muscles. Having enough calcium in your blood is so important for your body to function that, if you’re not getting enough calcium in your diet, your body literally will “rob” calcium from your bones and move it to your bloodstream. Because of this, a chronic dietary calcium deficiency will result in bone loss (osteoporosis).

Hypocalcaemia

Usually a side effect of medications you are taking or other health problems. If you have hypocalcaemia, your doctor will monitor your blood calcium levels regularly and prescribe medication if necessary.

Calcium deficiency or hypocalcaemia?

While dietary calcium deficiency is the result of a poor diet, hypocalcaemia can have many causes, the most common cause being hypoparathyroidism.

Hypoparathyroidism is a condition that sometimes results from damage to the parathyroid, a gland in the neck, during neck surgery.

Here are the five signs to look out for calcium deficiency:

1. Osteoporosis/low bone density

Calcium is essential for healthy and strong bones, and a deficiency of calcium can lead to an increased risk of osteoporosis, fractures and weakened bones.

signs of calcium deficiency_2Vitamin D helps the body absorb and use calcium, and a deficiency with vitamin D decreases the body’s ability to do so.

Taking calcium supplements can help reduce the risk of developing osteoporosis after menopause for women, and in men it can help prevent bone loss that occurs with age.

2. Insomnia

This was a bit of new information to me… Calcium is directly related to our cycles of sleep. In one study, published in the European Neurology Journal, researchers found that calcium levels in the body are higher during some of the deepest levels of sleep, such as the rapid eye movement (REM) phase.

The study concluded that disturbances in sleep, especially the absence of REM deep sleep or disturbed REM sleep, are related to a calcium deficiency.

Intake of calcium is required in order to restore the normal sleep cycle.

According to William Sears, M.D. he says, “Calcium helps the brain use the amino acid tryptophan to manufacture the sleep-inducing substance melatonin. This explains why dairy products, which contain both tryptophan and calcium, are one of the top sleep-inducing foods”.

Remember growing up and perhaps even now, if you can’t sleep, Momma would make you a cup of warm milk or hot chocolate and it would get you to sleep?

That’s why! However if you still use this remedy, prefer to use organic milk instead.

3. Nails

Brittle and weak nails can be an indication that there is a lack of calcium in your diet and not the white spots that appear (that’s a myth!).

When nails are weak or brittle, the structure is faulty, which results in nails that split, break or peel off, grow much slower than a healthy nail and are very thin and prone to excess peeling and splitting.

signs of calcium deficiency_3When a calcium deficiency is present, the nails may become excessively dry.

Dry nails can break and split in the same manner as weak and brittle nails.

In addition, dry nails flake off in tiny pieces, leaving the nails with a pitted look. The flakes generally develop near the tip of the nail. The cuticles and skin surrounding the nail also becomes dry and peels off.

4. PMS

Ladies, if you suffer PMS this is definitely one to look into but as I always advice, check with your doctor by getting a blood test before taking supplements.

Studies show that calcium levels fluctuate in women according to their menstrual cycles.

Serum calcium level is at its lowest during the luteal phase of the cycle.

Calcium is one of the very few natural supplements that have been conclusively proven to help women with PMS. Clinical trials show that calcium can provide relief for almost all the symptoms experienced during PMS.

signs of calcium deficiency_4Studies show that women who eat more foods rich in calcium and vitamin D have lower risks of PMS. Therefore, calcium is not only useful in the treatment of PMS but also in preventing the condition.

This means that women can increase their calcium and vitamin D intakes in order to avoid and reduce the severity of PMS. Doses ranging from 1,000 – 1,500 mg per day are usually recommended for women with PMS.

5. Teeth

Around 99% of calcium in the body is stored in bones and teeth. According to Dr. Leonard Anglis, DDS, “a diet with adequate calcium may prevent against tooth decay”.

When a diet is low in calcium, the body robs the mineral from teeth and bones, which can increase your risk of tooth decay and cavities.

A study that appeared in the Journal of Periodontology found that those who have a calcium intake of less than 500 mg, or about half the recommended dietary allowance, were almost twice as likely to have periodontitis, or gum disease, than those who had the recommended intake.

Ways to increase calcium

– Drinking organic milk and consuming dairy products are good ways to increase calcium in your diet.

– You can also boost your calcium intake by eating cauliflower leaves, spinach, broccoli (adds 118mg of calcium) and other leafy green vegetables.

– If you are taking a multivitamin, make sure it has a sufficient amount of calcium, at least 40% of the Recommended Daily Allowance. If it does not, you may need to add a daily calcium supplement.

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