Takeaway: Calcium helps you maintain good bone health in the body. Most of us get our daily calcium intake with the food we eat. But for those of us who need the extra calcium, there are a variety of supplements to choose from. Calcium can prevent high blood pressure. Calcium reduces premenstrual syndrome symptoms in women and can help reduce the risk of breast cancer.
Calcium is a compound that is essential for bone health and development. It builds strong bones and prevents osteoporosis later on in life. You can get calcium naturally from such foods as:
- dairy products such as milk, butter, cream, cheese, and yogurt
- dark green leafy vegetables like arugula, broccoli, collard greens, kale, and spinach
- fish with soft, edible bones like sardines and canned salmon
- seeds, beans, and lentils
- calcium-fortified foods and beverages like soy, tofu, and whey protein
You can incorporate these food items into your diet to ensure that you get enough calcium every day. At the same time, you can take calcium supplements to meet your daily calcium needs.
In this nutritionist’s guide, you’ll learn more about calcium supplements and why you need to take them.
Who Should Take Calcium Supplements
Many people take calcium supplements for a wide variety of reasons, the most common of which is lactose intolerance and/or allergies. Because dairy products are an abundant source of calcium and these people can’t process dairy, they take calcium supplements instead.
Vegans also benefit from calcium supplements. Their diet restricts them from consuming dairy products, so they need plant-based calcium supplements to get their bodies’ daily calcium requirement.
More notably, calcium supplements are helpful for those with hypocalcemia or calcium deficiency. This disorder affects people from many parts of the world, especially those in developing countries. But, what causes calcium deficiency and what are its symptoms?
Calcium Deficiency Causes
The leading cause of calcium deficiency is simple- You’re simply not getting enough calcium from your daily diet.
Aside from building strong and healthy bones, the body uses calcium in your nervous system, immune system, and circulatory system. When it doesn’t get enough calcium to perform essential functions in these systems, it leeches off from the bones to compensate. This can lead to two major bone diseases: osteopenia and osteoporosis.
Osteopenia is a condition wherein your bone mineral density decreases below the normal range. Some medical professionals also call it bone loss.
Meanwhile, osteoporosis is an extreme bone loss. It is a more dangerous bone disease where bones become weak and brittle. People with osteoporosis are more prone to fractures and, in worst cases, may even become bed-ridden due to their bones’ fragility.
Calcium Deficiency Symptoms
Calcium deficiency has minor and severe symptoms. Minor symptoms include:
- chronic fatigue, fainting, and/or lethargy
- muscle cramps and/or numbness
- poor appetite and/or difficulty in swallowing
- tingling fingers
- weak or brittle fingernails
Severe symptoms include:
- growth and developmental delays in children
- heart problems
- high blood pressure
- insufficient blood clotting
- irregular heart rhythm
- irritability, depression and/or anxiety
- tooth erosion
If you have a combination of these symptoms, you might have a calcium deficiency. You need to up your daily intake of calcium-rich foods, or you can start taking calcium supplements.
Calcium Supplement Uses
Most people take calcium supplements to meet their daily calcium needs and to prevent calcium deficiency and bone diseases. But calcium supplements have other uses. They can:
- aid in weight loss
- control high levels of other compounds in the blood such as magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium
- prevent high blood pressure
- prevent breast cancer in premenopausal women
- reduce premenstrual syndrome symptoms in women
Calcium Supplements for Osteoporosis
People who suffer from osteoporosis take calcium supplements regularly to prevent their disease from getting worse. The best calcium supplement for osteoporosis is calcium carbonate because it contains the highest elemental calcium, although it needs to be taken with a meal.
However, calcium carbonate is not suitable for the following:
- people who take antacids
- those who have undergone intestinal bypass surgery
- senior citizens who are 65 years and older
If you fit any of these categories, you should consider taking calcium citrate instead. It has lower elemental calcium but the body easily absorbs it. It is also typically less expensive than calcium carbonate.
Calcium Supplements for Menopause
Calcium supplements also benefit women who are (or soon to be) going through menopause. During menopause, estrogen levels drop significantly. This becomes a problem in regards to bone health because estrogen plays a vital role in bone turnover in adult women. With lower estrogen levels, women are more prone to microfractures and bone loss, making them have a higher risk of osteoporosis.
That’s why a lot of women use calcium supplements for menopause. Most take them with Vitamin D and other hormonal support products to ensure overall health and relief from menopausal symptoms.
Best Types of Calcium Supplements
There are different types of calcium supplements, which we will discuss individually in this part of the guide. They have different benefits and uses depending on your needs, so it is up to you (and your physician) to decide what the best type of calcium supplement for you is.
Calcium chloride is an inorganic salt that is typically used to preserve food or to melt snow in sidewalks and roads during wintertime. It can also be found in sports drinks as an electrolyte that rehydrates the body. They’re also used in winemaking and home brewing.
While it is rarely prescribed to be consumed intravenously as a calcium supplement, it may be used by doctors to treat hypocalcemia and hyperkalemia, which is a condition associated with an excessive amount of potassium in the blood.
Calcium hydroxide comes in an odorless white powder and is commonly used for industrial purposes such as:
- food processing and pickling
- paper production
- sewage treatment
However, calcium hydroxide is also used for dental purposes such as:
- apical closure
- indirect and direct pulp capping
- root canal sealant
- root dressing
In rare cases, calcium hydroxide is used in calcium supplements.
Calcium phosphate is a combination of two important compounds: calcium and phosphorus. Together, these two compounds strengthen bones and teeth, regulate blood flow, assist muscle contraction, and aid the communication between your nerve cells.
Calcium phosphate contains a high amount of elemental calcium and is the best calcium supplement for those with phosphate deficiency. However, if you’re only looking to increase your daily calcium intake, it is just as effective as calcium citrate and calcium carbonate.
Calcium nitrate is an inorganic salt that is commonly used in fertilizers and as a dressing for calcium-sensitive plants. It is also used as a foliar spray to prevent blossom end rot and cork spot in plants. It is rarely used as a calcium supplement and must not be ingested directly.
Calcium sulfate is a common ingredient in food processes such as making tofu, pickling, winemaking, and brewing. Farmers and gardeners also use it to treat and condition soil. It also has industrial applications.
Because it contains sulfur, it is not safe to ingest directly by humans. It may also release a toxic fume when it interacts with fire.
Calcium acetate has a lot of medical uses and is usually taken in oral form as a pill or tablet. Among others, it can:
- prevent unsafe mineral buildup in the body
- prevent high blood phosphate levels in dialysis patients
- decrease the risk of stroke and heart disease
It is not typically used as a calcium supplement; rather, it is a special type of medication for people with kidney disease. Therefore, you need a doctor’s prescription to take calcium acetate.
Calcium gluconate is a medication that should be taken orally after a meal. It has many benefits including:
- treating bone diseases such as hypocalcemia, osteoporosis, and osteomalacia
- treating hypoparathyroidism and latent tetany
It is also the best calcium supplement for pregnancy and nursing mothers and is prescribed to postmenopausal women to ensure that they’re getting enough calcium daily.
Calcium gluconate comes in pills and chewable products. It may also come as a liquid calcium supplement. If you get it as a suspension, make sure to shake the bottle well before intake.
Calcium citrate is one of the most commonly used calcium supplements. It is easily absorbed by the body even though it has a lower elemental calcium content than other calcium supplements.
Incorporating the best calcium citrate supplement in your daily routine has many health benefits including the following:
- helps calcium retention in children and adolescents
- promotes the consolidation and maintenance of bone mass in adults
- decreases the risk of broken fracture in the elderly
- relieves symptoms of menopause and benefits overall health of postmenopausal women
- prevents the formation of kidney stones
These are just some of the reasons why people choose calcium citrate as their calcium supplement.
Calcium fluoride is a combination of two compounds: calcium and fluoride. It has many uses, but you’ll usually find it in dental products such as toothpaste and mouthwash. Calcium and fluoride together protect the teeth and prevent them from decaying.
Calcium fluoride is also used to treat osteoporosis and other bone diseases. It is applied in treating rheumatoid arthritis, bone loss in Chron’s disease patients, and other health conditions.
Are Calcium Supplements Safe?
Whenever anyone is thinking about taking supplements, there is always the issue of safety to consider. You’re probably wondering right now – are calcium supplements safe? Well, the latest research on calcium supplements shows that calcium supplements are safe when taken properly.
What does this mean?
Remember that some calcium supplements require a full stomach before intake. At the same time, there are calcium supplements that cannot be taken with certain medications.
To know how to take calcium supplements for best absorption, read the label or consult your doctor.
Calcium Supplement Side Effects
If taken the wrong way, calcium supplements can have adverse side effects. Before you start taking them, here are calcium supplement side effects that you should know about:
- dry mouth or metallic taste in your mouth
- fatigue, headache, and nausea
- increased urination
- irregular heartbeat
- muscle spasms
- unquenchable thirst
To prevent these side effects, make sure that you’re taking your calcium supplements as prescribed by your doctor. Do not overdose.
Calcium Supplements and Heart Disease
In 2013, an American study found that there is a link between calcium supplements and heart disease, but only in men. When taken more than as prescribed, the calcium from supplements can go straight to the fatty plaques in your arteries, which can lead to higher risks of heart attack, stroke, and other cardiovascular diseases.
Therefore, if you have a family history of cardiovascular diseases, you need to consult your physician before taking calcium supplements. You can always increase your daily calcium intake by incorporating more calcium-rich foods in your diet.
Can Calcium Supplements Cause Constipation?
Calcium supplements rarely have any side effects, especially when taken correctly. But one of the most common concerns from people is – can calcium supplements cause constipation?
The truth is there is only one type of calcium supplement that has this side effect. Calcium carbonate may cause excess gas, constipation, and bloating to some people.
If the side effects happen to you after taking calcium carbonate for a while, it is advisable to change the type of calcium supplement that you consume.
Calcium Supplements and Kidney Stones
There is also a link between calcium supplements and kidney stones, but it’s a positive one. Studies have shown that getting too little calcium daily can increase the oxalate level in your body, which is what causes kidney stones to form.
However, at the same time, too much calcium in your body can also cause kidney stones to form. Most kidney stones contain excess calcium. Therefore, only take the recommended or prescribed amount of calcium supplements to avoid this problem.
Best Calcium Supplements
Now that you know everything you need to know about calcium and calcium supplements, you’re ready to choose the best calcium supplement brand for you. Here are the best calcium supplements according to nutritionists:
- Citracal Calcium Supplement
- Kirkland Calcium with Vitamin D3 Dietary Supplement
- Nature Made Calcium Liquid Softgels
Best Calcium Supplements for Women
The best calcium supplements for women include:
- Caltrate Bone Health Advanced Calcium Supplement
- Garden of Life Organic Plant Calcium
- Nature’s Bounty Calcium 600 with Vitamin D3
The best calcium supplement for pregnancy includes:
- Mega Food Baby & Me Prenatal and Postnatal Supplement
- Pink Stork Complete Prenatal Vitamin
- Sorvita Prenatal Multivitamin
Best Calcium Supplements for Kids
The best calcium supplements for kids are:
- Child Life Liquid Calcium
- VitaFusion L’il Critters Calcium + D3 Bone Support
- Yummi Bears Vegetarian Calcium + D3
Like any oral medication, it is best to consult a doctor before taking calcium supplements, especially if you’re administering them to children and pregnant women. As a final reminder, always read the label and follow the prescribed dosage.