Sunday, August 09, 2009

Calcium: Bone Booster

Calcium is an important mineral for the optimal functioning of many body systems. Calcium is a major mineral found in the bones and teeth. Deficiency of calcium causes bone and joint diseases such as osteomalacia, osteoporosis and osteo-arthritis. It also leads to poor growth and poor bone density in children. Calcium also protects the body from heavy metal toxicity because if calcium is deficient lead is absorbed by the body and deposited in the teeth and bones. The muscles use calcium during contractions and by the nerves for proper transmission of impulses. If a deficiency of calcium affects the most important muscle, the heart, it can lead to arrhythmias. Calcium also helps with insomnia and muscle cramps by relaxing the muscles. Calcium lowers cholesterol, by inhibiting plaque formation, and lowers blood pressure, by ensuring the proper functioning of the arterial muscles. Calcium is pulled out of the bones when the body becomes too acidic. This can occur due to the use of some medications, poor diet or when the body is in a state of inflammation, like rheumatoid arthritis or lupus. Calcium is involved at the level of the cell with the structure of the RNA and DNA molecules and the activation of enzymes for the use of fats. Calcium is commonly recommended by natural health care practitioners for osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, cardiovascular disease, PMS, pregnancy, cancer prevention, nervous disorders, and insomnia. Chelated or citrated calcium supplements are easier for the body to use and can be taken with or without food. Chelated simply means that calcium is bonded to a protein molecule, for example aspartate or glycinate, and citrated means that calcium is bonded to a citrate molecule. Both processes enhance calcium’s absorption in the intestinal tract but decrease the amount of calcium that is available in one supplemental dose versus calcium carbonate. Calcium carbonate is the not the best calcium source because it must be taken with food for absorption. Additionally up to 40% of people over the age of sixty have chronic stomach inflammation that prevents the breakdown of calcium carbonate. Coral calcium is a form of calcium carbonate that has better absorption because it is a naturally occurring calcium and it is found in a complex with many other minerals. It is a good source for a variety of minerals and trace minerals. Two types of coral calcium exist, fossilized and marine. Fossilized coral is farmed after it floats to the top of the ocean while marine grade is live coral that is vacuumed from the ocean floor. There is a debate between the maker of both types as to which is better with no clear winner emerging. One must consider the ecological effect of both processes when purchasing coral calcium. Ensure that your supplement is tested for contaminants since the coral is farmed from the ocean. Even after purification coral calcium contains minute amounts of heavy metals and should not be consumed by pregnant or nursing women. Microcrystalline hydroxyapatite compound (MCHC) contains a significant amount of calcium, along with other minerals, sourced from animal bones, usually cows or sheep. Some practitioners believe that this is an optimal calcium form because it contains all of the other substances that naturally occur in the bone. Again one must ensure the quality of the supplement and the conditions under which the animals have been raised. To minimize the chance of contamination with heavy metals or disease agents like “Mad Cow disease” (BSE) choose supplements from countries such as New Zealand. D1-clacium-phosphate is used in some low-end supplements and should be avoided. This form of calcium actually inhibits the absorption of other minerals in a mineral complex and is insoluble. The calcium in antacids, when taken a therapeutic amount, neutralizes stomach acid. They are not recommended as a calcium source because without stomach acid is calcium cannot be absorbed. Calcium supplements are best taken in small doses throughout the day because the body can only absorb 500mg at one time. However, if you are using calcium for its relaxation properties it is beneficial to take a larger dose before bed. Dietary conditions that affect calcium use in the body are as follows: Excessive intake of foods high in oxalic acid, like cashews, almonds, beet greens, spinach, cocoa and soybeans, bind with calcium in the intestine and prevent calcium absorption. Calcium-oxalate kidney stones also occur when excess oxalic acid binds with calcium, but this can be prevented by decreasing the above-mentioned foods. The Standard North American diet is high in protein, fat, sugar and phosphorus from the consumption of meats, refined grains, junk foods, salty foods, alcohol, coffee and soft drinks. This leads to increased acidity and the loss of buffering calcium through the urine. Lysine is an amino acid that is needed for calcium absorption. It can be taken in supplemental form or through the use of foods such as cheese, eggs, fish, lima beans, milk, soy products and brewer’s yeast. Pregnant women should ensure adequate calcium intake so that the body does not have to deplete its own bones to provide for the fetus. Calcium also protects against the development of preeclampsia. Calcium can interfere with the effects of calcium channel blocking heart medications, tetracycline, thyroid hormone, some anticonvulsants and steroids. Calcium is depleted by the use of Phenobarbital and diuretics. Calcium and iron bind together and prevent the absorption of both minerals therefore iron and calcium supplements should be taken different times. High intakes of calcium also inhibit the absorption of zinc, phosphorus and magnesium, and vice versa. Balance your supplemental calcium intake with 50mg of zinc daily. Insufficient vitamin D intake also hinders calcium absorption and should be supplemented in the elderly and by those who live in the northern latitudes. Scientific studies have disproved the belief that calcium supplementation increases the risk of calcium kidney stones.

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