Calcium is usually identified with strong bones. What many people are not aware of is that calcium plays an important role in other bodily processes such as blood clotting, cell division, muscle contractions, brain function, hormonal balance and a regular heartbeat. Research has also shown that calcium may lower blood pressure and decrease a person's risk of developing colon cancer.
Your body stores calcium in the bones and maintains a certain level of it in your blood stream. When your blood calcium level drops, your body leaches calcium from your bones to restore your blood calcium level to normal. As your bones lose calcium, it can become brittle and susceptible to breakage. To prevent bone calcium from leaching into your blood stream, you need a daily supply of calcium from the food you eat or from supplementation.
While calcium is largely responsible for building and strengthening your bones, it is only effective when your body is able to absorb it and when it is not excreted in urine.
The following factors either prevent calcium absorption or promote the excretion of calcium:
- A diet with too much protein, fat and sodium.
- Calcium-phosphorous imbalance that may arise from consuming too much soft drinks, red meat and poultry. The right balance between calcium and phosphorous is believed to be necessary in calcium absorption. When your body has too much phosphorous compared to calcium, your body may not be able to use the calcium that is found in your blood and may just excrete it in urine.
- Aluminum intake coming from the use of aluminum food wrap and antacids.
- Caffeine in coffee, tea and soft drinks that doubles the excretion of calcium in urine.
- Cigarette smoking.
- Consumption of high oxalate foods such as spinach, cocoa and asparagus.
On the other hand, the following factors, when combined with calcium supplementation, ensure good strong bones:
Vitamins C, D and K
Vitamins C and D increase calcium absorption while Vitamin K increases bone density, making your bones strong.
This mineral helps transport calcium into bones and soft tissue while preventing the formation of calcified deposits in your kidneys.
In women, oestrogen hormones work by increasing calcium absorption and decreasing its secretion in urine. This is why women who experience menopause usually suffer from osteoporosis or have thinner bones. Aside from increasing your calcium intake, you should also avoid very low calorie diets and excessive exercise which lower estrogen levels and trigger bone loss.
Strong bones are not built overnight. It takes many years of calcium banking to develop your bones before bone building completely stops when you reach the age of 35. Ideally, you should start storing calcium in your bones at childhood and continue until adult age when bone loss starts. In the meantime, you need to do weight bearing exercises to keep your bones from deteriorating.
Exercise not only builds muscle but it also strengthens your bones because of constant use. A bone that is not being used will lose calcium and can become brittle. As you exercise, you build and strengthen the muscles that surround your bones. These muscles protect your bones from injury. To complement your calcium intake, you need to exercise at least three times a week by doing any weight bearing activity such as brisk walking, jogging, running, tennis, skiing, lifting light weights, jumping rope, and aerobic dancing.Originally published on Jul 10, 2009