SYMPTOMS CALCIUM DEFICIENCY

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HOW TO RECOGNIZE A SHORTAGE OF CALCIUM


Calcium is of great importance for every cell in your body. Hypocalcemia, also known as low calcium levels, occurs when small amounts of calcium are present in the blood. A long-term deficiency can lead to changes in the teeth, cataracts, changes in the brain, and osteoporosis. The latter ensures that your bones become brittle and weaker.

Calcium is a important vitamin to the human body since our body is unable to create this vitamin itself. When you do not consume dairy, because of a vegan lifestyle, or because of a dairy allergy, you often hear that you have a higher risk of developing a calcium deficiency. However, this is not entirely true. Although dairy is a significant source of calcium, foods such as lentils, beans, broccoli, Chinese cabbage, spinach, seaweed, Salicornia, kale, and plankton also contain calcium.

Within the body, calcium often works together with phosphorus, iron, and magnesium. Vitamin D helps with calcium absorption. That is why you mustn't have a shortage of vitamin D if you want to be able to absorb enough calcium.

A questionnaire from the United States found that less than 15% of girls between 13-19, less than 10% of women over 50, and less than 22% of boys between 13-19 and men over 50 met the recommended daily amount of (RDA) calcium (1).

There are certain groups of people that have a higher risk of creating a calcium deficiency. Those people may benefit from using calcium supplements next to their daily meals. It is, however, important to note that if you suspect you have a shortage of calcium, you should always consult a doctor before taking any supplements.

People with a higher risk of obtaining an calcium are (2):


- Postmenopausal women,
- Women with Amenorrhea (lack of menstruation),
- Teenagers,
- Men with aged 70+,
- Vegetarians and vegans (although considerably less than the above groups),
- People with lactose intolerance (although substantially less than the above groups).

A shortage of calcium can be recognized by the following symptoms. If you experience one or more of these symptoms, it may be wise to consult a physician.


1. MUSCLE CRAMPS



Calcium contributes to the healthy functioning of the muscles, in particular, the relaxation and contraction of the muscles (3). When you have a calcium deficiency, your body is unable to use sufficient calcium for the functioning of the muscles, which causes it to lose function.

Muscle cramping is one of the first symptoms of calcium deficiency and often occurs in the outer limbs such as the forearms, lower legs, feet, and hands, as well as the muscles around the mouth. Fortunately, you can prevent these symptoms with the help of supplements (4).

In short: when you have a calcium deficiency, you can almost immediately notice it from sudden muscle cramps. Supplements can help to prevent this.


2. HEART ISSUES



As mentioned earlier, calcium is essential for the functioning of the muscles. So, it’s vital for our heart muscles as well. Also, calcium provides better transportation of impulses from the nervous system.

If you have a calcium deficiency, fewer impulses reach your heart, causing it to pump blood less often. If this happens regularly, you may experience symptoms such as heart palpitations (5).

Acute hypocalcemia can also cause immediate heart problems (4). Fortunately, a heart attack is rare. There is, however, a small risk of heart failure in the event of a significant deficiency. Yet this symptom can be remedied quickly with the help of calcium-rich food and/or supplements.

In short: due to a (sudden) calcium deficiency, you may suffer from your heart and palpitations. Although these may not be very harmful in themselves, it is wise to use calcium-rich food and/or supplements before the symptoms get worse.


3. BRITTLE NAILS, HAIR AND DRY SKIN



One of the physical symptoms of calcium deficiency is brittle nails, dry and fragile skin, and brittle hair . Besides, there are several cases of patients who suffered from eczema during a calcium deficiency. Although this disease is easy to treat, no lasting solution has been found yet (4).

However, these symptoms are more common in people with a chronic deficiency than in people with acute calcium deficiency. Still, a permanent lack can cause alopecia, a condition where your hair falls out.

In short: low calcium levels can result in brittle nails, hair, and skin. Permanent shortages may cause eczema, but also alopecia.


4. TOOTH DECAY



If, as a child, you were already suffering from a calcium deficiency before the age of 5, chances are that you will still suffer from it later in life because of your teeth (4). A shortage of calcium at a low age ensures fewer roots, weak enamel, and more cavities.

A 2015 study with 106 women aged 23 showed that 59% had a calcium deficiency. Of these, 39% missed at least one tooth, almost all women suffered from one or more cavities, and every woman suffered from gum problems (6). The conclusion of the study was that although several factors influence dental health, healthy calcium, and vitamin D intake can lead to improved teeth. 

In short: a calcium deficiency causes dental problems at both early and later age


5. SLEEPING PROBLEMS



Calcium is closely related to our sleep pattern. During our REM sleep and deep sleep, the calcium levels in our body are often higher than at other times (7). The same research has shown that a lack of calcium can cause sleeping problems, or even lead to insomnia.

Calcium activates the amino acid tryptophan. This substance causes the production of melatonin. Therefore, a warm glass of milk (containing calcium) is often recommended before bedtime.

In short: a low calcium level in your body can cause a less deep REM sleep, which makes you wake up more often. A severe deficiency can even cause insomnia.


6. DIGESTIVE ISSUES



Calcium is absorbed within the small intestine, among other things. As a result, the calcium enters the blood faster and can start its effects. However, there are several reasons why you can absorb less calcium through your intestines.

People with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), or Crohn's disease, often have intestinal inflammation that prevents substances from being properly absorbed, including calcium. Besides, calcium sometimes attaches itself to fat, so that it is not absorbed (8).

Although it is mentioned above that IBS can cause a reduced intake of calcium, it also works the other way around. If there is too little calcium in the body to absorb through the intestines, problems can arise there because they get too few stimuli through the nervous system. Besides, the intestines also function as muscles, and we have established that the first symptom is that calcium deficiency can cause cramps and irritations (3).

In short: a shortage of calcium can lead to a reduced uptake in the small intestine so that the digestive system receives fewer stimuli and reacts poorly to contractions.


7. PSYCHOLOGICAL DISORDERS



Although few studies have been completed at the moment, chances are that the level of calcium in your body influences your state of mind. A 2012 survey among 105 Korean women in the 41 - 57 age group shows that women with depressive symptoms also had a low calcium level in their blood (9).

Another study from 2008 shows that people with psychological disorders often have one or several mineral deficiencies in their bodies. The same research also indicates that calcium deficiency is often linked to depressive symptoms (10).

 In short: a low calcium level can cause aggravated psychological complaints, but this symptom needs more scientific substantiation before it can be definitively established. 


8. OSTEOPOROSIS



Calcium is mainly stored in the bones and teeth of humans. Besides, there is also a calcium reserve in the bones in the event of a temporary deficiency. However, a long-term lack can lead to osteoporosis, which means that the bone from the inside continues to decrease until brittle and empty bones are left behind (11).

In general, most elderly people experience osteoporosis at some point, but the speed at which it develops and at what age it occurs depends on the calcium levels within your blood. Many people get enough calcium daily to keep their body functioning, but they don’t keep their reserve in mind.

During the menopause, pregnancy, and ovulation of the woman, she releases more calcium. These are times when the body needs more calcium. If the body does not get this, then it is more likely that osteoporosis will develop.

In short: a calcium deficiency can lead to osteoporosis in the long term, a condition in which the bones continue to weaken. Sufficient calcium intake can reduce or even delay this process.


9. BONE METABOLISM



Our bones change continuously. First of all, they grow with us as we grow up, but our bones also adjust to how pressure is exerted on them (12). This is called bone metabolism. All this is possible, thanks to the storage of calcium in the bones.

If you suffer from a calcium deficiency, then at a certain point, the reserves of the bones run out. In addition to the fact that this can lead to osteoporosis, it also has other effects. Bones can grow less well this way, and when they do, the strength of the bone diminishes. This can quickly lead to breaking bones.

In short: a calcium deficiency can lead to poorly functioning bone metabolism, which leads to weaker bones and reduced growth.


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