Calcium is a mineral that is critical not only for bone health, but also for skeletal function, muscle contraction, and nerve transmission. Calcium deficiency, also known as hypocalcemia, are especially prevalent in the elderly, menopausal women, and vegans. Those with lactose intolerance are also at risk, as they can only get their calcium from non-dairy sources. If you think you are not getting enough calcium, look out for any of these symptoms.
If you don’t get enough calcium in your diet, you don’t get all the energy you need from the foods you consume. This will make you sluggish and tired, even if you slept enough.
If you start feeling too tired to do simple tasks such as climbing the stairs or carrying groceries, it might be time to check your calcium levels. Other symptoms that often occur with this fatigue is dizziness and light-headedness.
Because calcium plays a role in muscle contraction, a shortage of calcium could cause muscle cramps. If you are getting muscle cramps several times a day, it could be due to a calcium deficiency. A shortage of other minerals, such as potassium or magnesium) can also cause muscle cramps.
Calcium is necessary for a good night’s sleep. It influences how tryptophan (an amino acid) makes melatonin (a hormone that makes us sleep well).
Without enough calcium, your sleeping pattern may be disrupted, especially the deep sleep REM period. Studies show that once participants had their calcium levels restored, their sleep cycle returns to normal.
There’s a reason why a glass of milk is a great bedtime drink. It contains both calcium and tryptophan, a great combination to make you sleepy.
Calcium is the most abundant mineral in our body, and 99% of this calcium is stored in our bones and teeth. The remaining 1% is serum calcium. To transport calcium throughout the body, it uses your kidneys, intestines and your bones.
Your kidneys excrete calcium, while your intestines absorb calcium from the food you eat. Your bones can be seen as a calcium ‘reserve’, able to maintain the serum calcium at a certain level by ‘loaning’ it calcium. A long-term calcium deficiency can eventually lead to osteoporosis (porous bones).
This is because as you get older, you withdraw more and more calcium from your bones for physiological functions. If your calcium is not enough, this will eventually make your bones more porous and thus more fragile. To avoid putting yourself at risk for osteoporosis, you can increase your vitamin D intake (which helps calcium absorption) and also do moderate exercise at least 3 times a week.
As with your bones, your body can withdraw calcium from your teeth if you don’t have enough in your diet. Symptoms include brittle teeth, inflamed gums, or cavities. If you include calcium rich foods in your diet, you maintain a healthy level of calcium in your saliva, which protects the teeth from demineralization.
Foods that are a great source are dairy products (milk, yoghurt, cheese), green vegetables such as spinach, kale and broccoli, and seeds and nuts.
If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s a good idea to go see a doctor for a check-up. Remember that vitamin D is just as important, as it assists in the absorption of calcium. So if you think you’re not getting enough vitamins and minerals, speak to your doctor about possibly taking a dietary supplement.