The body contains more calcium than any other mineral with approximately 95 percent found in our bones, and is not only crucial for bone health, but also the health of the nervous system, muscles, heart, blood, skin, hair, and nails. Additionally, for women in your menopausal or pre-menopausal years, it is most likely one of the things your physician has recommended to you.
Calcium is in many foods, but its absorption can be reduced by excess intake of proteins, fats, fibers, caffeine, and alcohol. Excess protein intake may cause calcium imbalance, bone deterioration and renal loss of calcium, and glucose and aspartame many also increase urinary loss of calcium. If taking calcium alone or in excess, the calcium may not go to the right places in the body, and may even build up in the wrong areas, causing issues like accumulation in arteries or the kidneys. To avoid this do not take large amounts of it (like a supplement that is 1000 mg.), but instead use foods first to get your recommended daily amounts.
The recommended dietary intake of calcium is:
Infants: 210-270 mg.
Children: 8-18 years 500-1300 mg.
Adults: 1000-1200 mg.
Pregnancy & Lactating: 1000-1300 mg.
Ayurveda generally recommends acquiring our nutrients in small doses throughout the day with whole foods. Whole foods contain other minerals and vitamins that act as messengers or vehicles, assisting in the proper absorption and assimilation of calcium in the body.
Ayurveda understands weak bones are the result of elevated ether and air elements in the body, also known as the Vata Dosha. Vata's home or seat in the body is in the colon which plays an intricate relationship with the bone, and keeping Vata in balance and good health is of utmost importance when considering bone health.
The term osteoporosis was coined in the 1830's, meaning porous bones, and there is no word for it in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine because it is considered a modern disease. The Dutch researcher, Klompmaker claims that excess calcium is the cause of osteoporosis. He believes that excess supplements can cause the bone's osteoclasts (cells that break bone down) to increase in an attempt to remove old bone, and is the body's emergency effort to make use of all this new calcium and make new bone with its osteoblasts (cells that form new bone).
If there is an excess of calcium, then it has to be deposited somewhere which can be in the arteries as plaque increasing the strain on the heart muscle and causing hypertension and possible heart attack. According to the British medical journal (July 2011), calcium supplements may increase the risk of heart attack by 30%. Excesses can also deposit in the soft tissue, causing arthritis, muscle cramping, fibromyalgia, brain gravel (calcium deposits in the brain), kidney stones, breast lumps, and of course osteoporosis.
In nature, calcium is never delivered alone and is accompanied by other minerals that are bound to a carrier molecule that moves the minerals into cells. By using plant-based calcium, you are always aligning yourself with the intelligence of nature. Eating more leafy greens, (see chart below) is very beneficial but note that although spinach is high in calcium, it depletes calcium due to oxalic acid which reduces absorption. While dairy products are extremely high in calcium, there is much controversy over whether or not the pasteurization and homogenization process render the calcium more challenging to digest. Fortified milk and juice products typically have added calcium carbonate which is not efficiently utilized by the body.
If you are choosing a supplement for calcium, then search out one that is bound to a naturally occurring carrier molecule, like amino acids, and for a product that has a low RDA and high absorption rate, supplements with magnesium are also a good choice. Finally, be sure you have optimized vitamin D3 levels which carries the calcium out of the gut and into the cells for delivery.