Calcium is crucial for building robust bones, particularly up to our mid-30s and even after. Yet, its significance goes far beyond that.
Calcium is pivotal for:
Bone health: Primarily until our mid-30s, calcium helps build and maintain healthy bones.
Muscle contraction: And yes, that includes our heart.
Nerve function and blood clotting: Our body's complex systems need it.
Mind & Mood: Low levels can negatively impact anxiety, stress, and sleep.
Our bodies are pretty fantastic, but they don't produce calcium on their own. This essential mineral comes exclusively from the food we eat.
The Early Menopause Angle
If you're experiencing early menopause, this is not something to brush aside. The sooner you enter menopause, the longer you'll be without the protective effects of oestrogen. That means more years of potential bone loss. No one wants to be the woman who fractures her ankle while trying to rock some heels, right? So, consider calcium your armour.
How Much Calcium Do We Really Need?
The recommended daily allowance is roughly 700mg of calcium daily, although this doesn't take into account other factors. If you're eating a varied diet with dairy, dark leafy veggies, tinned fish, almonds, and more, you're probably meeting your needs.
There is a calcium calculator online that you can use. It could be better, but it will give you an idea about what you are consuming.
If you're experiencing early menopause, have digestive issues, or your diet is a bit hit-and-miss, then it's absolutely crucial to pay attention to calcium and other vital minerals.
Sources of Calcium
You might be wondering, "Where can I get my calcium fix?" 🥛
While supplements are an option, getting calcium through your diet is a wiser and more sustainable choice.
Dairy: Your classic source. Milk, yoghurt, cheese. Hard cheese offers more than fresh cheese.
Veggies: Think dark, leafy greens.
Seafood: Especially tinned fish, because you get those tiny bones too.
Nuts and Seeds: Almonds are a superstar here.
Beans and lentils – especially white beans.
Non-dairy milks: Ensure they're calcium-fortified.
Oranges, dried figs and apricots
When thinking about calcium, it is essential to remember that it doesn't work alone.
Vitamin D: This vitamin plays a pivotal role in enhancing the path for calcium to be absorbed in the intestines. Without sufficient Vitamin D, the body can't absorb calcium from the food you eat, leading to a reliance on reserves from the bones. This can weaken them over time.
Vitamin K2: This is like a guide for calcium. While calcium is essential for bone health, it needs to end up in the right place: our bones and teeth. Vitamin K2 ensures that calcium is effectively deposited where required, in the bones, not in areas it shouldn't be, like arteries and soft tissues.
Magnesium: This mineral is like the backbone support for calcium. It plays a role in converting vitamin D into its active form, aiding calcium absorption. Moreover, magnesium assists in the activation of vitamin K2. Plus, it's crucial for maintaining bone structure by supporting bone density.
Together, these nutrients ensure that calcium is not just consumed but it's used effectively and efficiently in the body.
Supplements: Yay or Nay?
If your diet isn't enough, supplements can come to the rescue. However, there is an ongoing debate about whether or not supplements actually make any difference.
If you're considering them, then here are things that you should know:
This needs an acidic environment to be broken down, so it should always be taken with meals. It can easily upset the stomach and can cause constipation and bloating. The actual amount of useable calcium from this could be better, even though it tends to be the form offered by GPs.
This is gentler and can be taken anytime. It tends to be better as we get older because there is a greater tendency to produce less hydrochloric acid for digestion as we age.
Remember, overdosing can cause issues like kidney stones. It's not about playing catch-up; it's about moving forward and being consistent.
If you miss a dose, it's not the end of the world, but try and take it reasonably regularly because the body uses it quickly, and if we don't get an adequate supply, then it nicks it from bones.
Tips for Maximising Absorption
1. Avoid mixing calcium supplements with iron, magnesium, or zinc or high-fibre meals.
2. Take supplements in divided doses. We can only absorb so much, so don't down them all in one.
3. If you love your coffee, add milk and try and limit it to three cups a day. This might counteract caffeine's adverse effect on calcium metabolism.
4. Steer clear of excessive alcohol (it hinders absorption when drank daily or in more significant amounts and binges), smoking, and fizzy drinks.
5. Certain medications, like PPIs, can affect calcium and magnesium absorption.
How we navigate menopause can make a world of difference, especially for those experiencing early menopause. If you haven't done this before, it's time to embrace calcium-rich foods and prioritise bone health.
I have written an earlier blog about osteoporosis. Please do read this too if you think that this is an area that you need to be thinking about.
Please contact me if this resonates with you and you need some support or accountability.