Calcium plays a critical role in the human body. It is required for the proper functioning of cells, nerves, bone, and muscle. If the blood is low in calcium, the body starts taking calcium from the bones, which in turn weakens the bones.
Having the right amount of calcium in the body is critical to building and maintaining healthy bones. Although there is a debate whether calcium is needed as a dietary supplement, its intake may lead to more benefits in certain situations.
Calcium deficiency is common and is a result mostly from nutrition and bad habits such as smoking, alcohol, and excess coffee. Calcium deficiency is directly related to the deficit of vitamin D and magnesium.
When deficit occurs, as well as in the case of osteoporosis or the risk of such (which is extremely common with women), taking calcium as a supplement is strongly recommended.
Calcium citrate is an acceptable source of calcium, as it is well absorbed and leads to increased bone mass. It is advisable to combine calcium with food when you take it together with vitamin D.
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What Are Calcium Supplements Used For?
Calcium supplements are used to treat or prevent low blood calcium levels in those that don't get sufficient calcium from their diets.
The supplements are utilized in the treatment of conditions caused by low levels of calcium in the body such as:
Calcium supplements are also used in some patients to ensure that they get sufficient quantities of calcium.
Patients that should be getting adequate amounts of calcium include postmenopausal women, women who are nursing, pregnant women, and people taking medications such as prednisone, phenobarbital, or phenytoin.
Usage and Dosage of Calcium Supplements
If the doctor recommends following a special diet, ensure that you do to get the most benefit from the product and avoid any serious side effects.
What If You Miss a Dose?
If you miss a dose of your calcium supplement, take it once you remember.
However, if you remember to take the supplement when it is too close to the time for your next dose, just skip your missed dose and proceed with the usual dosing schedule.
Don't ever double the dosage to catch up.
Is There a Possibility of Overdose?
If overdose is suspected, contact an emergency room or poison control center immediately.
The symptoms of calcium supplement overdose include:
However, it is very unlikely to overdose with calcium supplements in case you take an adequate dosages.
Side Effects of Calcium Supplements
Upset stomach and constipation are the most common side effects associated with calcium supplements.
If any of the side effects worsen or persists, inform your pharmacist or doctor immediately. However, most people never experience any serious side effects after taking calcium supplements.
If you experience any of the following side effects:
It is very rare to experience a severe allergic reaction after taking calcium supplements.
However, seek medical attention if you notice any symptoms of a serious allergic reaction including trouble breathing, rash, severe dizziness, and swelling/itching of the throat, tongue, or face.
The list of side effects provided here is far from exhaustive. If you do notice other side effects not listed here, ensure that you contact your pharmacist or doctor.
Precautions When Taking Calcium Supplements
Inform your pharmacist or doctor if you have any allergies before you start taking calcium supplements.
The supplements may contain inactive ingredients that can cause allergic reactions or various other problems. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist for more information.
You should not use calcium supplements if you suffer from certain medical conditions such as:
If you suffer from phenylketonuria or a different condition that requires limiting your intake of aspartame, consult your pharmacist or doctor about using calcium supplements safely since some sugar-free formulations of calcium supplements contain aspartame.
If you are taking calcium supplements under instructions from your doctor, it is likely that they are already aware of the possible drug interactions and may be monitoring you for them.
Never stop, start, or alter the dosage of any calcium supplement before you check with your pharmacist or doctor first.
Inform your physician or pharmacist before using calcium supplements if you are using any of the following products:
Calcium can inhibit the absorption of other drugs including tetracycline antibiotics, bisphosphonates, levothyroxine, estramustine, and quinolone antibiotics such as levofloxacin and ciprofloxacin.
Ensure that you separate doses of the medications listed above from your doses of calcium supplements.
Ask your physician about how long to wait between doses and for assistance in finding a dosing schedule that works with all your medications. Check the labels on all your prescription and nonprescription medications since they may contain calcium.
Notes About Taking Calcium Supplements
Calcium-rich foods include dairy products (such as ice cream, cheese, yogurt, and milk), dark-green leafy vegetables (such as spinach and broccoli), and calcium-fortified foods such as orange juice.
Calcium-rich foods help in calcium absorption.
Vitamin D also helps with calcium absorption. Vitamin D rich foods include fatty fish, fortified dairy products, cod liver oil, sardines, chicken livers, and eggs.
The Bottom Line
Calcium supplements can be highly beneficial to your body, but you need to take the right dosages and to follow the right directions to avoid any unwanted side effects.
Always ensure that you consult your physician or pharmacist before you start taking any calcium supplements or if you experience any serious side effects after taking them.
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