Calcium: Sources and Supplements
© 2005 Katherine Poehlmann, Ph.D.
Besides building and maintaining strong bones and teeth, calcium plays a role in the transmission of nerve impulses, blood clotting, and smooth muscle contraction (which helps regulate heart rhythm). Calcium is essential for encapsulating and ensnaring harmful invaders like bacteria and viruses. It is a mineral necessary to neutralize the acid formed when digesting animal protein. We should be able to get the calcium we need from the foods we eat. Unfortunately, many vitamins and minerals are processed out of our foods, and this requires a consideration of supplements.
The key to quality in vitamins and supplements is how quickly and completely they are absorbed. When calcium absorption is inhibited, mineral imbalances cause toxins to accumulate in tissues and joints. This can aggravate symptoms for sufferers of arthritis, fibromyalgia, lupus, and other illnesses characterized by joint pain and inflammation.
When buying calcium supplements, look for the percentage of elemental calcium on the label. If it isn’t shown, there is often an 800 number shown that you can use to get that information from the manufacturer.
If you have determined that you need 1000 mg of calcium per day, be aware that some tablets only contain about 220 mg of elemental calcium. That means you would need to take 4 to 5 tablets daily. It’s advisable not to take all pills at once, but to spread out the dose during the day for maximum effectiveness.
Specific calcium supplements in order of utility:
• Calcium Citrate (most effective absorption. Examples are Citracal and Solgar. Best taken on an empty stomach.)
• Calcium Carbonate (the most common and least expensive, but these contain other ingredients like metals, sugar, etc. Examples are Tums and Caltrate. Coral Calcium is nothing extraordinary, having the same chemical composition as Calcium carbonate. It may have additional phytochemical additives. Best taken with a meal.)
• Calcium Lactate, Calcium Gluconate, Calcium Phosphate (very small percentage of elemental calcium)
• Oyster shell, Bone meal, Dolomite (very cheap to produce and poorly absorbed. Avoid these, as they may contain lead or heavy metals)
Note that grapefruit juice can interfere with many common prescription drugs, including antibiotics, and certain vitamins and supplements. The same is true of juice derived from Seville oranges, but most of the OJ sold in our markets comes from different kinds of oranges. Always use pure spring water to help swallow pills.
Dr. Poehlmann is the author of Rheumatoid Arthritis: The Infection Connection, available at Amazon.com and major bookstores, or click here to order now.