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Calcium Part 3

What happens if you don't get enough calcium? Symptoms of calcium deficiency include muscle cramps, menstrual cramps, brittle nails, insomnia, nervousness, osteoporosis, dental problems, arthritis, arrhythmia, high blood pressure, and colorectal cancer. There is also a condition known as hypercalcemia, which results from getting too much calcium in the blood. Symptoms for this disease include appetite loss, drowsiness, constipation, dry mouth, headache, and weakness. Too much calcium can also cause painful constipation (although this can be offset by taking magnesium supplements). Itís best not to get more than 2,000 milligrams of calcium total each day.

Regarding supplemental sources of calcium, there are no supplements that contain only calcium because the human body will not absorb calcium unless it is combined with other substances. The most absorbable forms of calcium are citrate, malate, and ascorbate, which do not depend on the interaction with stomach acid. Calcium carbonate is the cheapest form of supplement, but it dissolves slowly and may be eliminated from the body before it is fully absorbed.

Look for supplements that combine calcium citrate with vitamin D and magnesium. Calcium citrate is good for older adults because you donít need much stomach acid to absorb it, and it works better for people taking acid-blocking drugs for reflux. Vitamin D and magnesium work with calcium to build bones, and they also promote calcium absorption. Most sources recommend supplements containing at least half as much magnesium as calcium.

Absorbed calcium has many known benefits, but many companies now offer calcium supplements that include calcium from several absorbable sources in addition to a little calcium carbonate, a form of calcium that is not so quickly absorbed by the body.

Unabsorbed calcium provides health benefits as well; it binds with bile and carcinogens in the intestine, and helps eliminate them from the body. If you are taking a supplement that contains calcium carbonate, avoid forms that come from bone meal, dolomite, or oyster shells, all of which may contain significant quantities of lead.

Calcium supplements are now also available in chewable form, and they taste pretty good. Remember that the body uses calcium throughout the day; spread the dosage out and take supplements with a small snack for maximum absorption.

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