Calcium is an important mineral in the human body. A sufficient level of calcium is necessary for building and maintaining bones as well as blood clotting and the proper functioning of nerves and muscles, especially the heart. If you don't take in enough calcium, your body will break down bone to free up the calcium it needs.
Vitamin D is necessary for your body to absorb and use calcium, as well as playing vital roles in the nervous and immune systems. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, which means that your body can store extra for use on days when you don't take in enough. However, it also means that it is possible to take in too much vitamin D and reach toxic levels.
Everyone needs to take in sufficient levels of calcium and vitamin D to be healthy. Those with osteoporosis, especially while taking certain medications, must to be extra careful to get enough calcium and vitamin D to maintain healthy bones.
How do I take it?
You can ask your doctor to test your levels of calcium and vitamin D. Your doctor can help you decide whether you need to add more food rich in these nutrients to your diet or begin taking calcium and vitamin D supplements, and what dosage of supplements is safe to take. If you are taking supplements on your doctor's recommendation, do no stop taking them without consulting your doctor.
Eating foods with calcium and vitamin D makes these nutrients more readily available to your body than taking them as supplements.
Calcium is present in milk, cheese, and yogurt, tofu, dark leafy greens such as kale and spinach, and sardines. Products including soy milk and orange juice are often fortified with calcium - check labels to make sure.
Your body absorbs calcium best in smaller doses spaced throughout the day. It also helps to take calcium supplements with food.
Vitamin D is found in egg yolks, cheese, beef liver, and many types of fish including salmon, mackerel, and some canned tuna and sardines. Vitamin D is also added to milk, many cereals, and other products such as soy milk and orange juice. Check labels to make sure products contain vitamin D.
Vitamin D supplements come in two forms: Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol, made by plants) and vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol, made by animals and fungi). Either type of vitamin D is beneficial for bone health. Some researchers believe that D3 is absorbed more readily than D2. Ask your doctor whether one form is more beneficial for you.
Your skin makes vitamin D when it is exposed to sunlight, but it is difficult to estimate how much. Since the amount of vitamin D your skin makes depends on the season, where you live, and how light or dark your skin is, it may require 10 minutes or two hours to produce sufficient vitamin D. Be careful when sunbathing to protect your skin from burning, which can increase your risk for skin cancer.
An individual's optimal intake of calcium and vitamin D depends on a variety of factors. Ensuring adequate levels of calcium and vitamin D is the first step in treating or preventing the development of osteoporosis.
Calcium supplements may cause side effects such as gas or constipation at first. Try breaking up the doses and taking smaller amounts throughout the day. Drinking more fluids may help. You can also try another brand of supplement - one brand may cause fewer side effects than another.
Some supplements may increase your levels of nutrients to toxic levels. It is possible to
overdose on vitamins and minerals.
Taking too much calcium supplements can cause constipation and kidney stones in some people. At very high levels, it may cause confusion, disorientation, and abnormal heart rhythm.
Taking too much vitamin D supplements can cause nausea, vomiting, constipation, loss of appetite, and weight loss. Since vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium, taking too much vitamin D can lead to an overdose of calcium too.
Nutritional supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Their safety and effectiveness has not been evaluated. The strength and purity of the ingredients
may vary from brand to brand or batch to batch.
Supplements cannot replace a nutritious diet.
No supplement is ever a good substitute for clinically proven drug therapies.
For more information, visit these links:
Calcium/Vitamin D - National Osteoporosis Foundation
Calcium and vitamin D supplementation in osteoporosis - UpToDate
Calcium and Vitamin D - VeganHealth.org
Calcium - National Institutes of Health
Vitamin D - National Institutes of Health
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