You have more calcium in your body than any other mineral. However, millions of people are still deficient in calcium.
Calcium deficiency can lead to issues with the strength of your teeth and bones. Calcium is also crucial for tissues and muscles, your cardiovascular system, hormones, and more.
If you aren’t getting your daily recommended intake of calcium, or if you have an absorption issue, then you may develop calcium deficiency.
Keep reading to discover everything you need to know about how calcium deficiency works, including signs and symptoms of calcium deficiency.
How Calcium Deficiency Works
If you have low levels of calcium, then you may develop a condition called hypocalcemia. Your blood has low levels of calcium, which could lead to various physical and cognitive symptoms.
Low calcium levels are associated with problems with your muscles, bones, and teeth.
Some people also develop mental health issues because of calcium deficiency. People who are deficient in calcium may have a higher risk of depression, mood changes, and irritability.
Some are deficient in calcium without knowing it. There are no early symptoms of calcium deficiency.
Over time, however, calcium deficiency leads to less and less bone density. This condition is called osteopenia. If you ignore osteopenia over time, it leads to osteoporosis. Your bones are more brittle, and you have an increased risk of fractures and breaks.
What Causes Calcium Deficiency?
Calcium deficiency is one of the few nutritional deficiencies not typically caused by dietary issues. Even if you get enough calcium in your diet, you could be calcium deficient because of health conditions and other reasons.
According to the National Institutes of Health, most people develop calcium deficiency because of:
- Kidney failure
- Removal of the stomach
- The use of certain medications, including diuretics
If you fall into one or more of the above categories, then you may have a higher risk of developing calcium deficiency regardless of your diet.
It’s unclear how common calcium deficiency is. However, researchers believe calcium deficiency is more common in postmenopausal adults, people with amenorrhea (the absence of menstruation), people who are lactose intolerant, and vegetarian and vegans.
One 2015 study found 3.5 billion people were at risk of calcium intake due to low dietary intake of calcium, which would make calcium deficiency one of the world’s most common nutritional deficiencies.
According to researchers in the United Kingdom, calcium deficiency is more common in people who have chronic illnesses. Certain chronic illnesses could impede your body’s ability to absorb calcium, making it harder to get the calcium you need every day even when following good dietary practices.
Symptoms of Calcium Deficiency
You may experience physical and cognitive symptoms because of calcium deficiency. Common symptoms of calcium deficiency include:
- Muscle aches, spasms, and cramps
- Dry, brittle skin
- Coarse, dry, or brittle hair
- Brittle bones
- Dental problems, including tooth decay, brittle teeth, and irritated gums
- Depression and mood disorders
- Numbness or tingling in the extremities or around the mouth
- Pain in the arms and thighs when walking or moving
If left untreated over time, calcium deficiency can lead to more serious health issues like convulsions, arrhythmia (irregular heart patterns), and even death.
How to Target Calcium Deficiency
The best way to target calcium deficiency is to adjust your diet, take a calcium supplement, or talk to a doctor about managing medications and health conditions.
Some of the best calcium-rich foods to consider adding to your diet include:
- Soy milk
- Nuts and seeds (particularly almonds and sesame seeds)
Dairy products are among the best sources of calcium, which is one reason why vegans have a higher risk of calcium deficiency. However, there are also plenty of plant-based sources of calcium.
Avoid Taking Too Much Calcium
Taking too much calcium is a problem. It leads to hypercalcemia, or an excessive buildup of calcium in your body.
Hypercalcemia can increase the risk of heart disease and kidney stones (kidney stones are lumps of calcium that build up in your kidney), among other health problems.
Talk to a doctor to find the optimal dose of calcium based on your unique physiology.
You may have a higher risk of hypercalcemia if you are also deficient in vitamin D. Vitamin D is crucial for helping your body manage calcium intake. If you don’t get enough vitamin D (say, through sunlight, supplements, or dietary sources), then you may have a higher chance of developing hypercalcemia.
Final Word: Order a Blood Test Today to Check for Calcium Deficiency
Many people are deficient in calcium but have no symptoms. That’s why blood testing is important.
However, a conventional blood test compares your results against a random selection of people who recently visited that clinic.
With our Science Based Nutrition blood testing at Science Nutrition Lab, you get a blood test comparing your results against an optimal range. A board-certified doctor reviews your results with you, helping to spot changes in your blood before symptoms appear.
Order a Science Nutrition Lab blood test today to check for calcium deficiency and other issues with a single, painless test.