We continually hear in the media that older people become calcium deficient. This is true to a certain extent but often not as journalists or GPs understand. The real physiological and social understanding is much more complex.
Calcium serves many functions in your body. It helps your bones form, stay hard and renew themselves. Calcium is very important to the energy production cycle that takes place within your cells. It helps form and renew your skin, joints and ligaments. One of its most unsung functions is that it remains in the bones as a reserve to be drawn from the bones to neutralise over-acidic blood and tissue.
When you are a child, your blood and your body is quite alkaline. As you get older, however, your body becomes more acidic, particularly post menopause and post andropause. In order to counteract this, your body starts pulling calcium and magnesium from your bones to return your body to a more alkaline state.
So what makes your body more acidic?
When your body has to keep taking calcium and magnesium from the bones to counteract that over-acidity you begin to move into osteopenia (holes appearing in the bones) and osteoporosis (brittle and weak bones), and may develop susceptibility to osteomyelitis (infection in the bones) or osteoarthritis (dissolving of joints and joint tissue).
The larger problem that is often ignored is also the loss of magnesium from the bones which is a major alkaliser of the blood and body. If you are taking calcium supplements without magnesium you are reducing your magnesium reserves. Then if you have any form of cardiovascular disease or heart condition the calcium will add to the risk of clots and the lack of magnesium elevates the risk of heart attack and stroke. Also, too much calcium increases the risk of kidney stones.
Dairy is the worst thing to consume. You may have been sold the idea, by advertising, that cow’s milk makes your bones strong. Studies, such as this one have now shown the opposite to be true in that it pulls calcium from your bones and thus weakening them.
Do not expect your GP or the person doing the bone scan at the hospital to know this, as they probably have not read the science, and are as brainwashed by the dairy industry’s advertising as most people.
So what can you do?
Remember that you do not wait until you have a broken a hip or severe osteoporosis to make these changes.
A calcium supplement will not necessarily fix the damage you do to your body by not looking after it in the first place. Supplements can help maintain your bone strength and to prevent disease but if you really pay attention to the state of your body, nutrition and embrace a healthy way of living, you will stay healthier longer.
Do not play nutritionist yourself. The complex interaction of calcium absorption is regulated by several factors, all of which have to be considered to prevent diseases arising from calcium deficiency. Some supplements are higher-quality than others. Before rushing out and buying off-the-shelf calcium supplements, consult a plant-based naturopath and medical nutritionist who can advise you on what is right for you.