We all know, or have heard by now, that the mineral calcium is essential for strong bones and teeth. Since we were little, we have been exhorted to “drink your milk” and eat plenty of dairy products in order to ensure plenty of calcium in our diet and to have strong bones for the future.
But what you may not know is the multitude of other functions calcium performs in the body. Too many to list here, an important one for you to know is that calcium is vital for proper muscle function. Your muscles need calcium in order to contract and relax. For that reason, calcium can be really helpful to take for muscle cramps or spasm.
I’ve successfully helped patients in my office get relief from painful muscle spasms with calcium supplementation. Calcium supplementation before, during and after athletic events can also prevent cramps and muscle soreness from the increased exertion. I’ve also read reports of alternative doctors successfully treating restless legs with calcium.
An important caveat though before you run to the store to buy some calcium, is that not all calcium supplements are created equal. For one, you absolutely need Vitamin D and Magnesium to absorb calcium. Second is that calcium is most effectively absorbed in an acidic environment. (That’s why trying to get your calcium from an antacid remedy is useless and a waste of money.) But most importantly, the form calcium is in can effect how much will be absorbed. Calcium carbonate is a very common form often made from crushed rocks or shells. It is very cheap to make, hence it is so common in most supplements. However, very little, if any, of this form is absorbed by the body. A highly absorbable form of calcium is calcium lactate.
You should also note that effective calcium absorption requires fatty acids (like omega-3s) and iodine. In fact, one of the risk factors for osteoporosis (brittle bones) is being thin! Not all, but alot of people who are too thin, do not have adequate amounts of fat in their diet. Without these vital nutrients, the bones suffer as well as many other tissues in the body.
I want to go back to that “drink you milk for strong bones” message really quickly. That was largely started by the dairy industry to keep people drinking milk, especially in a time where more and more people were starting to have intolerances to dairy. While milk and cheese do have calcium in them, cup-for-cup, dark leafy greens like spinach and kale have more calcium in them then milk. And the vegetable form of calcium is generally more absorbable. So, really, for strong bones and relaxed muscles, the message should be, “Make sure to eat your dark, leafy greens, and don’t forget a bit of butter or olive oil on top!”
This article is for information only and is not to be construed as medical advice. Please consult your healthcare provider before making any changes to your supplemental or pharmaceutical regime.