Calcium is one of the most common minerals in the human body, and about 99% of it is stored in our teeth and bones. As we know, calcium is necessary to maintain the strength of bones and teeth and plays a vital role in regulating muscle contractions, and facilitating the delivery of messages from the brain to the rest of the body through nerves, and low levels of calcium in the body can lead to a wide range of symptoms and health problems.
Why does the body need calcium?
Calcium is a mineral found in food and is essential for building strong bones and maintaining other important bodily functions. It is stored in the bones and teeth and supports their growth, structure and strength.
Calcium is also one of the body’s electrolytes, in other words, it is a mineral that carries an electrical charge. The mineral is needed to help transmit nerve signals between the brain and the body and facilitate muscle contraction and movement, including maintaining a heartbeat. Additionally, calcium is needed in the blood to aid normal blood clotting and facilitate the release of necessary hormones and other chemicals, which affect many of the body’s functions.
What are the signs and symptoms of calcium deficiency?
Symptoms of calcium deficiency can range from mild to severe. Early signs of calcium deficiency include:
- Muscle cramps or spasms
- Numbness and / or tingling, especially in the fingertips
- Muscle cramps mainly in the hands
- Fragility of nails
- Difficulty swallowing and vomiting
Neglected or untreated, calcium deficiency can cause severe symptoms, such as:
- Confusion and irritability
- Anxiety and depression
- Teeth erosion
- Growth and development problems, especially in children
- Bone fractures
- Heart problems
What causes calcium deficiency?
True calcium deficiency usually has little to do with your diet, but rather underlying health conditions, such as a problem with the kidneys or parathyroid glands, which can affect calcium levels in the blood.
Calcium regulates PTH and vitamin D to keep blood calcium levels within tight margins. Disruptions to parathyroid hormone or vitamin D can affect calcium levels, resulting in low levels of calcium in the blood. Vitamin D helps the body absorb adequate levels of calcium from the gut, so a deficiency of this vital vitamin may be a cause of low calcium.
Additionally, some medicines can interfere with the mechanisms that absorb or excrete calcium from the body which, over time, can lead to more problems if not managed well. In the long term, not getting enough calcium may cause the body to use up calcium stored in the bones, thus losing bone mass, making them weak and brittle and can lead to a condition known as osteoporosis with a high risk of fractures.
In children and young adults, a condition called rickets can form if the body is not getting enough vitamin D and calcium. Likewise, in the elderly, rickets can develop.
Severe calcium deficiency also leads to heart problems, as the heart muscle becomes weak and cannot pump blood throughout the body.