What is Calcium Deficiency?
Calcium is an essential nutrient that all living organisms need, including humans. It is the most abundant mineral in the body, and 99% of the body’s calcium is in the bone and teeth. Besides supporting the bone’s health, it also helps maintain healthy communication between the brain and other parts of the body. In addition, calcium is also essential for numerous body functions, so a deficiency can have significant effects on the muscles, bones, and teeth.
Calcium deficiency is a condition when the body has an inadequate amount of calcium. Calcium needs to be ingested daily and absorbed effectively for optimal health maintenance. Most people can get enough calcium by consuming a variety of calcium-rich foods. Foods naturally containing calcium include milk and other dairy products, leafy vegetables, seafood, nuts, and beans. Orange juice, bread, cereals, and other fortified foods also contain calcium.
High dietary calcium consumption is necessary for infants, children, and adolescents to promote bone growth. Children who don’t get enough calcium or lack access to calcium-rich foods may not grow to their full heights as adults. Pregnant women also need sufficient calcium intake for the normal development of fetal bones. Furthermore, women who have attained menopause should also increase their calcium intake to lower the risk of osteoporosis and calcium deficiency diseases.
Types of Calcium Deficiency
There are two types of calcium deficiency viz;
Dietary Calcium Deficiency
This occurs if you don’t get enough calcium in your diet. This makes your body take calcium stored in your bone to ensure normal cell function, which can later lead to weakened bones or osteoporosis. Calcium deficiency also contributes to osteoporosis and many problems such as irritability, anxiety, depression, and difficulty sleeping.
Hypocalcemia is a low level of calcium in the body. It can occur as a result of a lack of vitamin D. Besides that, it can also occur from taking certain medications, such as diuretics, medical treatments, or severe health issues like kidney failure. Very low or insufficient calcium in your diet will generally not cause hypocalcemia. This is because the amount of calcium the body needs for functions of the nerves, muscles, brain, and heart can be pulled from the bones. However, continued dietary calcium deficiency can eventually lead to thinning of the bones or osteoporosis because calcium stored in the bones is used up and not replaced.
In addition, if calcium deficiencies are left untreated, it can lead to serious health complications like hypertension (high blood pressure), osteoporosis, and cardiac arrhythmias.
What are the symptoms of calcium deficiency?
Calcium deficiency symptoms vary depending on the type of calcium deficiency, the underlying cause, the severity, and individual factors. The following section looks at calcium deficiency symptoms in more detail.
Abnormal heart rhythm
When calcium levels get low enough, it cannot contract the heart muscles in the same rhythmic way it used to. This causes abnormal heart rhythm or cardiac arrhythmias.
Fatigue or lethargy
The sarcoplasmic reticulum (SR) is a structure in the muscle cells that stores calcium. If calcium is not replaced properly from the SR, the muscles weaken, leading to fatigue. It can also lead to insomnia.
Osteopenia or osteoporosis
When the overall calcium level in the body is low, the body gets some from the bones. This in turn makes them brittle and vulnerable to injury. Over time, having too little calcium can cause osteopenia, a reduction in the mineral density of the bones.
When our body lacks calcium, it pulls it from sources like the teeth. This can lead to dental issues like tooth decay, brittle teeth, irritated gums, weak tooth roots, etc. In addition, calcium deficiency in an infant can impair teeth growth and development.
A person with a deficiency may experience muscle aches, pain in the thighs, arms when walking or moving, and cramps and spasms. Numbness and tingling (called paresthesia) also occur in the extremities, like hands, arms, feet, and legs, as well as around the mouth.
Other symptoms of calcium deficiency include: hallucinations, paresthesia, confusion or memory loss, severe PMS (premenstrual syndrome, easy fracturing of bones, and poor appetite
How is calcium deficiency treated?
If not the safest, the easiest way is to treat or prevent a calcium deficiency is by including more calcium in your diet. Early diagnosis and treatment of dietary calcium deficiency help lower the risk of developing severe complications like hypertension (high blood pressure) and osteoporosis. Treatments involve replacing the body’s depleted calcium stores and may also include:
(a) Consuming calcium-enriched foods, such as orange juice and bread
(b)Taking calcium supplements as recommended by your licensed healthcare provider
(c) Adjusting or changing medications with links to calcium deficiencies, such as diuretics.
(d) Engaging in regular exercise
Finally, too much calcium, an issue called hypercalcemia, can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, kidney stones, and other serious health-related issues. So, before taking calcium supplements, make sure to consult your doctor to avoid unwanted complications.