It’s common knowledge that we need calcium to build strong teeth and bones, but did you know that a calcium deficiency can actually cause an array of other physical problems? It’s true!
Calcium deficiency symptoms can range from seemingly mild issues like dry skin and brittle nails to major health concerns including miscarriages, kidney stones, seizures, and even heart failure. It can also have a major impact on your central nervous system.
Keep reading to learn about how calcium deficiency affects the nervous system and what you can do to combat this serious condition.
What Is Calcium?
First things first—what is calcium? It’s an essential mineral that’s found in all of our body’s cells. Calcium is actually our body’s most abundant mineral, accounting for 1.5 to 2 percent of our total body weight.
Ninety-eight percent of the body’s calcium resides in the bones, and one percent in the teeth. The remainder is held in other areas of the body. It’s responsible for critical functions including:
- Blood vessel contraction and expansion
- Transmission of nerve impulses
- Hormone production
- Muscle contractions
- Response to injuries
Calcium also contributes to healthy brain development. It regulates the development of neurons and impacts both structural makeup of brain cells and their ability to function.
Calcium Deficiency and the Nervous System
Low levels of calcium in the blood can cause an electrolyte imbalance known as hypocalcemia. This can lead to an array of symptoms including problems with your central nervous system.
The central nervous system is comprised of your brain, spinal cord, and the peripheral nerves that control cellular functions and body movements. Here are a few of the most important ways that a calcium deficiency can impact your nervous system.
Stunted Brain Development
Calcium plays a major role in fetal brain development. Mothers who don’t get enough calcium during pregnancy are at higher risk of having children with mental retardation, autism, and other developmental issues.
When the body suffers from an injury that causes cellular damage, the central nervous system sends out calcium cells to protect against further trauma. Calcium also seeks out dying or dead cells and prevents the body from wasting resources trying to repair them. Insufficient calcium levels can create problems with the injury healing process.
Calcium also significantly impacts cell signaling within the body. The nerve endings in your muscle cells release calcium ions, which then bind to activator proteins which signal your muscles to contract and relax.
Insufficient calcium levels lead to a condition called “neuromuscular irritability,” which is an involuntary twitching or spasming of the muscles and nerves.
Other symptoms of this condition include muscle cramping in the arms and/or legs, tingling and numbness in your fingers and toes, and, in severe cases, irregular heart contractions. It can also cause confusion or disorientation.
How to Combat Calcium Deficiency Symptoms
In almost all cases, it’s possible—and recommended, to get your calcium from eating the right foods, rather than taking supplements. In fact, an over-abundance of calcium can cause a condition called hypercalcemia. This can lead to symptoms including:
- Kidney stones
- Bone weakness
- Excessive thirst and urination
- Digestive system problems (stomach upset, constipation, vomiting)
- Brain issues (lethargy, fatigue, confusion, depression)
- Heart palpitations, fainting, cardiac arrhythmias
- Severe central nervous system problems (dementia, coma)
If you think you’re suffering from calcium deficiency symptoms, it’s best to seek medical attention rather than trying to self-diagnose and treat the condition. You should always talk to your doctor before taking calcium supplements. A physician will order blood tests to confirm whether you’re suffering from low calcium levels and give you specific recommendations to combat the problem.
However, there is rarely any harm in making dietary changes to improve your overall health. In general, it’s recommended that adults consume between 1,000 and 1,200 mg of calcium per day. This number is higher for older adults, post-menopausal women, adolescents, and pregnant or breastfeeding women.
Most people with dietary issues suffer from calcium inadequacy, rather than calcium deficiency. This is common among people who are overweight, vegans, and low-income individuals. Certain medical conditions and some drugs, like diuretics, corticosteroids, some antibiotics, antiseizure medications, and certain chemotherapy drugs are more likely to cause a true calcium deficiency.
You can use a calcium calculator to determine whether you’re consuming enough calcium to meet your needs. If you find that you’re lacking, start making efforts to include more healthy, high-calcium foods in your diet.
Some of the best options include:
- Dairy (milk, cheese, yogurt)
- Dark leafy greens (broccoli, spinach, dandelion leaves)
- Seaweed (kelp)
- Nuts (sesame, almond, hazelnut, pistachio)
- Fortified cereals
- Soy milk
Vitamin D is also necessary for the body to efficiently absorb calcium. Fortified foods usually contain both calcium and vitamin D. Fatty fish, like tuna, salmon, and mackerel are also excellent sources of vitamin D. A little bit of daily sun exposure is also important.
In addition, regular exercise and maintaining a healthy body weight can also improve your overall health and help you avoid hypocalcemia.
Suffering From Calcium Deficiency Symptoms? Contact Us Today!
If you’re concerned that you’re suffering from calcium deficiency symptoms, you don’t need to suffer in silence!
Contact us to schedule an appointment today! We’ll answer all of your questions, determine the cause of your symptoms, and help get you back on the path towards optimal health.