Seventy percent of the world’s population doesn’t consume dairy after they are weaned and have no issues with calcium deficiency.
So, why did we ever get so obsessed with calcium?
The dairy industry has spent millions of dollars in advertising to convince us we need 2-4 servings of dairy per day, but we clearly don’t require this amount of dairy or really, any at all.
Where do I get my calcium? Where do cows get their calcium?
Cows only drink milk until they are weaned—the answer is grass.
Leafy green vegetables are chock-full of calcium. There are also many other non-dairy sources such as:
• Collards (1 cup boiled) – 357 mg
• Rhubarb (1 cup cooked) – 348 mg
• Sardines (3 oz.) – 325 mg
• Spinach (1 cup boiled ) – 291 mg
• Turnip greens (1 cup boiled) – 249mg
• Black-eyed peas (1 cup cooled) – 211 mg
• Kale (1 cup boiled) – 179 mg
Calcium and Bone Health
A 1987 study by Riggs et al. examined 106 women and found that calcium intake ranging from a low 500 to a high 1,400 mg per day led to no difference in bone mineral densities. A 1995 Italian study by Tavani et al. found that among women who consumed between 440 and 1,025 mg of calcium daily, those who consumed more milk actually had a slightly increased number of hip fractures.
The Real Problem
The real problem with calcium is that many people are unable to maintain their mineral stores for multiple reasons.
1. Vitamin D deficiency.
Due to the fact that most people are indoors most of the year, it’s an epidemic. I have every client get their vitamin D levels checked. Vitamin D is a critical hormone-like vitamin that plays many roles, but has a particularly important role in calcium metabolism. It is responsible for improving absorption of calcium from our food, reabsorbing it into the kidneys, and assimilating it into the bones and teeth.
Without enough vitamin D we lose 30-80% of all calcium consumed.
2. Low stomach acid.
The stomach is the beginning of the “digestive cascade,” playing a critical role in the secretion of large amounts of hydrochloric acid (HCl) via the parietal cells. This HCl is critical for absorption of minerals, particularly calcium. In fact, one of the risk factors associated with long-term antacid use is bone fractures. People are at risk for low HCl if they are over 40 years old, deficient in vitamin B3 or zinc, highly stressed, have an H. Pylori infection or autonomic nervous system dysfunction.
3. Lack of exercise.
One of the most important ways to maintain bone mass is to exercise. When you create resistance against bone by contracting muscles, you create micro damage which then stimulates osteoblasts to build stronger bone. What many people don’t realize is that bone is constantly being remodeled. Osteoclasts are breaking it down and osteoblasts are building it up. Gravity is important for the maintenance of bone density. It creates a constant pressure, stimulating the maintenance of strong bones. Astronauts lose bone mass in zero-gravity space—they must exercise daily in order to maintain bone mass.
4. Caffeine consumption.
When I used to work at a health food store, many middle-aged women would come in with a coffee in hand asking where the calcium supplements were. Little did they know that the coffee they were enjoying was actually draining their body of calcium. Coffee and other caffeinated beverages have a diuretic effect which causes an increased release of mineral-rich urine.
5. Response to stress.
In the body, every emotional state is matched by a chemical one. Dr. Bernard Jensen, who saw over 350,000 patients in his lifetime, taught that one of the quickest ways to acidify the body was to engage in negative thought. The late neuroscientist Candice Pert coined the term “molecules of emotion” to describe the chemical reactions that increased our acidity.
When the blood becomes acidic it will do whatever it can to maintain a pH range of 7.35 to 7.45. The bones are an abundant source of minerals which can be released from stores in order to alkalinize the blood. Not only do emotions affect the blood pH, but so do foods.
Sugars, bad fats, dairy, excessive carbs all increase the acidity of the body.
The Bottom Line
It is critical to make sure that your vitamin D levels are in the optimal range, digestion is optimal, you exercise daily, diuretics are avoided and stress is managed before considering calcium supplementation.
You’ll also want to ensure you consume adequate amounts of other nutrients needed for bone health such as boron, magnesium, silica, vitamin K and phosphorus, among others.
Many of these can be obtained from a whole foods diet.
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Assistant Ed: Zenna James/Ed: Bryonie Wise