Two Things You Might Not Know About Calcium


1) Not just for strong bones. Calcium also maintains our blood pH at just above neutral. When blood pH goes down – from constant stress or a diet high in coffee, sugar, sodas, or alcohol – calcium is released from bones to raise pH. What would happen if we couldn’t do this? If blood pH got too low, our lungs would shut down; if it got too high, our heart would stop. Thank goodness for the calcium reservoir in our bones and the ingenious, complicated biochemistry that allows us to use it.

2) We get enough but can’t always use it. We need at least 7 cofactors to utilize dietary calcium.

a. Systemic pH – Anything that lowers blood pH impacts our ability to absorb and use calcium (see #1 for a partial list).
b. Digestion – Calcium is only absorbed in an acid environment. If we take antacids regularly, we dilute stomach acid and can’t absorb calcium, among other problems. And in food that digests quickly (i.e., carbs) the calcium may not be available. For instance, in lowfat milk, the higher percentage of sugar (lactose) speeds everything through to the lower small intestine, which is too alkaline to absorb calcium.
c. Other minerals – Minerals help nutrients cross cell membranes. Calcium must be in balance with other essential minerals for this to work. A good source of minerals? Sea salt.
d. Hormones – Hormones affect whether/how we store calcium, especially parathyroid, thyroid, adrenal hormones, and all the sex hormones. Imbalances throw this off; hence, menopausal women are especially at risk for osteoporosis.
e. Hydration – Proper hydration affects every function in our body. Calcium has a strong relationship with electrolytes.
f. Fatty acids – Fats are necessary to transport calcium across cell membranes to be used in cells.
g. Vitamin D increases absorption of calcium in the GI tract, decreases loss in urine/feces, and helps bring calcium into blood. Unfortunately, the synthetic vitamin D added to milk and other foods is not well absorbed. Better sources are foods naturally high in D or 15 minutes of sunlight without sunscreen (This process needs cholesterol, so extremely low fat diets can cause vitamin D deficiency). We also need roughly equal amounts of vitamin A to be able to use vitamin D.

We try to get enough calcium. Let’s also remember the cofactors, so as not to waste our efforts.

A New Year’s toast — to our amazing bodies that give us vitality!


Anne Whitson, M.A., N.S.
Nutritionist/Weight Mgmt Coach
Ubbe’s Fitness & Weight Mgmt Clinic

© 2009 Ubbe's Fitness Studio