Calcium Deficiency: 17 Signs & Symptoms To Watch Out For

Calcium / Nutrition / April 23, 2018

Calcium is arguably the most important nutrient in your body.

More than 99% of your calcium is stored in your bones and your teeth, which supports skeletal function and structure. The rest of the calcium in your body is used for other critical functions such as muscle contraction, blood vessel contraction and expansion, and sending messages through the nervous system.

But even though it’s one of the most critical minerals for your health, most people are still not getting enough. In fact, one study suggests as much as 68% of the American population is calcium deficient.

Adolescent girls and boys, women over 50, and men over 70 are at a particularly high risk of not meeting their daily calcium requirements. Menopausal women, vegans, and anyone with a dairy intolerance are also more prone to calcium deficiency than the general population.


What is Calcium Deficiency Disease?

Calcium deficiency disease, known as hypocalcemia, is a global health problem. People around the world are simply not getting enough calcium from their diets. This is particularly problematic in developing nations where food sources may be scarce.

When you have low calcium intake, you increase your risk of developing diseases like:

  • Osteopenia — Bone loss or bone thinning beyond the normal range is known as osteopenia. It’s a precursor to osteoporosis and is officially marked with a T-score between -1 and -2.49. T-scores are calculated as a part of DXA scans, which measure bone mineral density.
  • Osteoporosis — Excessive bone density loss resulting in a T-score of -2.5 or lower is categorized as osteoporosis. Bones become weak and brittle and put you at an increased risk of fracture.

If your body doesn’t get enough calcium to keep its base functions running smoothly, it will leach calcium from your bones to make up for the shortfall.

If this goes on for long enough, your bone mineral density will deplete to the point of osteopenia or worse, osteoporosis.

Since calcium is so critical throughout the body, low calcium symptoms can show up anywhere. And they can manifest in many different ways.


Signs and Symptoms of Calcium Deficiency

Calcium deficiency symptoms vary from mild to severe if left untreated. But even if you don’t have any obvious signs associated with low calcium, especially early on, metabolic changes and potential dysfunctions may have already begun.

calcium deficiency signs and symptoms infographic

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Minor calcium deficiency symptoms can include:

  • Numbness
  • Tingling Fingers
  • Muscle cramps
  • Lethargy
  • Poor appetite
  • Weak or brittle fingernails
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Fainting

More severe calcium deficiency symptoms can include:

  • Mental confusion, irritability, depression, and anxiety
  • Tooth decay
  • Insufficient blood clotting
  • Bone fractures
  • Osteopenia or osteoporosis
  • Growth and development delays in children
  • Heart problems involving blood pressure and heart rhythms

The US Surgeon General warns that by 2020, 50% of people over the age of 50 will be at risk for osteoporotic fractures. That’s right — half of the entire 50+ population is at risk of breaking a bone.

America is one of the top sufferers from osteoporosis in the world and the age to start getting concerned is getting younger and younger. Why you ask? Look at the following major governmental studies.

From 1982–86 the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) conducted the “Total Diet Study.” The study found several age and gender groups deficient in calcium, magnesium, and several other minerals important to bone health.

In 1996, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) completed its “Continuing Survey of Food Intakes of Individuals,” which corroborated the FDA’s study. The USDA found both men and women of all ages were deficient in calcium. The most shocking statistic was for teen girls; 87% were not meeting their recommended daily intake of calcium.

The National Institutes of Health compares bone growth in children like depositing money in the bank for when you’re older. During childhood and into early adulthood, more bone is deposited than withdrawn as the skeleton grows in density and size. So the more you build up in your formative years, the longer you’ll have a supply to draw from as you age.

But how can you know if you’re calcium-deficient? A routine blood test from your doctor should be able to establish your calcium baseline and give you an idea of how much more you need.


Causes of Calcium Deficiency

Calcium deficiency doesn’t happen overnight. It can take years to manifest as physical symptoms, so by the time a deficiency becomes obvious, the damage is already done.

Before low calcium symptoms appear, keep these causes in mind:

Lack of Calcium

This is a bit of an obvious one, but low calcium intake over a long period of time is a primary cause of calcium deficiency. How do you know how much calcium is enough? It’s recommended that adults over the age of 19 consume between 1,000–1,200 mg every day depending on your gender.

Prescription Medications

Certain medications may decrease calcium absorption by interfering with your body’s ability to absorb nutrients. In particular, drugs like PPIs, lipid-lowering statins, diuretics, anticonvulsants, and corticosteroids have been linked to reduced calcium and vitamin D levels. For a more thorough look at drugs that can cause osteoporosis, check out our blog post on the top 12 prescription drugs that cause osteoporosis.

Dietary Intolerance

People with a lactose intolerance or dairy allergy are missing out on a whole calcium-rich food group and may struggle to find enough adequate dietary sources of calcium. Gluten sensitivities and celiac often lead to inflammation and malabsorption of nutrients and the subsequent risk of bone loss. To help find calcium-rich foods that fit your lifestyle, we’ve created a guide to some of the best plant and animal-based calcium food sources.

Genetic Factors

Vitamin D-resistant syndromes are caused by hereditary defects or mutations in the vitamin D receptor. Impaired vitamin D receptors can have a direct impact on the body’s ability to absorb calcium. Inherited disorders of calcium and phosphate homeostasis can also cause bone loss and calcium deficiency. Evaluating organ systems and hormone levels will help with the diagnosis process and guide treatment options.

Malabsorption

Calcium absorption refers to the amount of calcium that is absorbed from the digestive tract into your body’s circulatory system. Another term for this is calcium bioavailability. Calcium absorption can be affected by the amount of calcium in your body, your vitamin D, and K2 levels, your magnesium and trace mineral status, age, pregnancy, and even certain plant substances in your diet. The amount of calcium consumed at a time can also affect absorption. For example, the efficiency of calcium absorption decreases as the amount of calcium you consume at a meal increases. A good rule of thumb is to not take more than 500 mg of calcium at a time because the absorption becomes quite low on any amount above that limit.

Age

Infants and children absorb as much as 60% of the calcium they consume. But once you reach adulthood, your absorption slowly decreases to about 15–20%. If you’re only absorbing 15–20% of the calcium you are consuming, it’s difficult to get enough through diet alone.

Hormonal changes

A decline in estrogen during menopause causes women to lose bone density more rapidly. Postmenopausal women have about one-tenth the amount of estrogen levels as premenopausal women. Meanwhile, low parathyroid hormone levels also impact your body’s ability to absorb calcium effectively.

Calcium is and always will be crucial for bone health. But when it comes to strong and healthy bones, there are other critical nutrients that need to be taken with calcium for optimal health benefits.

These are:

Vitamin D

Calcium and vitamin D work really well together. When you take vitamin D, you increase your body’s ability to effectively absorb calcium. Lara Pizzorno, the author of Your Bones, says, “Less widely known is that vitamin D also boosts the expression of the vitamin K-dependent proteins. So when you take supplemental vitamin D, you are increasing the amount of calcium available in your body and therefore your need for vitamin K.” In other words, vitamin D increases the amount of calcium you absorb, but in turn, also increases your need for vitamin K.

Vitamin K2

Don’t mix this up with vitamin K1. Vitamin K2 has nothing to do with blood clotting factors. And it’s very difficult to get without supplementation. It’s not in leafy greens like K1 and is found only in tiny amounts in eggs and cheeses. Its main role is to regulate calcium deposition. Meaning, vitamin K2 cleans calcium deposits from your arteries and moves it to your bones. Talk about important!

Magnesium

It’s reported that as many as 80% of Americans are magnesium-deficient! Deficiency of this mineral affects bone growth, bone fragility, and alters calcium metabolism and the hormones that regulate calcium.


How is Calcium Deficiency Diagnosed?

Hypocalcemia can be caused by low vitamin D levels leading to poor calcium absorption, or because of reduced parathyroid hormone function. Low parathyroid hormone levels lead to excessive calcium loss through the kidneys and reduced intestinal absorption of calcium.

Because many symptoms of hypocalcemia are obvious, your doctor will first make a clinical assessment of any symptoms, like muscle spasms. One spasm in particular — Trousseau’s Sign, a hand spasm brought on by inflation of a blood pressure cuff — is a good indicator. That’s because it’s present in 94% of hypocalcemic patients and only 1% of non-hypocalcemic people.

Longstanding hypocalcemia is associated with neuropsychiatric symptoms (depression, anxiety, euphoria, psychosis, etc.), cataracts, and even intracranial pressure (pressure buildup inside your skull).

It should also be noted that gradual hypocalcemia is less likely to have obvious outward signs than if your calcium levels are suddenly and rapidly depleted.

Beyond observational diagnosis, your doctor will look at your blood work to check your calcium, vitamin D, and parathyroid levels. The most accurate vitamin D test is the 25-hydroxyvitamin D blood test. Optimal blood levels of 25OHD are 50-80 nanograms per mL.

Your doctor will also ask about your medical history as hereditary conditions can play a role in developing hypocalcemia and osteoporosis. They may also recommend a DXA scan depending on your age to assess your bone mineral density.


How to Prevent and Treat Calcium Deficiency

Hypocalcemia is easy to treat and prevent and generally involves adding more calcium to your diet. But your treatment plan will ultimately depend on the severity of your calcium deficiency and should be discussed with your doctor.

As far as prevention goes, it’s never too early to start. Focus on eating calcium-rich foods with plenty of bone-friendly nutrients. And definitely check out the recipe section of our blog for quick, easy, and delicious bone-healthy recipes the whole family can enjoy.

After peak bone mass, which most people reach around age 40, you begin to lose 1% of your total bone mineral density each year. Your absorption of vitamins and minerals also declines as you age. That is why recommendations for dietary calcium intake are higher if you’re 51 and older.

And yet, even with everything we know about the consequences of calcium deficiency, research shows that as much as 68% of Americans still have a low calcium intake.

So to ensure you are getting enough try AlgaeCal Plus. AlgaeCal Plus is a natural, whole-food supplement with the ideal blend of vitamins and minerals that work with your body to not only maintain bone density but actually build new bone. AlgaeCal’s plant-based calcium naturally contains all 13 essential bone-building nutrients and is specially formulated with vitamin D3, vitamin K2, and boron.

It’s also the perfect supplement to continue taking through menopause and as you age. Unlike traditional calcium supplements and osteoporosis treatments, there’s no time limit on how long you can safely take AlgaeCal Plus.

Comments
Deb Justice
Deb Justice

I was diagnosed with osteoporosis in my early 50s.(I’m 68 now) I did the prescribed medications – one of them made me deathly sick but they did not really stop or reverse my condition. I started the AlgaeCal about 2 years ago. This supplement along with a better diet and weight training resulted in me going from -3.5 score to -2.4 – in other words, from osteoporosis to osteopenia!!! My doctor was AMAZED! He was so sure that I was just going to get worse when I stopped taking prescribed medication. Will never be without AlgeCal!

Jenna AlgaeCal
Jenna AlgaeCal

Wow – thank you so much for sharing, Deb! Keep up the great work 🙂

– Jenna @ AlgaeCal

Janice Spencer
Janice Spencer

I am curious about how you would monitor the increase in bone density with Algaecal? Also, are there experts in osteoporosis in the USA where one could consult? Thank you.

Jenna AlgaeCal
Jenna AlgaeCal

Hi Janice,

Changes in bone mineral density are based on before and after DXA scan (bone density scan) results.

We recommend looking for a functional doctor through The Institute for Functional Medicine for an IFM certified practitioner in your area here – these are doctors who have gone the extra mile to do additional courses and certifications on top of their medical practice.

You can also reach our Bone Health Consultants by calling 1-800-820-0184 or emailing [email protected]. Hope that helps!

– Jenna @ AlgaeCal

Skyring
Skyring

I am taking Grow Bone System by Garden of Life and would like to know what the difference is between your product and Grow Bone System. Looking forward to an answer,

Jenna AlgaeCal
Jenna AlgaeCal

Hi Skyring,

Great question! We do provide some of our raw material for other companies to use in their own formulations, including Garden of Life.

Although many of these formulations will have a similar makeup, including things like vitamin D3 and K2 along with their own blends of fruit and vegetable extracts; AlgaeCal’s proprietary blend of vitamins and minerals combined with our unique algae, make AlgaeCal the only calcium supplement on the market that has been proven time and time again to show a measured increase in bone density! We have 3 human clinical studies that have all been peer-reviewed and published in respected journals, and you can find them all here.

In contrast, other calciums may simply slow down the rate of bone density loss. AlgaeCal is also the only calcium supplement guaranteed to increase bone density. You can learn about our guarantees here.

Hopefully this helps in your research! If you have any further questions or concerns, you can always email us at [email protected] or call to speak with one of our Bone Health Consultants at 1-800-820-0184 🙂

– Jenna @ AlgaeCal

Maryann
Maryann

In looking at my bone density report, there is a T score and a Z score. The T score compares to 20 and 30 year olds while the Z score compares to people closer to my age. I am 66 so being compared to 20-30 year olds—-I don’t see the point. I have ordered my algaecal and I am hoping I can get better scores on my next scan.

Jenna AlgaeCal
Jenna AlgaeCal

Hi Maryann,

We definitely understand how this comparison can be a little confusing! We explain the reason your T-score is a better indicator of bone health here (as opposed to a Z-score).

Feel free to let us know if you have any questions throughout your bone health journey! We’re always here to help.

– Jenna @ AlgaeCal

Cynthia L Langston
Cynthia L Langston

I recently read an article from 2013 that women taking calcium and vitamin D is not helping their bones. It also advises those women to go on medication that their doctor reccomends. I have osteoporosis so this is a huge concern for me. Can you tell me if this is true?

Jenna AlgaeCal
Jenna AlgaeCal

Hi Cynthia,

We’re glad you reached out! AlgaeCal is the only calcium supplement clinically proven to increase bone density safely and naturally, and this is supported by 3 human clinical studies! All other calciums have just been shown to slow bone loss — and the article you were reading would have been based on traditional calcium supplements (that are derived from rocks!)

AlgaeCal takes a multi-nutrient approach that provides your bones with all of the vitamins and minerals they need to strengthen, without the need for harsh prescription medications. You can learn more here.

If you have any other questions let us know! You can also call our Bone Health Consultants at 1-800-820-0184 🙂

– Jenna @ AlgaeCal

Rudolph F Richardson
Rudolph F Richardson

Please send information on this topic regularly.

Jenna AlgaeCal
Jenna AlgaeCal

Glad you liked it, Rudolph! We’ll definitely work to create more content like this 🙂

– Jenna @ AlgaeCal

Sheila Claybourn
Sheila Claybourn

Hi Monica,
A well written article. Thank you. I ve been using Algae Cal and the Strontium Citrate you all sell as well for the past six months. I hope to see increases.

Regarding Parathyroid Hormone having too much cause depletion of bones as well. I had two parathyroid tumors removed in 2015. Tumors produce too much hormone and cause bone destruction. Good thing is we have four parathyroid glands and when two bad ones were removed the sleeping one wakes up and produces just the right amount of hormone.
I was always supplementing calcium since age 30 and still saw bone density decrease. Now that tumerous glands removed I have seen increase in hips two years later. Dr Norman in Florida has a great website parathyroid.com which has great video education and pages of twenty years of data. Fourth year after surgery is critical for me as that will max time for
Bone building with supplements and if my -3’lower Back has not improved I may have to get prescription from doctor. I am trying to keep my Algae Cal supplement regime and exercise too. Thank You Again for communication it helps alot!

Monica AlgaeCal
Monica AlgaeCal

Thanks for sharing, Sheila! So glad to hear you are giving the natural approach a try. If you have any questions about your bone health journey please call our Bone Health Consultants at 1-800-820-0184 or email [email protected]. We’re always here to help! 🙂

– Monica

Juliet Scholz
Juliet Scholz

Can I take Algaecal on empty stomach.? Will it be absorb just as well as when taken with food?

Jenna AlgaeCal
Jenna AlgaeCal

Hi Juliet,

Good question! While you can take AlgaeCal on an empty stomach, we recommend taking it with food for the best results. Having food in your stomach helps to stimulate stomach acid production and increase solubility. For more information about how to take AlgaeCal go here.

We hope that helps!

– Jenna @ AlgaeCal

Karen McNamara
Karen McNamara

Will this product upset my stomach???

Jenna AlgaeCal
Jenna AlgaeCal

Hi Karen,

Good question. The majority of calcium supplements are rock-based, so it’s no wonder they are not well tolerated and can cause stomach irritation! AlgaeCal is different. It does not cause an upset stomach because it is plant-based calcium, so our body recognizes it as food, similar to broccoli, spinach, and other leafy greens.

If you’d like to learn more about the difference between rock-based & plant-based calcium, check out this blog post: https://www.algaecal.com/expert-insights/plant-based-calcium/.

– Jenna @ AlgaeCal

Doug
Doug

According to my research, calcium supplements are poorly absorbed, and precipitate into soft tissues, joints, organs. Seems to be an almost certain path to disease, especially if one is magnesium deficient (and seemingly everyone is).

Jenna AlgaeCal
Jenna AlgaeCal

Hi Doug,

It’s great to hear you are doing your research! You are right, the majority of calcium supplements on the market are rock-based and unfortunately can cause side effects including kidney stones, artery calcification & soft tissue deposits. AlgaeCal is very different, in that it is a natural, plant-based calcium supplement that takes a multi-nutrient approach to replenishing bone health — the right way!

Because AlgaeCal is a plant, our body recognizes it as food, just like broccoli, spinach, or kale. We have also added proven bone-building vitamins and minerals like Vitamin C, Magnesium, and Boron, making it the most complete calcium supplement on the market. Two more important nutrients in AlgaeCal are vitamin D3, which helps with calcium absorption, and vitamin K2, which transports the calcium where it needs to go — into your bones and away from soft tissues.

For more information on the difference between plant-based and rock-based calciums go here: https://www.algaecal.com/expert-insights/plant-based-calcium/

As far as magnesium deficiency, it’s true that many of us are! Luckily there are ways to determine if you are deficient and supplementation can resolve this. See more about magnesium deficiency here: https://www.algaecal.com/algaecal-ingredients/magnesium-2/

To further confirm the safety of AlgaeCal, we have 3 human clinical studies supporting that AlgaeCal not only increases bone density, but it is also side effect free! Our most recent study lasted for 7 years, and the results were incredible, you can learn more here: https://www.algaecal.com/research/

Let us know if you have any questions, Doug! You can also email [email protected] or call our Bone Health Consultants at 1-800-820-0184.

– Jenna @ AlgaeCal

Nadia N.
Nadia N.

Peak bone mass occurs at age 30 not 40 as this article states.

Jenna AlgaeCal
Jenna AlgaeCal

Hi Nadia,

Thank you for taking the time to comment! You’re absolutely correct; most women reach peak bone mass by the age 30. We are referring to the next stage in bone health – where around the age of 40, we start to lose 1% of our bone density each year.

We appreciate you bringing this to our attention, we can definitely see how the way it was written may have been confusing, and we will make sure that is corrected. Please let us know if you have any questions!

– Jenna @ AlgaeCal

Amayra
Amayra

Hi//
I woul like to know about taking calcium supplement,
You said that most of calcium are made from rock,
What do you think about coral calcium, and I would like to ask you about constipation and bloating I started having about almost two years, have to say that I am postmenopausal, 54 years old,
Amayra//
Thanks//

Jacquelyn
Jacquelyn

Can u order this by chk.? My husband won’t let me use a debit or credit card. He will only let me pay by a personal chk. or a money order or cashiers chk.

Monica
Monica

Hi Jacquelyn,

We do accept check order or money order. You can find our mailing address on our contact page: https://www.algaecal.com/contact-us/

– Monica from AlgaeCal

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Calcium Deficiency: 17 Signs & Symptoms To Watch Out For • 
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