We’ve all heard the marketing phrase, “Milk… it does a body good!” But, this is based on the assumption that we aren’t getting enough calcium in our diet, and that we need MORE calcium in the diet for strong bones. It may surprise you to know that most people get enough dietary calcium, but many are not able to USE the calcium in their body – and that the excess calcium could be harming them! In reality, calcium is a game of cofactors, and many people are lacking in the co-factors necessary to assimilate it.
Minerals such as calcium comprise only about 4% of our body, but don’t let their paucity take away from their massive importance! We can’t make them, so we have to get them from our food. We don’t need very much of them, but when we don’t have them, things can go haywire. It’s important that we’re getting our food from good, mineral-rich soil: most soil today is completely depleted compared to how it was 50 years ago!
- Are responsible for the contraction and relaxation of muscles
- Are the cofactors for enzyme reactions in the body
- Help regulate pH balance
- Provide the structure to bones
- Regulate tissue growth
- Facilitate the transfer of nutrients across cell membranes
If you have any of the below symptoms, you may be surprised to know that they can be signs of an underlying mineral deficiency:
- Bone loss
- Calf, foot or toe cramps at rest
- Cold sores, fever blisters or herpes lesions
- Pain or swelling in joints
- Bursitis or tendonitis
- Dry mouth, eyes or nose
- White spots on fingernails
- Decreased sense of taste or smell
There are a number of macro and micro-minerals that we need. The one we need the most of is calcium.
Co-Factors For Calcium Absorption
The co-factors necessary for use of calcium by the body are:
- Systemic (blood) pH: The body tightly regulates blood pH between 7.35 and 7.45. It uses calcium from bone as a buffer for this. If blood pH becomes too acidic from stress (high sugar intake, sun exposure, etc.) or infection, calcium is used to alkalize the blood. If blood pH becomes too alkaline, calcium will be put back into the bones or tissue. If excess is put into the wrong tissues, it can cause problems (like bone spurs and cataracts).
- Hormones: Hormones affecting blood calcium and the bone remodeling process are Parathyroid Hormone, Thyroid Hormone, adrenal hormones, and sex hormones.
- Hydration: Being hydrated allows calcium to be transported through the blood to our tissues. Electrolytes in the water allow the transfer of calcium in and out of cells.
- Other Minerals: Calcium has to be in balance with other macrominerals, especially magnesium.
- Vitamins: Vitamin D works with Parathyroid Hormone (PTH) to increase the level of calcium in the blood.
- Essential Fatty Acids: These are necessary for the transport of calcium across the cell membrane into the cell. They also help increase the Ca levels in tissues.
- Digestion: Calcium can only be absorbed in an acidic environment. Stomach acid must be high enough for Calcium absorption.
The Body’s Bone Remodeling System
Bone isn’t just a static organ. It is constantly being broken down and built back up again in response to stimuli and to help keep the blood pH at a very tightly regulated 7.35-7.45. This is called Bone Remodeling. The body uses three kinds of cells to do this:
- Osteoblasts: these build up bone and by converting cartilage to bone.
- Osteocyctes: these are the primary bone cells that maintain bone tissue.
- Osteoclasts: these break down bone and to allow the blood to reabsorb the calcium.
When blood becomes too acidic, calcium is released from the bone into the blood.
When blood becomes too alkaline, it is deposited into bone from the blood.
When our brain detects that the blood pH is too high, it stimulates the release of Parathyroid Hormone, which tells the osteoclasts to get to work munching away at the bone and freeing up some of the calcium for bone. (It also helps pull calcium from digestion into the blood and reduces the amount of calcium lost in the urine). This isn’t a bad thing, necessarily, but it’s about balance between tearing down and building back up. Some reasons for blood calcium levels dropping might be:
- Stress (especially from high sugar intake, which taxes the adrenals and results in cortisol output)
- Infection (calcium is protective against viral infections, which is why calcium depletion from stress or sun exposure can result in a viral outbreak of herpes, shingles, or cold sores/fever blisters)
- Immune activity (especially fever)
- Sun exposure (calcium is pulled from the blood to the skin as a protective measure)
Does Animal Protein Acidify the Blood?
One common myth is that animal protein will acidify the blood because it leaves an acidic ash, but it doesn’t actually work that way. The above reasons for calcium dropping are the REAL reasons for the blood becoming slightly more acidic (but keep in mind, a pH of 7.35, while more acidic than 7.45, is still alkaline!). The things that stress our body deplete calcium from our bones. Eating sugar pulls calcium from the bones. Drinking alcohol pulls calcium from bones. Stress from exposure to toxins does the same thing.
Help Your Body’s Calcium Balance
To support proper calcium balance in the body:
- DO take in calcium and other minerals in the form of whole foods, especially leafy greens (high in calcium!) and/or raw, organic, grass-fed, unpasteurized dairy. The calcium in pasteurized dairy is not as available to the body. High quality dairy is good not only for the calcium, but also the fat soluble vitamins and good fats that help you absorb the calcium.
- DO stay hydrated with water – half your weight in ounces daily up to 100 ounces. Add in electrolytes from time to time. I like this “naturade” hydration drink.
- DO support good hormonal balance with nutrition and lifestyle. Sugar is the biggest culprit for throwing off hormone balance.
- DO get good fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K from organic, grass fed dairy, the fat from properly raised animals allowed to be outside, and/or fermented cod liver oil (I like the Green Pastures brand). This will help calcium be absorbed across the cell membrane.
- DO get other essential fatty acids (3, 6, and 9) from high quality fish oil with high DHA and EPA, flaxseed oil, blackcurrant seed oil, etc.
- DO support your digestion with mindful eating and chewing thoroughly, plus supplementing with Betaine HCl if needed to get your stomach acid to the right acidity.