21 Calcium Deficiency Symptoms That Will Surprise You

It’s not just osteoporosis you have to worry about if you don’t get enough calcium. Check out the many symptoms of calcium deficiency.

Good sources of calcium include broccoli, dairy and avocado.

Good sources of calcium include broccoli, dairy and avocado.

© Robyn Mackenzie | Dreamstime.com


Calcium, the most abundant mineral in the human body, is best known for its important role in bone health and protection from osteoporosis. However, in addition to its key role in imparting strength to bones and teeth, calcium plays a critical role as a messenger in cell-signaling pathways throughout the body and is necessary for normal cell function, transmission of nerve signals, secretion of hormones, blood coagulation, muscle contraction, and muscle relaxation. Calcium deficiency symptoms may therefore involve any of these functions and manifest in a myriad of ways.

Causes and Signs of Calcium Deficiency

Unfortunately, most Americans don’t meet the current recommendations for adequate calcium intake through diet alone or through diet plus calcium supplements and therefore suffer symptoms of low calcium.[1] Further, numerous factors have been found to impair calcium absorption and/or to lower calcium levels in the blood.[2] These factors include:

  • Vitamin D deficiency
  • Magnesium deficiency
  • High sodium intake
  • High phosphorus intake (found in cola soft drinks and food additives)
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Abnormal parathyroid function (due to neck/thyroid surgery or autoimmune disease)
  • Bariatric surgery (gastric bypass)[3]
  • Drugs (proton pump inhibitors, chemotherapy, anti-seizure medications)

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Calcium Deficiency Symptoms

Calcium deficiency symptoms can vary widely—ranging from nonexistent or mild to severe and life-threatening. Chronic untreated calcium deficiency can cause many severe consequences, including rickets, osteopenia, and osteoporosis. However, even though calcium deficiency may not be associated with any symptoms, especially early on, metabolic alterations or potential dysfunctions have already occurred.[4]

Low blood calcium levels and the lack of calcium may lead to the following low calcium symptoms:

  • Fainting
  • Heart failure
  • Chest pains
  • Numbness and tingling sensations around the mouth or in the fingers and toes
  • Muscle cramps, particularly in the back and legs; may progress to muscle spasm ( tetany)
  • Wheezing
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Voice changes due to spasm of the larynx
  • Irritability, impaired intellectual capacity, depression, and personality changes
  • Fatigue
  • Seizures
  • Coarse hair
  • Brittle nails
  • Psoriasis
  • Dry skin
  • Chronic itching
  • Tooth decay
  • Numbness or tingling in the extremities
  • Muscle weakness
  • Cataracts
  • Osteoporosis symptoms (backache; a gradual loss of height and an accompanying stooped posture; fractures of the spine, wrist, or hip)

Calcium Deficiency Treatment and Prevention

Just how much calcium from diet and supplements is needed, and in what form, to prevent calcium deficiency symptoms? How much is required to achieve optimal health? These questions are currently the subject of much controversy and debate among researchers, doctors, and nutritionally savvy individuals alike. The Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine concluded that there are insufficient data from which to determine the RDA for calcium. Instead, they established Adequate Intakes (AIs) for calcium, which are the amounts thought to be sufficient to maintain bone health in healthy people. The AI for adults up to age 50 is 1,000 mg of calcium per day from food and supplements combined. For adults 51 and older, it’s 1,200 mg. As mentioned above, most American adults fail to meet these requirements, even when they take supplements.[1]

How to Increase Calcium Intake

Try to get the majority of your calcium from food sources. While dairy is a concentrated source of calcium, other components in dairy make it a poor choice for maintaining bone health. Instead, opt for foods high in calcium such as salmon and sardines canned with bones, kale, collards, broccoli, mustard greens, turnip greens, bok choy, and sesame seeds. For calcium supplements, choose calcium citrate or calcium citrate malate, and take it in at least two divided doses with meals for the best absorption.

Avoid Too Much Calcium from Supplements

Keep in mind that it is just as important to avoid getting too much calcium from supplements as it is to get enough. Excessive calcium from supplements may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and kidney stones, so don’t overdo it. Aim for 1,000 to 1,200 mg from food and supplements combined.

How do you ensure adequate calcium intake? Share your ideas in the comments section below.

Originally published in 2014, this post has been updated.

[1] Am J Clin Nutr. 2007 May;85(5):1361-6.

[2] Linus Pauling Institute. Micronutrient Info Center. Calcium.

[3] Br J Surg. 2014 Nov;101(12):1566-75.

[4] BMC Med. 2013; 11: 86.

  • My all joints are cracking and popping if i move sounds comming..and am having kidney stone and am having medicine for 1 and half months..i thinks its the cause of the kidney stone medicines am feeling un sufficiant calcium level in my body…plz help and give suggestion

  • Get treatment for kidney stone asap! Try mild forms of exercise, like gentle bouncing on trampoline. Seek help. Low ca is not to fool around with. Dr. Can order a blood test so you know your level, and decide on treatment. Search about kidney stones and avoid foods that create that problem. Eat well and good luck.

  • These are all symptoms of hypercalcemia, excess calcium was pointed out in major degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Cancer, Epilepsy and so on.

  • Ashley W.

    Is it OK to take calcium supplement and eat a little source of calcium? I am a picky eater and do not drink/eat dairy products.

  • Getting enough Vitamin K is super important and the lack of which is the reason why arteries get calcified. Vitamin K, in addition to Vitamin D and magnesium, all work together.

  • I heard sounds on my gots while I’m walking, and I’m become tired within short time. Foot become hot to the toes, what is the problem may I have, please help me.

  • Marcellina N.

    Shortness of breath when walking, loss of appetite and weight loss, lack of sleep , loss of saliva n tingling on my big toe, went for blood tests every thing came out right except for low level of calcium, doc gave me calcium supplements and appointment in a months time, hope am on the right treatment, thank you

  • Virginia B.

    I have been concentrating on food sources and keep track daily, yogurt with 2Tbls chia seeds, unsweetened almond milk with Golden Milk (a turmeric powder drink), bone broth, kefir not to mention the green veggies. I count till I reach near 1200 mg. I do supplement with Calm magnesium powder, make sure I get plenty of C in my diet and revved up the potassium with daily avocado, squash, spinach etc. At 63, you find every calorie needs to count and it is a commitment but well worth it. My body seems pleased!

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