Are You at Risk for Calcium Deficiency?

Getting enough calcium is important during your whole life. Many people do not get enough calcium from their diet. Are you at risk?

calcium deficiency symptoms

Experiencing the sort of calcium deficiency symptoms listed in our lead story? Remember that you can access good sources of calcium via broccoli, dairy, and avocado.

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You probably know that calcium is important for growing and keeping your bones strong. Did you know that calcium has many other important functions? These include heart, muscle, nerve, blood vessel, and hormone functions. There is also some evidence that maintaining a normal calcium level may reduce your risk for cancer, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Because your body does not produce calcium, you need to get it from your diet. [1,2]

Are You at Risk for Calcium Deficiency?

The amount of calcium you need to get from your diet every day depends on your age and your gender. Calcium is measured in milligrams (mg). These are average daily recommended amounts: [1]

  • Children ages 4 to 8: 1,000 mg
  • Children ages 9 to 18: 1,300 mg
  • Adults ages 19 to 50: 1,000 mg
  • Men ages 51 to 70: 1,000 mg
  • Women ages 51 to 70: 1,200 mg
  • Adults 71 and older: 1,200 mg

Many people do not get enough calcium from their diets. People over age 70 do not absorb calcium as well from their diet. Most people can get enough calcium from their diet if they eat foods high in calcium. These foods include: [1,2]

  • Dairy foods like milk, cheese, butter, and yogurt
  • Dark, green, leafy vegetables
  • Fish the you eat with the bones, like canned sardines and salmon
  • Egg yolks
  • Whole grains
  • Foods with added (fortified) calcium like soy, cereal, juice, and milk substitutes

You may be at higher risk for calcium deficiency if: [1,2]

  • You are a vegetarian.
  • You can’t digest dairy foods because of lactose intolerance.
  • You have osteoporosis.
  • You can’t absorb calcium because you have inflammatory bowel disease or celiac disease.
  • You are on long-term steroid medications

Being low in vitamin D can also put you at risk for calcium deficiency because you need vitamin D to absorb calcium. Vitamin D comes from fish with edible bones like canned salmon and sardines, egg yolks, and foods fortified with vitamin D. Both calcium and vitamin D are also in multivitamins. Sun exposure is also important for vitamin D. The recommended daily amount is 600 international units. [2]

What Are the Signs of Calcium Deficiency?

Your body uses the calcium stored in your bones and teeth like a calcium bank. If you get low, your body will take some calcium out of the bank. This means that you will not have any symptoms of calcium deficiency until your bones become weak. That can take years. The first sign may be an abnormal bone density scan or a bone that breaks easily. [1]

Serious calcium deficiency, called hypocalcemia, can cause symptoms of numbness and tingling in your fingers, heart palpitations, and even seizures. This type of calcium loss is rare and only occurs in people who lose lots of calcium rapidly. This is usually due to a serious illnesses or medical procedure. It is not the same as diet calcium deficiency. [1]

Should You Take Calcium Supplements?

The best way to get calcium is through your diet. Taking extra calcium is usually not necessary unless you are at risk. There is no benefit to taking more calcium than the recommended daily amount. More is not better. [1] In fact, too much calcium has some risks. Higher than normal calcium may be linked to a higher risk for heart attack and prostate cancer. Calcium supplements can also cause bloating and constipation, and possible kidney stones. [1,2]

Calcium supplements come in many forms. The two most popular are calcium citrate and calcium carbonate. Calcium carbonate has more calcium and is least expensive, but is more likely to cause constipation. Calcium citrate is easier to absorb, but costs more. Calcium supplements can interact with many common drugs including medications used to treat some  thyroid, heart, and blood pressure conditions. [1,2]

Before starting a calcium supplement, talk to your doctor. Find out if you are at risk for calcium deficiency. If your doctor thinks you need a supplement, let your doctor recommend the best supplement and dose for you. [1,2]

Sources:

  1. National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements, Calcium, https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Calcium-Consumer/
  2. Mayo Clinic, Nutrition and Healthy Eating, https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/calcium-supplements/art-20047097

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Chris Iliades, MD

Chris Iliades has an MD degree and 15 years of experience as a freelance writer. Based in Boothbay Harbor, Maine, his byline has appeared regularly on many health and medicine … Read More

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  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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!

  • You must be cautious about self diagnosis. If your signs and symptoms seem to line up with any deficiency signals, get a test by your medical professional. There are many signs and symtoms that were listed that could apply to many other possible conditions. If in doubt, see your doctor and get tested. It is possible to further hinder your condition if you treat it improperly.

  • I have avoided calcium supplements for years due to natural docs advising against it. I thought I had adequate dietary intake. I have taken optimal doses of magnesium, vitamin k2, Vitamin C, boron, Vitamin A, Vitamin D, copper and zinc, all if which help but still suffered from leg cramp s when overworked. The last two years I have been on Prilosec for a worsening ulcer, and the arthritis got unbearable. ( Prilosec destroys mitichondria). I also have had chronic insomnia. Looked that up on Wallach wisdon encyclopedia. Saw from his chart most supplements need to be taken in far higher doses than we thought. Took 6 tablets instead of bottle recommended 2. Within 6 hours my arthritis eased up, from 10/10 pain level to 2/10. Since I am on all the calcium support nutrient s I am much less afraid of calcium overdose. Now I sleep better too. My fast pukse has normalized, my leg cramps are gone. There is only one spot left in the middle of my back with a twinge of pain.

  • I am vit D deficient. Also calcium. Symptoms on this list are right. I would get the odd palpitation in my throat – NOT my heart/chest – THROAT – weirdest thing ever. Lower leg muscles when stretching after waking up would lock-up (tetany) and that’s very painful. Tingling hands, fingers, feet – shooting electric pains through forearm. My hands and feet became numb. I’m not even 40!!
    Chest pains are strong – feels like a heart attack – shredding pain on in breath.
    Vitamin D is sooo important!! I eat plenty of calcium but didn’t know i was so deficient in vitamin D.
    It destroyed my life – the etiology of this deficiency when left longterm is dire and you will certainly lose your job, freedom and independence due to severe chronic illness. Take vitamin D and calcium levels seriously!! I can’t believe a deficiency almost killed me – afterall, i’m in the west where we have superior choices and quality foods right? Yeah….right….;-)
    If you’re in the northern hemisphere i highly recommend a vit D and calcium test – there is not enough sun in the UK and Ireland especially ….darker skinned people need more sun!! (im very fair and work outside all my life yet still have a deficiency in D!!)
    This is seriously under-appreciated how a common vitamin deficiency can ruin your life – and it’s possible it’s happening to someone you know and love too.

  • Not a word on vitamin k2 ( not k1) which is essential to driving calcium where it belongs and away from soft tissues ( ie arterial plaques, ) and abnormal forms like bone spurs which are a sign of calcium deficiency. Not a word about optimal dose vitamin D ( which according to endocrinologist Sarfraz Zaidi appears to average out to 10,000 iu for most people to have optimal blood levels), no word on other bone support ; copper/zinc, boron, lysine, collagen and gelatin, and several more, the list has grown it’s hard for me to remember. I thought I had plenty of dietary calcium so didn’t supplement but supplemented everything else. Arthritis in was terrible , 10/10 on the pain scale. Leg cramps very horrible. I thought I needed more magnesium. It helped some but didn’t resolve the basic pain. As a chronic insomnia I reread some if Joel Wallach’s material, calcium. I tried it. My arthritis went down to 3/10 almost immediately. ( 6 hours). I was shocked. Now additionally I am taking gelatin and collagen. That us helping a lot. Remember folks , collagen has five types, some people need all, some available supplements have no type II which is essential. I haven’t discovered why type II should be so expensive and left out

  • My hands and feet got “pins and needle” feeling about 2 years ago. I have Lymes Disease and I just thought it was the Disease progressing. Also hard to sleep, joint and muscle pain, my elbows and hands would be paralyzed when I awoke, stiff hands. feet, hips. I stopped drinking milk about 10 years ago because Dairy Farmers up here are destroying streams and groundwater like you can’t believe. Well 1 day I had 2 bowls of cereal with milk and 2 additional glasses of milk and it was like WOW, my tingling in hands and inflammation and stiffness improved overnight, my aching bones and muscles went away. Started a Organic Plant Calcium Supp with DE, K2 and magnesium. I can’t believe how much better I feel, I can actually spread my toes a little(they were swelled up and stiff)…Now, some parts of my body feel a little weird…wonder if its my body replenishing itself????

  • I have pain in my knee while climbing on stairs and tiredness in my body.It seems that body requires rest at everytime and.Is it the deficiency of calcium

  • I have taken a calcium supplement for at least 25 years, when I was I was diagnosed with osteoporosis about 10 years ago I couldn’t believe it. My body stopped absorbing calcium. Treatments first provided had no impact on calcium absorption and took about a year to diagnose the real problem. Once the real problem was realized and medication to help my body absorb calcium was given the medication to strengthen my bones improved dramatically. After the first year, my bone density increased by 17%. When someone tells me they have osteoporosis, I tell them to have the doctors check for calcium absorption.

  • I am 48 and have osteoporosis. I took a 24 hour urine test which showed hypercalcemia meaning my kidneys are not processing and absorbing the calcium and I am excreting it in my urine. No one knows why this happens! . I have so many symptoms that I now can point at low calcium. Symptoms include muscle spasms and twitches, burning in leg and arm, heart palpitations, depression, internal “shaking” or chills feeling. They put me on Hydrochlorothiazide, 12.5 mg. It is not really helped the symptoms and I am worried and I will continue to lose calcium. Make sure to get your urine checked.

  • Correction on previous post it’s hyperuricemia not hypercalcemia. My blood calcium level was fine. It was only in the urine. Sorry for the error.

  • on my face has black or bark spot have come about last 2-3months
    What is the reason of that
    And also how do its treatment like any soap. Cream whatever.

  • I was taking Tamiflu last week, along with Pedialyte and generous salt intake AND hydrocortisone at only 10mg for a few days. I started feeling faint and week. Almost worse after the flu. I just by chance drank a protein milk drink I found at stop and shop. My whole body perked up. I couldn’t figure out to save myself why???? When I did my blood work also last week during the flu and landed in the hospital- looks normal. Well, according to real science, your body will steal from your bones first to normalize blood levels before it will show there, so symptoms come before labs will
    Show. Too much sodium can suppress or lower calcium. I had heart palpitations, extreme fatigue, short of breath, my body felt tense, brain foggy, legs and muscles seemed sore. I’m startimg to turn the corner but I believe that I was probably already low. I never drink milk or dairy so this is my fault but .. wow.
    Also, to the girl above, I had the same exact thing happen with low vitamin D. Major throat pain. Like someone was chokin me. 1 week on liquid D and went away.

  • I was vitamin D deficient but now my vitamin is ok but i dnt understand why my bones popping and cracking. I cant sleep, i feel numbness in my shoulder anf fingers. Sometimes igot so much pain in my shoulder and arm kindly tell mewhat to do

  • I’m just returned from a 3 day stint in the hospital..on Sunday I had several seizures and although I was diagnosed with epilepsy a few years ago I was diagnosed with hypoglycemia and admitted with a calcium level of 6.1 (normal is 8.5-10.1). I take several med school for epilepsy and atenolol for high blood pressure. I guess what I’m asking is what do I need to do now in order to increase my calcium intake without interference with my other medications? Help!

  • I have pain in my left breast nd left shoulder. But the doctor says there is nothing. Is this is due to lack of calcium nd vitamin

  • This is a serious condition. I have hypocalcemia due to my parathyroid being removed accidently during thyroid surgery. When mine hit it’s lowest level (6, normal should be around 10) I experienced tingling and numbness in my hands, feet and face. Legs were weak and actually jerking like I was having a seizure. Could not stand on my own and was having trouble focusing and processing thoughts properly. Thought I was having a seizure or stroke. Had to go to the ER and was admitted overnight for IV calcium therapy. Now I take Rocaltrol daily. I still have episodes with tingling when I have flu or infections.

  • Debbie, you need to sue that doctor! You’ll be taking calcium for the rest of your life. Can’t do without your four parathyroid glands. They regulate your calcium. Critical element in your body’s daily function.

  • I was diagnosed with PTH tumors 3 years ago when i was 30 years old. Upon removal of my PTHs, I’ve been hypo-calcemic. I have tried injections, medication but it’s either not enough calcium, as my face fingers and legs are numb/tingling all the time amongst many of the other symptoms or it’s too much calcium thus giving me kidney stones (I’ve had over 40 stones and 4 lithrotripsies.) I can’t seem to find a doctor that has enough knowledge and experience to find what would work for me. Food is simply not enough to absorb the dosage needed.

  • A book named “Death by Calcium” means that we can get too much calcium and the reason for brittle bones and random boidily calcifications with plenty of calcium is lack of co-factors to rebuild collageni a strong bone matrix. Too little Vitamin C means that bone making stalls, probably because Vitamin C is the key building material for all collagen, both for soft tissue and bones. The result is that the excess calcium is “stored”, like awaiting the missing components. The follow-on result is calcifications of storage places, soft tissue and blood vessels. The 2nd missing component is magnesium, needed to avoid brittle bones. Note that during exposure to heat (no air condition) and physical work in heat makes us lose both Iron and Calcium. To save Calcium is hence an evolutionary survival mechanism. But with changed circumstances it kills us earlier instead today.
    Both excess calcium and iron are linked to earlier cancer.

  • For those of you with parathyroid problems having either hypoparathyroidism or hyperparathyroidism please go to hyperthyroidism.com. These doctors out of Florida saved my life! I dealt with lots of misinformation out there. I had very low vitamin D and was put on a supplement of vitamin D by my family doctor. It was the wrong thing to do, as I had hyperparathyroidism. My calcium levels were in the normal range. You have 4 parathyroid and can do without 3 and a half of them and be ok. Tampa general hospital is the leader in parathyroid disease. I am so grateful to them

  • @Susan c. and others, the website you gave is incorrect. It is not hyperparathyroidism.com but INSTEAD, the CORRECT SITE IS parathyroid.com

    I have drafted up a post for over 4 hours with advice that did not go through….possibly because of the length….but chances are it is the many weblinks….So I will attempt to spend hours to edit out those weblinks and give descriptions and or title for you guys to find the sources.

  • I had hyperthyroid to much calcium had alot of kidney stones doctor burned one of my glands now I dont have stones no more
    At first my body tingled felt weard now it went away now I get anxiety my throat feels dry like I cant breath is from lack of vitamin D

  • Dear Sir, Feeling numbness, tingling, backpain left side scitica, neck pain, fatigue, fainting are the symptomes of Calcium defficiancy

  • I suffered with back pain and leg cramps while I was pregnant it stopped when I was advised that its lack of calcium and I should take supplements with calcium and magnesium they work best and they where very helpful.

  • These nutritional articles that only look at one factor are dangerous.
    Magnesium Vit K and C and D and A are all essential along with manganese boron and zinc and iodine for calcium absorption.
    Magnesium is more likely to be an issue than calcium given the amount of dairy people eat.
    Vegans however are likely to be deficient in both if they eat processed vegan food.
    And as you say diet alone wont rectify a deficiency.

  • Got complete thyroidectomy with removal of two parathyroids 20daysago,Now I feel spasms off&on,every night I am having laryngeal spasms & some time chest muscles spasm also, I am scared my heart may stop, I am also taking tab ca regularly,

  • I have thyroid cancer and lost 2.5 parathyroids during surgery. I was doing okay for a while – taking tums around the clock – but suddenly in the past three days, I’ve started struggling to walk, my legs and back hurt and feel tight – I have the tingling of my hands, feet and lips. I get periods of blurry vision, and feel awful. I am not a complainer, and can normally push through anything, but I am really struggling with this. My doctor is monitoring my levels, but basically just keeps telling me to take another tums! At what point do I require additional intervention, like IV calcium?

  • My son has white coloured pimples on skin. These pimples appeared almost 2 months ago on face neck belly back and on arms
    These are white hard and very small just feel by touching. His age is 7 years. I am much worried. Some docters say viral infection allergy and some say calcium deficiency.how can i attach his allergy pix?

    • Hello! Sorry, but our site doesn’t have a function that allows readers to post images along with their comments nor or we able to provide specific medical advice.

  • I was put on hbp drugs ignorantly after consistent rise in my bp worsening my age long calcium deficiency, at a point i couldn’t swallow, poor appetite, I was already experiencing muscular spasm, numbness on my fingers that last few minutes, cataracts in my eyes until calcium supplements and food was recommended.

  • I have osteoporosis and after doing research i am taking algaecal plus.
    Look it up. I find it’s the best thing for osteo porosis.

  • Wondered how long you have been taking algaecal plus and if you have had a bone scan since you have been on it. I am very skeptical about the drugs for osteoporosis and will not take them.

  • I would talk to your dr about this right away because it only gets worse from my experience. I have been struggling with this for almost a year now. My calcium level is low but I’m having symptoms of calcium over dose. This morning my hands are tingling, its hard to breath, I’ve been having problems swollowing without choking, lack of energy. what ever you do get aggressive with it and keep on top of it and suppliments or liquid calcium is not the total answer. Best of luck to you.

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