Why do we need calcium? It turns out that calcium is one of the most important nutrients in our body. Needed for a variety of functions, including the contractions of the heart and soft tissues, it’s a major player in our health. Most people associate calcium with strong bones, but there is much more to calcium when it comes to our body.
Calcium and the Heart
While just a small percentage of the calcium in our body is found in the blood, it has an important role in contracting the heart muscles. Calcium helps to regulate the heart rate and rhythm. Insufficient calcium in the blood runs the risk of causing the heart to overwork and have too rapid contractions in the lower chambers. Over time, this condition could lead to serious heart problems, including a heart attack.
Muscles & Leg Cramps
Calcium is also an electrolyte, which means it carries electrical signals to the cells. Electrolytes are important in the proper functioning of the muscle tissue. Leg cramps can be a symptom of too little electrolytes such as calcium and potassium.
Those who suffer from migraines and other severe headaches may know about the healing powers of magnesium and calcium. This is because calcium is known as an anti-spasmodic, effectively relaxing the muscles, alleviating migraines and headaches. Abnormalities in the calcium transport pathways contribute as well to headaches by way of decreasing serotonin, a well-known neurotransmitter.
Too much calcium is not good for the body either. Excess calcium can cause calcium deposits in the soft tissues, organs, and blood vessels creating arthritis, kidney stones, and hardened arteries. Adequate amounts of Vitamin D and Magnesium help the body to maintain a healthy calcium balance and prevent too much calcium from circulating in the blood.
Good Sources of Calcium
When most people are asked where their bodies get calcium from, they say milk. But did you know a good source of calcium is from plants? Even cows get their calcium from eating plants. Calcium is the fifth most abundant mineral on earth and it’s found in rocks; water dissolves the calcium from the rocks into the soil. Then plants take in calcium via their roots where it’s an important part of a plants metabolism. Just like milk producing cows, we have the same capacity to get the majority of calcium we need by eating plants. Focusing on leafy greens such as kale, spinach and collards will give you an adequate calcium supply.
However, if you enjoy eating dairy products, you may find that your body will digest and assimilate calcium better from higher quality dairy sources such as raw cheese, organic milk and probiotic rich yogurt.
And, if you find it challenging to eat vegetables or dairy products, there are many high quality supplements available to meet your specific calcium needs. Talk to a qualified health practitioner well versed in supplements for more direction.
Calcium Balance is the Key
There are many functions in the body that require calcium, from the smooth muscles contractions to strong bones. The key to good absorption and function is to have a balance between calcium, magnesium and Vitamin D intake. There are many good plant sources of calcium in addition to high quality dairy that can provide all the recommended calcium. If calcium is a concern or if you are experiencing low calcium symptoms, consider taking a whole food based calcium supplement. Email or message me if you’d like to know which one is right for you!