Calcium for a Healthy Spine
In addition to playing an important role in the prevention of osteoporosis (porous bones), which can lead to fractures of the vertebrae, calcium works with magnesium to help regulate muscle contraction and relaxation and prevent muscle spasms.
Calcium is a major component of bones. Adequate calcium intake is essential in preventing osteoporosis, a disease in which the bones gradually become porous and susceptible to fractures. The spine, hips and wrists are most affected by osteoporosis.
Every cell in your body needs calcium. If you don't consume enough calcium, your body will withdraw it from your bones to keep the amount in your blood stream constant.
CAUTION: A large study in Switzerland shows that taking calcium supplements may increase the risk of heart disease - other studies have not shown any increased risk but it is advisable to get calcium from food (such as dairy products) to be safe.
Calcium-rich foods should be consumed throughout the day, as calcium is best absorbed in small amounts.
The daily requirement for calcium is 1000 - 1200 mg per day for most adults, depending on your age and sex. Your body can only absorb about 500 mg of elemental calcium at a time. If you are taking a calcium supplement with a glass of milk (8 ounces of milk has 300 mg), the calcium supplement should be about 200 mg.
Note: There is no benefit in taking more calcium than your body requires
Vitamin D is required for the utilization of calcium. Besides sunlight exposure or the consumption of fatty fish such as salmon, the only other way to get enough Vitamin D is through supplements or food that has been supplemented with vitamin D (Milk is usually fortified with vitamin D) or fish liver oil. You need 400 IU - 800 IU of vitamin D per day if you are under 50 years of age / 800 IU - 1000 IU if you are over 50.
Note: Vitamin D does not have to be taken at the same time as calcium.
Increase Magnesium intake when Calcium intake is increased to prevent a calcium/magnesium imbalance. It is generally recommended by nutritionists to get double the amount of calcium as magnesium, though the recommended dietary allowance is only 420 mg of magnesium for men over age 30 and 320 mg for women over age 30.
Dietary sources of magnesium include green leafy vegetables, legumes, nuts (especially almonds and cashews), whole grains, and bananas. There are many supplements that combine Calcium, Magnesium, and vitamin D. Food is the preferred source of magnesium. Too much supplemental magnesium may be harmful. Tolerable Upper Intake Levels for supplemental magnesium for adults is 350 mg.
Calcium supplements come in many forms. Some forms of calcium, usually calcium carbonate or calcium derived from shellfish, can cause stomach upset. Calcium carbonate is popular because it is the least expensive. Calcium citrate, calcium lactate, and calcium gluconate are usually well tolerated.
Taking a calcium supplement with a meal increases its absorption, as most forms of calcium require stomach acid to be absorbed. Calcium citrate can be taken any time (with or without food), as it does not need stomach acid to be absorbed.
As important as it is to get enough calcium, calcium reduces the absorption of certain nutrients - iron and zinc in particular. It can also interfere with the absorption of certain medications. Take medications or iron separately from calcium for maximum absorption.
*Soft drinks, coffee, and excessive amounts of alcohol interfere slightly with the absorption of calcium. Extra calcium (250 mg) can be taken to compensate for this.
*Antacids containing aluminum interfere with the absorption of calcium substantially.
*Calcium or magnesium may interfere with the absorption of certain medications. If you are on prescription medication, check with your doctor before taking any supplement.