By Dr. Muzammil Irshad, MBBS
Calcium supplements constipation. Calcium supplements may contribute to constipation.
Calcium is a necessary nutrient for the proper growth of bones. Osteoporosis is a disease associated with a decrease in bone density and a deterioration of bone tissue that makes bones more fragile.
Due to hormonal effects, osteoporosis is very common among postmenopausal women.
Calcium supplements are recommended to help maintain an optimum level of calcium in the blood so as to avoid osteoporosis.
However, high doses of calcium almost guarantee that some calcium is not absorbed and finds its way to the colon, where it constricts the colon muscle, hindering peristalsis, resulting in constipation.
The kidneys play a key role in the regulation of water and the balance of the electrolytes sodium, potassium, calcium, chloride and bicarbonate. The kidneys produce urine to excrete excess electrolytes and waste products from the body. It is especially important for the kidneys to keep sodium in balance.
When looking at calcium supplements for constipation, calcium competes with sodium for absorption by the kidneys. When a calcium supplement is taken, the calcium level is raised in the blood. This higher level of calcium serves to inhibit the processing of sodium by the kidneys.
Therefore, the kidneys must flush extra water from the body in an effort to secrete the proper amount of sodium and keep it in balance. This has a dehydrating effect.
Dehydration endangers certain vital body processes. To prevent harm to the body, the colon will pull extra water from feces to use elsewhere.
This causes feces to become dry, hard and more compacted, slowing its movement through the colon. When it comes time to pass this dry and hard feces it can require straining and be painful.
A high level of calcium in the colon results in the tightening of colon muscles. When colon muscles are tense they cannot function correctly to move stool along.
Food stays longer in the colon, giving the colon more time to extract moisture, leading to constipation. Magnesium is needed to help balance out excessive calcium.
Vitamins D and K are both important vitamins that help with the absorption of calcium by the body.
Although these vitamins have no direct role in the development of constipation, a shortage of these vitamins contribute to constipation by increasing the level of calcium in the blood.
Magnesium is also needed for the absorption of calcium by the body. Researchers like Dr. Mercola are now recommending a 1 to 1 ratio of magnesium to calcium.
When vitamin D, vitamin K and magnesium are available to help with calcium absorption, much less calcium is needed for the prevention of osteoporosis and to keep bones and teeth healthy and strong.
Calcium carbonate is poorly absorbed, meaning more of it ends up in the colon. Here it causes a contraction of the colon, reducing the colon’s ability to move stool along. This can result in constipation.
Calcium citrate is better absorbed than calcium carbonate, which means it is less prone to cause constipation. A daily dose of 500 mg calcium citrate should not result in calcium supplement constipation.
Perhaps the best form of calcium available is a seaweed high in calcium, called SeaCal.
This seaweed is the sole food source of calcium rich coral, but offers the calcium in a highly beneficial plant form.
When a person takes a calcium supplement they should drink plenty of water to avoid constipation.
As mentioned above, excess calcium can cause dehydration, which can lead to constipation.
Fiber helps to add bulk to the stool. The colon muscle needs a certain amount of bulk to have something to squeeze against to move stool along.
Fiber also helps to retain moisture in the stool. A moist stool tends to be soft and slippery, and is easier to excrete.
Magnesium is known as the relaxation mineral. When cramps, irritability and tightness are present in the any part of body, it may possibly be linked to a deficiency of magnesium.
Calcium and magnesium work synergistically. Calcium enhances muscle tonicity and magnesium relaxes muscles.
Therefore, when a person takes a calcium supplement they should also take supplemental magnesium.
Calcium is an important mineral that is needed for strong bones and strong teeth.
It is needed to help prevent osteoporosis in postmenopausal women. However, taking a calcium supplement may decrease gut motility and lead to constipation.
To avoid the constipating effect of a calcium supplement, eat a high fiber diet, including fruit, vegetables, whole grains and seeds.
Supplemental magnesium can help to balance out calcium for proper muscle function.
Magnesium and vitamins D and K help in the utilization of calcium, which means less calcium is needed to prevent osteoporosis. Less calcium means less constipation.