- Allison, L.Ac.
A Close Look at Calcium
Calcium is a mineral and like all minerals, according to Chinese Medicine, it has a cooling, relaxing, calming, and moistening effect. This is why in China, Oyster Shell is used to cool and calm the body, as opposed to build strong bones. Calcium-rich Chinese herbs are used in formulas for insomnia, nervousness, anxiety, and thirst- all conditions which benefit from clearing “excess heat”. Weather for it's energetic properties or for bone strength, we can all agree that Calcium is a crucial element to have in our bodies.
Calcium is an essential mineral for brain and nerve function, dental health, and proper blood sugar metabolism. It is also the mineral responsible for contraction of muscles (and, remember: the heart is a muscle!)
Here’s what you need to know:
Minerals work in a dynamic balance within the body
If there is a deficiency or an excess of one mineral in your body, the other minerals in your body will in turn, be out of balance.
From year-to-year, scientists debate what the proper ratio of minerals in the body should be. For example, the calcium: magnesium ratio used to be 2:1, then 1:1, and now, many scientists argue it should be 2:1 in favor of magnesium. Instead of relying on lab tests, I advise getting your minerals from a whole-food diet.
When foods occur in nature, they contain a natural balance of minerals and vitamins, so the body can utilize them. I like to use the example of a sweet potato: Although there is a lot of sugar in a sweet potato, there are also minerals and vitamins that allow the sugar to be ingested and utilized properly- it affects the body completely differently than ingesting a teaspoon of refined white sugar.
All about absorption
Just because you are ingesting something, it doesn’t mean it is being utilized by your body. In order for Calcium to be absorbed, cofactors must be present- these include magnesium, phosphorus, vitamins A, C, and D. Without vitamin D, only 10-15 percent of dietary calcium is absorbed. In a study by the International Clinical Nutrition Review, calcium and vitamin D were abundantly supplied and magnesium was withheld; all subjects in the experiment except one, became calcium deficient. When magnesium was reintroduced in to the diet, calcium levels rose dramatically.
Much of the Calcium we get over the counter is ground up limestone, marine animal shells, eggshells, and snails. Because much of it is not absorbed by the body, it places unnecessary tax on the kidneys (to filer out the excess) and, commonly causes symptoms like gas, bloating, and constipation. Build-up of this unabsorbed calcium can cause issues such as kidney stones and hardened vessels and tissues.
Here again, we see the importance of getting your minerals from whole foods in their naturally-occurring proportions.
What types of foods?
The following foods are top sources of calcium: Kale, Sardines, Kefir (organic, goat’s milk), White beans, Okra, Collard Greens, Almonds, Natto, Mustard Greens. Of course, it is not always possible to maintain an ideal diet. Life gets busy and we sometimes need help form supplements. My favorite calcium supplement is New Chapter’s Bone Strength. New Chapter sources the supplement from whole foods, maintaining the proper natural ratios of minerals and cofactors- it is then, fermented, so that it is easy to digest.
…you didn’t mention dairy
Turns out that much of the studies done on dairy being beneficial for bone strength are actually funded by the dairy industry. Calcium is a mineral and like all minerals, it is found in the soil. As vegetables grow (organic vegetables, especially), the minerals are absorbed into the root system. Therefore, a whole-food, plant-based diet provides all of our Calcium needs. It’s also how animals absorb their calcium.
More about dairy:
Dairy has been linked to increases in prostate and breast cancer, most likely due to the presence of Insulin-like growth Factor (IGF-1) and estrogen metabolites. Many hormones are commonly found in dairy as well, for example, recombinant bovine growth hormone. Antibiotics also occur in dairy, as do pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dioxins, and melamine; these can affect the reproductive, nervous, immune systems, kidneys, and urinary tract. Oat milk, Rice Milk, Almond Milk, Coconut Milk, Hemp Milk, Rice Milk are all substitutes for dairy milk. Hemp milk is my favorite; it’s delicious!
Besides Calcium, how can I increase my bone density?
Exercise is one of the most effective ways to increase bone density and decrease the risk of osteoporosis. If you don’t use it, you lose it!
Thanks for reading! Feel free to add comments below. For questions regarding acupuncture, contact me or schedule an appointment via my website, www.basicbalancekeene.com
Happy November :)