Lots of articles extoll the virtues of calcium and magnesium and tell you where to get them. Today we dive into what can cause a lack of calcium and/or magnesium, and why it can be hard to keep these minerals in our bodies.
Who Might Benefit from Getting More Calcium and Magnesium?
Folks who …
- crave sugar
- experience a lot of stress and need to relax
- have allergies
- exercise strenuously
- have high blood pressure (especially in pregnancy)
- feel nervous, sensitive
- get cramps or twitches
- are fast oxidizers who thrive on a low carb diet
- have problem gums or teeth
- live with depression
- have trouble sleeping, or headaches / migraines
- are in menopause
- have ancestry from a far northern climate
- have sore muscles or bones
- have recently been bitten or stung
- take corticosteroids or PPIs (for extended periods of time)
Who Is Deficient in Calcium or Magnesium?
Likely anyone. In one group of seemingly healthy women who were sampled, 10 out of 11 were deficient in magnesium. Who else is likely deficient? Anyone who:
- experiences a lot of stress or lives with depression
- eats a typical “bad” diet
- is experiencing a childhood growth spurt or has “growing pains”
- is a female athlete
- has difficulties with their digestion, such as low stomach acid, nausea from eating fats
- has Candidiasis or microbial imbalance
- does not eat enough calcium or magnesium-rich foods
- over exercises
- has low bone mineral density, osteopenia, or osteoporosis
Why are So Many People Extremely Deficient in Calcium and Magnesium?
It can and does occur in people who think they eat well, but the food they eat is devoid of minerals. It can exist in people who eat very healthfully, but who excrete a lot of minerals due to their chemistry.
The root of deficiency can begin at many levels:
- Intake (nutrient-poor diet)
- Digestion & absorption
- Excretion (dietary, lifestyle and health effects)
Many people eat refined foods, but to complicate matters, poor intake can occur even if someone is eating well. We get what we give, so when agriculture does not give anything to the soil, we reap plants depleted of minerals.
Digestion and Absorption
Digestive problems and poor nutrient absorption can be both a cause and a result of calcium or magnesium deficiency. Hypochlorhydria (low stomach acid) and other digestive or intestinal disorders can inhibit mineral uptake, affecting magnesium, calcium, and zinc. This is one reason why an easy to digest form is necessary to break out of the cycle.
Candidiasis, or infections with other microbes like H. pylori can have a connection to increased intestinal permeability and poor mineral absorption. So do antacid use, or inflammation of the stomach lining due to food intolerances or certain medications.
Conditions Connected to Low Levels of Calcium and Magnesium
Kidney or liver diseases can cause issues from multiple angles: They impede vitamin D metabolism, and impair protein metabolism and osteocalcin, a calcium-binding protein. Hyperparathyroidism or other hormonal issues (such as low estrogen) can impede mineral storage.
Those with eating disorders and body dysmorphia may disrupt digestion, restrict food and over-exercise. Those who live with depression and stress may produce more epinephrine and cortisol, which can increase urinary calcium loss and increase the need for magnesium. Lack of magnesium can also make stress worse.
Healthy lifestyles can also be detrimental if taken too far. Physically active females often get into an energy and nutrient deficit, developing the Female Athlete Triad, a common but serious problem that can potentially cause irreversible damage to the hypothalamus, bones, and fertility.
Over-Excretion of Minerals – Dietary and Lifestyle Impacts
Stomach acid can be low due to stress and inability to relax, reducing absorption of both minerals. Again, an easy to absorb liquid, favoring more magnesium than calcium, can be the best way to break out of the cycle. Vitamin D3 is vital for calcium absorption, so not getting daily sunshine is a bad habit. Smoking tobacco can also flush calcium from the body.
Eating well is crucial, as the typical “bad diet” is a nightmare for these minerals; consuming too much sugar both reduces absorption and increases calcium and magnesium excretion, as do drinking coffee, drinking soda pop, and drinking alcohol. Excess sodium, carbohydrates and meat do too to a lesser extent, while intake of vitamin K-rich leafy greens is positively correlated with good osteocalcin production.
Clearly, a balanced and healthy lifestyle is a good foundation. Mild to moderate exercise and relaxation techniques can play a role in maintaining optimal mineral levels, and a good diet favoring nutrient-rich local, organically grown produce would also be beneficial for our mineral levels.
However, the reality of modern life can be hard to overcome. If you experience any of the warning signs of low mineral status, or belong to any of the groups at risk, supplementing with a quality, well absorbed mineral formula is a savvy thing to do.
Dana Green Remedios, RHN, RNCP, is a Vancouver-based educator and coach. She is a regular contributor to the FloraHealthy blog and can answer your questions in English, French, and Spanish as a Product Information Specialist at Flora.