While most of us are aware that we need calcium for our teeth and bones, many do not understand the important role which calcium plays in our health, outside of our bones. While it’s true that around 99% of our body’s calcium is stored in our bones, there is 1% which resides in our bloodstream.
What Role Does Calcium Play in Our Bodies?
This calcium plays a role in helping all of our muscles, including our hearts, to contract properly. If you have a calcium deficiency in your diet, your body will draw calcium from your bones in order to keep the muscles working.
This is why if your diet lacks enough calcium, you can become at risk of developing osteoporosis or brittle bone disease. Your body will take the calcium from your bones to keep your heart and other muscles working, meaning your bones are then at risk of becoming porous and fragile.
Calcium also has a really important role to play in blood clotting because it activated particular enzymes in the body. Without these enzymes our blood wouldn’t clot properly when we suffer an injury. If you have a calcium deficiency it can have an impact on blood clotting effectiveness.
What About Thyroid Health?
The thyroid plays an important role in the regulation of the levels of calcium in the blood. The thyroid gland releases a hormone called calcitonin, which carries out this balancing role on the levels of calcium in the blood.
If there is an increase of calcium levels, the thyroid releases calcitonin to help lower the levels back down again.
Certain thyroid conditions, such as hypothyroidism, are treated with synthetic hormones, which can restrict the amount of calcium your body can absorb, putting you back at risk of osteoporosis and brittle bones, but it’s not straight forward to counteract this because calcium supplements can actually counteract the hormone treatment and make it ineffective for treating the thyroid condition.
Are Calcium Supplements Bad If You Have Hypothyroidism?
Hypothyroidism is a condition where your thyroid gland is not working effectively and is not producing sufficient levels of hormones. These hormones keep your metabolism in check so one symptom of this condition is weight gain.
If you are taking hormone treatment for hypothyroidism, it’s possible this will impact on the amount of calcium your body is receiving. This is because hypothyroidism means you’re your thyroid gland is not producing enough hormones to allow your body to function as it should.
Taking calcium will not impact on the condition in terms of aggravating it, or helping it, however, you should talk to your doctor first in case of any adverse reactions. The hypothyroid medication which you are taking might make it impossible for your body to absorb the normal amount of calcium so you need to be aware of this.
So How Do I Avoid Calcium Deficiency with Hypothyroidism?
People with hypothyroidism are at a higher risk of osteoporosis – also known as brittle bone disease. This is because the medication used to treat hypothyroidism contains thyroid hormones and these can cause your bones to become brittle. The condition itself can also impact on bones.
You need to speak to your doctor as soon as you are diagnosed with hypothyroidism as they are likely to prescribe you with the hormone treatment to get your metabolism back to normal. This will help you to lose any extra weight you put on due to the condition and should help to regulate your body again.
It may be tempting to take calcium supplements to combat the bone issues caused by the medication but you must only do so with your doctor’s advice, because taking calcium supplements can actually prevent your body absorbing the synthetic hormones, making the hormone medication useless.
Always talk to your doctor but the general advice is to take the calcium supplements at least four hours after you take your hormone treatment. The longer the time gap you can leave between taking the medication and taking the calcium supplements, the better it is for you.
That way the treatment will be effective, bringing your thyroid back into balance and you will also gain from the calcium supplement, to try to ward off any potential brittle bone side effects from the medication, which is what you need.
How Do I Get Calcium into My Body?
If you are concerned that you are not getting enough calcium into your body, and you have checked with your doctor regarding any potential impact on current thyroid treatments and medications you are taking, then there are two ways to make sure your body is getting enough calcium.
The first way is by ensuring you have a calcium-rich diet, with foods such as tofu and yogurt and many other dairy products. This is the simplest way to keep up your calcium levels, but if you are suffering from a really severe deficiency of calcium, it might not be enough.
The second option is by taking calcium supplements but these vary and should be taken under medical advice if you have any kind of thyroid condition. However, if you are suffering from a calcium deficiency and are at risk from brittle bone disease then supplements will be more effective for you than diet alone.
Which Foods Contain Calcium?
The key foods which contain calcium are dairy products including cheese, milk and yogurt so try to incorporate plenty of these into your diet, while watching the fat content.
However, if you are allergic to dairy, then you can try other sources, including green leafy plants such as spinach, kale and broccoli. Almonds can provide a really good source of calcium for your daily diet, as do salmon and sardines. If you can incorporate a calcium-rich element into every meal you should improve your calcium levels.
What About Calcium Supplements?
If you are deficient in calcium you will probably need to take a supplement to top up your levels rather than just use diet as they provide a richer and more reliable source which you can ensure you take regularly, every day.
There are several different types of calcium supplements including calcium acetate, which has a really good absorption rate but can be rather costly. It is important not to choose the cheapest but to look for good quality and good absorption when choosing calcium.
There are also other choices which may be cheaper, including calcium lactate, calcium gluconate and calcium citrate – just ask your doctor or pharmacist to advise you if you are unsure.
It’s important not to go for the cheapest option as the quality will vary, but your doctor or local health food shop, or local pharmacy should certainly be able to point you towards the best calcium supplement to suit your particular requirements.
As we mentioned earlier, be careful taking calcium supplements if you are taking thyroid hormones for a thyroid condition because it can interfere with the effectiveness of the medication. Always talk to your doctor in this case and remember not to take the supplement too close in time to the medication.
You can see that calcium is not just important for bone and teeth health, but performs many other functions in our body including supporting our muscles to contract properly, so a calcium deficiency can cause many problems.
Eat a diet rich in calcium-filled foods and if you do suffer from a thyroid problem, such as hypothyroidism, be aware that it can really impact on your body’s calcium levels and put you at much greater risk of suffering from osteoporosis.
It is entirely possible to take a calcium supplement while taking thyroid medication, to help prevent the onset of brittle bone disease, but it should only be done under doctor’s advice, to avoid conflicting with the hormone medication.
Calcium and thyroid health are intrinsically linked together and it’s about maintaining the body’s balance of hormones and calcium levels in perfect harmony, so that you end up with healthy bones, a healthy weight and a healthy body and mind overall.