Calcium is a mineral that makes up the teeth and bones. It is also found in certain foods, allowing most people to supply their bodies with calcium through their diets. Calcium deficiency is a condition in which the body does not absorb enough calcium. It can be due to lifestyle choices or underlying medical conditions. Not having enough calcium can cause bones to weaken and be more likely to fracture or break.
One possible cause of deficiency in calcium is eating an unbalanced diet. It can occur when a person does not eat foods containing calcium, such as milk, cheese, or yogurt. People who do not include calcium-containing foods in their diets can prevent deficiency by taking calcium supplements. Deficiency caused by a poor diet tends to have less serious results and can be easier to treat than other medical conditions.
Calcium deficiency can also be caused by preexisting medical issues that prevent the body from properly digesting or absorbing calcium from food or supplements. It can occur in people who have kidney malfunction or have had their stomach removed. Some medications, especially those that increase urination, may also affect the body’s calcium absorption.
Certain factors may make a person more likely to have calcium deficiency. Those who are lactose-intolerant have a higher probability of not having enough calcium in their diets. Lactose is the sugar in milk that some people cannot properly digest. Since dairy foods tend to contain the most calcium, people who are lactose-intolerant will often not be able to safely or comfortably have them in their diets. Taking calcium supplements or drinking calcium-fortified orange juice can help prevent deficiency.
People who have eating disorders also have a higher likelihood of developing calcium deficiency. Women who have lost enough weight to stop menstruating tend to be at the highest risk of not absorbing enough calcium. They are more likely to have calcium exit the body through their urine instead of staying in their bones. This can also occur in athletes who over-exercise and do not retain enough calories.
Women who have gone through menopause are also at a higher risk of their bones not properly absorbing enough calcium, even if they include adequate amounts in their diets. When women permanently stop menstruating, their bodies don’t produce as much of the female hormone estrogen. Lower amounts of estrogen make it more difficult for the body to get the adequate calcium amounts. Doctors may prescribe female hormone therapy to postmenopausal women in order to increase estrogen levels and help with deficiency.
Common symptoms of less serious calcium deficiency include fatigue, loss of appetite, and improper blood circulation that can cause fingers to feel numb. People with more serious cases of deficiency may have irregular heartbeats or seizures. If deficiency is left untreated, it can be fatal.