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If you think taking a calcium supplement is a good idea, think again! You don’t need a calcium supplement! You may be concerned about osteoporosis or deceived by the “milk does a body good” campaign, but unfortunately, your supplement is likely not doing you any good. At best, you’re wasting money on supplements; at worst, your calcium supplement is causing your body harm. Whatever the case, stop taking the calcium supplement you prescribed for yourself. In this article, we’ll explain why. 

CALCIUM SUPPLEMENTATION IS COMMON 

Calcium is the most overused supplement when you consider the health benefits or lack thereof. If you’re an average person eating a varied, healthy diet, you don’t need a calcium supplement. In 2017-2018, the USDA reported that 22% of men, 32% of women, and 4% to 8% of children take a supplement with calcium. [1] In 2020, Harvard Medical reported that 43% of American adults take a supplement with calcium. [2] As the population ages, rates of calcium supplementation increase, along with the risk of adverse health effects. 

We have all heard milk does a body good. Why does it do a body good? Well, they tell you it’s because of the calcium. If calcium is good, then lots of calcium is even better, right? Wrong! There are many reasons to rethink this overused supplement and avoid the harm of calcium. 

REASONS TO RETHINK YOUR CALCIUM SUPPLEMENT 

1 – BUMMER BONE ISSUES 

Calcium supplements don’t make it into the bones and aren’t fully passed in the urine, which means it stays in the body. [2] If your supplements aren’t absorbed into your bones, they aren’t helping your bone density and are probably causing damage elsewhere. Unfortunately, more often than not, the calcium goes to where the inflammation is. Inflammation is the root cause of many illnesses Americans face, and the body uses calcium to support the inflammatory process. 

If bones don’t absorb the calcium and it doesn’t leave the body, it must go somewhere. Ideally, it would go into the bone to help with bone density and reduce fractures. Instead, it builds up on the outside like a piece of used gum no one wants. It becomes hard and builds up as more gum is added. All that unused calcium can build up, causing extra bone growth. This additional bone growth can be painful when calcium deposits lead to osteoarthritis and bone spurs. How bummed will you be when you discover all your bone health strategies have led to bone issues? 

2 – HURTS YOUR HEART 

As we see a rise in calcium supplementation, we also see a higher risk of adverse cardiovascular events. [3] [4] Mayo Clinic also points out that’s not always the case. In fact, they point out that calcium helps some people. That’s because everyone’s body and levels of nutrition are different. The point remains that adverse cardiovascular events are possible and even likely when you take too much calcium. The varying amounts of calcium within people’s bodies may have made the studies seem inconclusive. Please take note that we are talking about supplements, not dietary calcium. Dietary calcium can reduce your risk of heart disease. But here, again, people hear calcium is good and think, “I need to take a bunch of it.” 

With supplements, you spike the amount of calcium in your blood, and, as we talked about earlier, it must go somewhere, which can affect your arteries and heart. It can cause a blood clot, or an inflamed body may put it to use as part of the inflammatory process — calcifying the vascular wall. Calcium can harden your arteries, and that’s not helpful for cardiovascular health. A simple coronary calcium score test will indicate whether calcium is building up in your arteries. 

3 – WHO NEEDS KIDNEY STONES? 

Nobody. Nobody needs kidney stones. When your body is trying to get rid of that excess calcium you are putting in, it will go through your kidneys before making it into your toilet. Sometimes it doesn’t make it to the toilet! Calcium can make up 85% of a kidney stone. If extra calcium is floating in your body, needs to exit, and goes through the kidneys, it might build up into additional kidney stones. Studies have shown taking regular calcium supplements can increase your risk of kidney stones by 17%. [5] 

4 – CAN INTERFERE WITH THE ABSORPTION OF OTHER MINERALS 

The thing about high-calcium foods is that they have other nutrients and minerals that help with absorption. Taking calcium or other isolated vitamins or minerals means you likely aren’t getting the right balance of those nutrients. Too much calcium in supplement form can hamper the absorption of minerals like magnesium, iron, and zinc. Taking calcium supplements with your meals can reduce iron absorption, making it harder to reach your dietary needs. [6] How many of you have worried about anemia  

In our experience with patients, there are way more patients whose test scores indicate they need more magnesium than those who need more calcium. Calcium and magnesium bind to the same site on the cell. If you’re taking lots of calcium, those molecules can grab onto your cell before the magnesium can. Guess which one gets depleted with stress? Magnesium. If you’re already low in magnesium and are taking additional calcium supplements, you’re making that divide larger. 

5 – THE DAIRY INDUSTRY MILKED THIS CALCIUM THING 

The dairy industry started this whole calcium rigamarole. But remember, they didn’t have your best nutrition in mind. They were trying to sell milk products. And it worked! Everybody thinks milk does the body good, which is silly. Milk is for baby cows, not humans. The milk needed to grow a 150 lb baby cow into a 2000 lb animal is vastly different nutritionally and molecularly than a human needs. 

Humans don’t easily absorb the molecular size of the calcium in milk. So, you’ve likely been drinking all this milk and thought you had to take supplements due to lies pushed by the dairy industry. The baby cow grows up and starts drinking water, but the baby human drinks cow’s milk and takes calcium supplements. 

6 – IT’S NOT SUPPORTING BONE DENSITY 

You didn’t know any better. You heard calcium supplements were good because the calcium supposedly goes into your bones and gives you better bone density. Those calcium supplements aren’t doing what you thought they were. If your body doesn’t excrete the extra calcium, it gets deposited where it doesn’t belong. Studies have shown that bones don’t absorb calcium from supplements. Calcium supplements don’t support bone density. 

If calcium supplements don’t support bone density, what good are they? That’s what Doc has been asking! Your body will absorb what it needs from food if you eat a varied diet that includes leafy green vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and beans. 

4 WAYS TO SUPPORT HEALTHY BONES 

1 – VITAMIN D 

Vitamin D helps improve calcium absorption and is especially important for your bones. [7] While calcium doesn’t seem to reduce or prevent hip fractures, Vitamin D supplementation does! [8] Your body can get some Vitamin D from food sources but primarily makes it when your skin is exposed to the sun. In the modern-day world of sunscreen and limited outdoor time, our bodies don’t get enough Vitamin D, so taking a high-quality Vitamin D supplement is beneficial. 

2 – VARIED DIET FULL OF LEAFY GREENS 

You can get all the calcium you need through a healthy, varied diet. Dairy can be very inflammatory, so we recommend eating seeds, nuts, leafy greens, almonds, beans, and lentils. When you get your nutrients from a whole food versus a supplement, you get food with all the supporting nutrients, making it more absorbable. Getting calcium from the diet also avoids the spike in calcium in your blood that causes it to build up where it’s not supposed to be. 

3 – BONE BROTH 

Bone broth is something you could supplement with that will be more beneficial for the bones, the ligaments, and the cartilage while not causing the adverse effects of a calcium supplement. Bone broth has amino acids and collagen, which support healthy bone health. Drinking bone broth can reduce bone loss and your chances of fractures. Again, this is a whole food that was once common in our diet, but we don’t get enough of it these days. You can make your own or check out a favorite around the clinic. 

4- EXERCISE 

Weight-bearing exercise is the number one way you can improve your bone health. If you have osteoporosis, you should be exercising. [9] It’s not a supplementation issue. You need to stress your bones to build them, so ensure you are getting good exercise. This can include weightlifting and walking, CrossFit, running, or jumping on a trampoline. Want to up your walking game? Walk with weights! You will do more for your body than any supplement can do. 

READY TO THINK AGAIN AND STOP TAKING YOUR CALCIUM SUPPLEMENT? 

Just because a little of something is good doesn’t mean a lot of it is better. We saw all the celebrities sporting milk mustaches a few decades ago, and they made us think we needed to drink lots of milk or take a supplement. Well, dairy can be inflammatory, and the supplements aren’t working. There are many reasons not to take a calcium supplement. To discover which nutrients and resources your body needs, contact a Wellness Way clinic and get tested today! 

Written on October 25, 2018. Republished August 8, 2023.

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Disclaimer: This content is for educational purposes only. It’s not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your Wellness Way clinic or personal physician, especially if currently taking prescription or over-the-counter medications. Pregnant women, in particular, should seek the advice of a physician before trying any herb or supplement listed on this website. Always speak with your individual clinic before adding any medication, herb, or nutritional supplement to your health protocol. Information and statements regarding dietary supplements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

2 Comments

  • It shouldn't matter says:

    “we recommend eating seeds, nuts, leafy greens, almonds, beans, and lentils.”

    SEEDS?!
    In my personal experience seeing one of the docs, as well as listening to information presented in live videos, Wellness Way repeatedly recommends AVOIDING every single one of these things. Too many phytates, oxalates, antinutrients… in favor of eating grass fed beef.

    Can’t eat dairy or greens, fish is discouraged, so what if calcium citrate is my only source of calcium?

    • Betsy Schroeder says:

      Hello, it shouldn’t matter. 🙂

      The Wellness Way in general recommends personalized nutrition. For some with compromised digestion, kidney function, and autoimmune conditions, these anti-nutrients can cause problems. However, everyone is different. We emphasize food allergy testing to find out which foods trigger an immune response for each individual. Beyond that, some Wellness Way doctors will use their expertise and experience to determine whether phytates, lectins, or other anti-nutrients are an issue for each patient. Often, as the gut heals, these foods can be added back.

      I’m not sure where we discourage eating fish. It’s really more about sourcing. For example, avoid farmed fish and opt for wild caught instead. Canned fish with the bones included can provide a bioavailable source of calcium as long as histamine isn’t a problem. Check with your Wellness Way doctor to get individualized coaching on this! 🙂

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