Calcium: The Skinny


By Erica Whisson, AlkaWay Naturopath

Ho hum, Calcium. 

Bones.. now… what to write about?  Surely there must be much much more interesting things calcium does in the body.  Not that having good bones isn’t imperative to health. 

But surely by now everyone knows about bones and calcium.

Ok, to start, what about calcium and our nerves, pH control and muscle contraction?  I remember a few years back there was some media hype about calcium helping with weight loss.  That was a fun time to be working in a health food shop.

Here's what we need every day.

RDI: 800 – 1400mg

Supplemental range:  1000-2500mg / day

Deficiency:  less than 200mg / day

Here's our Natural Sources

calcium natural sources
Calcium natural sources

Almonds, broccoli, buckwheat, dairy, egg yolk, green leafy vegies, sardines or other fish with edible bones, turnips.

Here's what you need calcium for

  • Activates insulin, calcitonin and thyroid hormone release,
  • bold clotting,
  • bone and teeth formation,
  • cell signalling,
  • maintenance of pH and electrolyte balance,
  • muscle contraction,
  • nerve transmission,
  • heartbeat.

Then there are the Therapeutic uses

  • Backache,
  • bone pain,
  • high blood pressure,
  • lead exposure,
  • menopausal symptoms,
  • menstrual cramps,
  • muscles cramps from inactivity,
  • some cases of anxiety,
  • some cases of hypertension,
  • osteoporosis.

How Calcium supports pH balance in the body

alkaline balance
Alkaline Balance

Calcium’s role in maintaining pH in the body is because it acts as a buffer. 
What, exactly, does that mean?
..was my immediate response to the above statement. 

So, it’s back to the chemistry we go.

Buffer. Noun.  (chemistry) A solution used to stabilize the pH (acidity) of a liquid.

< A substance capable in solution of neutralizing both acids and bases and thereby maintaining the original acidity or basicity of the solution; also: a solution containing such a substance. >

What happens in a buffer?

You have a weak acid and a weak base (alkali) as a buffer or storehouse in your body.  They get along OK with each other.  Comfortably swapping hydrogen ions, occasionally but not changing the concentration of each other. 

Then along comes a strong acid or alkali and that changes everything

If a strong acid is added to a buffer, the weak alkali buffer will react with the hydrogen from the strong acid to form the weak acid. The H+ gets absorbed and then it can’t react with anything else and the end result is that the pH changes only slightly.  

In our body, calcium works as a buffer. 

The end result of much of the body’s metabolic processes is the production of acids.  Think lactic acid and uric acid for example. 

Of course, acidic isn’t good for us and it has to come back to normal.  Calcium comes along and mops up some of the hydrogen ions from the acids thereby bringing everything back into balance.  If we don't have enough, where does this calcium come from? 

It is released from the bones. 

Bone becomes an important buffer after consumption of an acid load. Bone initially releases sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO3) and calcium bicarbonate (Ca(HCO3)2) in exchange for H+. With prolonged acid loads, bone releases calcium carbonate (CaCO3) and calcium phosphate (CaPO4).

The calcium has to be replaced in the bones so it can be utilised in the next acidic event.   Long-standing acidemia without adequate mineral replacement therefore contributes to bone demineralization and osteoporosis.

After the calcium is ripped from bones and utilised in maintaining body pH it needs to be excreted. This process is managed by the kidneys.  But like everything, they can only handle so much; and when there''s too much, the predisposed can form kidney stones.

When the kidneys have to excrete excess acid, they excrete calcium with it. 
The kidneys can only handle so much calcium and anything left can form into kidney stones.  That's just how it is.

By increasing potassium to decreasing the acid load on the kidneys you can decrease the amount of calcium in urine, thus reducing how much calcium the kidneys have to cope with.  Less calcium means the kidneys can keep up and there is less calcium to make stones with.

Other groovy things calcium does in the body

Nerve Conduction and Muscle Contraction

Nerve conduction

When the body needs to move the brain sends a message along a nerve fibre.  It does this by the movement of electrolytes (sodium and potassium) in and out of cells.  This movement of electrolytes creates an action potential – much like a little electricity switch – and the message gets sent along the nerve – lots of little switches in a row – when the muscle gets the message it knows it has to contract.  It does this by releasing calcium in the muscle fibres.  The calcium removes another molecule (tropomyosin) from between different muscle fibres and when it’s removed the fibres can contract.  This happens not just in skeletal muscles, but the heart as well.

The same system is used when the brain needs to release neurotransmitters to do work in the brain.  So if there isn’t enough calcium the brain can’t function properly.  For example, you may be making enough serotonin to keep you in a good mood, but without enough calcium the serotonin can’t be used and depression could result.

Our alkaline hydrogen water also assists with cellular communication.

About Weight Control. Obesity. Fat. Overweight. Rolly Polly. Need to lose.

A number of studies have found a link between calcium intake and obesity. 
The greater the intake, the less likelihood of being obese or overweight. 

The mechanism behind this seems to be that if you are low in calcium the body releases vitamin D.  The vitamin D then increases calcium absorption from food and increases calcium release from bones if it is needed.  This increase in circulating vitamin D , however, has a dark side. It also promotes weight gain. 

The other side of this is that if you have a lot of circulating calcium this impedes fat storage and promotes burning fat as fuel. 

It seems that we respond to low calcium diets with accelerated weight and fat gain, while high calcium diets markedly inhibit fat accumulation and accelerate the burning of fat as fuel. 

Further, low calcium diets impede body fat loss, while high calcium diets markedly accelerate fat loss when enduring calorie restriction. 

So if you are trying to lose fat, especially by reducing overall intake, then don’t forget to maintain calcium.  It will help keep the metabolism bubbling along. 

Of course, don’t just think dairy; nuts, seeds and seafood are also great sources of calcium.

So, yes, you need calcium for bones. 

But you also need it for maintaining optimal pH, for nerve and muscle function, and the waistline as well.

By the way, calcium isn’t the only thing you need for good bones. Stick around, perhaps subscribe to our Healthemail and we'll reveal all.

(Erica, the author, has formulated two great alkaline support products; The Alkaline Booster, and our new Alkaline Greens.)