Calcium deficiency: Causes, symptoms, and diet tips

By: Dr. Victor Marchione | Diets | Wednesday, November 23, 2016 - 12:30 PM

calcium deficiencyWhen you think of calcium, you probably think of the mineral that helps keep your bones strong. But calcium benefits go beyond bone mass and strength, so having a calcium deficiency can take a negative toll on the overall state of health.

Calcium makes up one to two percent of a person’s body weight, and 99 percent of it can be found in your bones and teeth. The remaining circulates in the blood, muscles, and other tissues.

Often referred to as hypocalcemia, calcium deficiency can increase one’s risk of developing osteoporosis. Common symptoms of calcium deficiency include weak hair, nails, memory problems, and seizures. One of the reasons for calcium deficiency is a deficiency in vitamin D.

Although you may think that boosting your calcium intake with supplements is the answer, it really isn’t. In fact, going beyond the recommended dosage of calcium can actually be fatal.

Calcium deficiency: The Cause

As we age, our bones become thinner and less dense, which increases our daily requirement for calcium. For women over the age of 51, the daily recommended calcium intake is 1,200 mg and for men, it’s 1,000 mg, which increases to 1,200 mg after the age of 71.

Women need to amp up their calcium intake earlier than men because their bones are naturally thinner, which means more calcium is lost at an earlier age. Furthermore, women start losing estrogen as they age due to menopause. Estrogen offers protective benefits to bones, but once its levels drop, bones become weaker as a result.

Aside from the natural aging process, other causes for calcium deficiency include low levels of vitamin D – vitamin D is necessary to absorb calcium – too much potassium, and certain medications such as those for thyroid replacement.

Calcium deficiency symptoms

natural remedies to prevent heart attack in elderlyAs calcium is so important for our overall health, a calcium deficiency, in turn, can be harmful. Watch out for these calcium deficiency symptoms:

  • Muscle aches
  • Brittles nails
  • Dry skin
  • Weakened bones
  • Confusion or memory loss
  • Muscle spasms
  • Depression
  • Chest pain
  • Fainting
  • Psoriasis
  • Wheezing
  • Changes to voice
  • Numbness or tingling sensations
  • Heart failure
  • Irritability
  • Behavioral changes
  • Coarse hair
  • Cataracts
  • Chronic itching
  • Hallucinations
  • Easy bone fractures
  • Abnormal heart rhythms
  • Skin conditions like eczema
  • Tooth decay

Calcium deficiency symptoms can then lead to ailments such as kidney stones and osteoporosis. You may also find you’re more prone to bone fractures and breaks.

Complications of calcium deficiency

Complications resulting from calcium deficiency include eye damage, abnormal heartbeat, and osteoporosis.

Complications of osteoporosis include disability, spinal fractures, difficulty walking, and other bone fractures.

If calcium deficiency isn’t treated, it can be a fatal condition.

Diet tips for calcium deficiency

greens saladThese foods can help boost your calcium levels naturally as calcium supplements can pose risks to your health.

Vegetables: Most dark, leafy greens will pack calcium, but collard greens have the highest content of calcium in the leafy green category. A typical serving is eight ounces packing 360 mg of calcium! Not bad for something that isn’t dairy.

Furthermore, broccoli and kale respectively provide 200 mg and 180 mg per eight-ounce serving. As you can see, you don’t have to strictly stick with dairy in order to get your daily intake of calcium.

Seafood: If you’re looking for a fish alternative, look no further than sardines, salmon, and shrimp. These items can give you between 125 and 325 mg of calcium per serving!

Dairy: If you wish to stick with dairy, your best options are partly skimmed ricotta, low-fat plain yogurt, and milk. These calcium-rich foods provide between 300 and 355 mg of calcium per serving.

Using chopped kale as your base, add additional calcium-rich foods like almonds, beans, dried figs, and maybe some oranges. Dress with a little olive oil and vinegar and toss! The great thing about salads is, you can add in all the items you enjoy eating.

If you incorporate additional calcium-rich foods into your salad, you can further enhance your calcium-rich diet for strong bones.

Food item Mg/serving
Bok choy 79 mg per ½ cup
Beet greens 82 mg per ½ cup
Almonds 82 mg per one ounce
Pinto beans 86 mg per ½ cup
Kale 90 mg per ½ cup
White beans 96 mg per ½ cup
Tahitian taro root 102 mg per ½ cup
Cowpeas 106 mg per ½ cup
Nopales 122 mg per ½ cup
Spinach 123 mg per ½ cup
Turnip greens 125 mg per ½ cup
Edamame 131 mg per ½ cup
Amaranth leaves 138 mg per ½ cup
Mustard green 142 mg per ½ cup
Collard greens 188 mg per ½ cup
Tempeh 184 mg per one cup
Stinging nettles 214 mg per ½ cup
Sesame seeds 273 mg per once ounce
Tofu 861 mg per ½ cup



When it comes to the seafood, sardines can be easily eaten from the can, added to other meals or enjoyed on their own. There are endless ways to cook salmon and shrimp, for example, on the BBQ or baked in the oven with some lemon slices. Enjoying a healthy serving of fish is also important to receive omega-3s – another nutrient essential to proper health.

Lastly, dairy products can be a great snack on their own or combined with other food items. Milk can be used in baking or poured over calcium-fortified cereal. Yogurt is easy to take with you on the go, and cheese can be added to just about anything.

No matter how you enjoy these calcium rich foods, know that you’re doing your body good in the long run.

If you can’t consume dairy products, here are the top non-dairy options to boost your calcium.

Before amping up calcium in your diet, always speak to your doctor beforehand to know where you currently stand and see how much more calcium you need to add. Dietary sources of calcium are always safer than taking supplements.


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