A calcium deficiency can make you ill in the long term. However, those wishing to take calcium supplements may not always know the best way and when to do so. We explain how to find out if you need extra calcium and how you can take it. You will also learn what time of day it is best to take calcium, how to combine it with meals, and whether or not you can take calcium with other supplements.
Proper intake of calcium
In order to be able to benefit as much as possible from calcium preparations, you should not just take the calcium on the fly, but pay attention to a few things when taking it. We explain how to take calcium correctly.
Studies have long shown how important dietary supplements with calcium are because calcium deficiency is not that rare – even if it is commonly said that the population is well supplied with nutrients and vital substances with conventional nutrition and that one should simply not take any dietary supplements.
In 2010, the renowned Journal of Nutrition reported that only 15 percent of girls aged 9 to 13, less than 10 percent of girls aged 14 to 18, and less than 10 percent of all women over the age of 50 know about nutrition getting enough calcium. The study did not refer to a developing country, but to the normal US population.
A study from May 2015 examined the nutrient supply of children in Europe and found that latent deficiencies in vital substances (including insufficient calcium intake) are not uncommon. In some life situations, the intake of additional calcium is therefore urgently required.
Calcium deficiency is not easy to diagnose
Calcium is an important mineral, yes, quantitatively even the most important mineral in humans. In the body, most of the calcium (99 percent) is found in the bones and teeth together with magnesium and phosphate. Only 1 percent swims in the blood and in other body fluids – and that’s exactly the problem if you want to find out whether you’re well supplied with calcium or not.
Because the calcium level in the blood always remains the same, no matter how the body is supplied. The calcium level in the blood also fluctuates a little depending on the time of day, since it is dependent on various hormones that have their active and less active phases. However, since there is naturally a lot of calcium in the bones, the blood has a wonderful reservoir here that it can use at any time.
So you would have to measure the calcium content of the bones in order to find out your personal calcium status, which is usually only done to clarify osteoporosis. In addition, it makes much more sense to take preventive action, i.e. even before one could recognize a dwindling bone density.
For this purpose, one examines one’s diet, state of health, and one’s lifestyle.
Find the right calcium supplement
If it turns out that you should take calcium as a dietary supplement, then the article linked below will help you to find the calcium supplement that is right for you personally, since not every calcium supplement is equally ideal for everyone: Finding the best calcium supplement
You will learn there
how inappropriate conventional calcium preparations from supermarkets, drugstores, and pharmacies often are, as they contain numerous completely unnecessary additives such as sugar, sweeteners, release agents, emulsifiers, colorings, etc.,
- how calcium carbonates differ from calcium citrates and which of the two calcium preparations is the better for you personally and also
- which different sources of calcium carbonate there are (dolomite, Sango sea coral, the red algae Lithothamnium calcareum), and what advantages and disadvantages they each offer.
We recommend the Sango Sea Coral as it is a natural calcium supplement that provides relevant amounts of calcium per daily dose (around 500 mg) and contains calcium and magnesium in the correct ratio of 2:1.
The right calcium dose
Once you have decided on a suitable calcium supplement, it is time to determine the correct dose that you need. The calcium requirement per day is generally given as 1000 to 1200 mg for adults. This amount of calcium includes the total calcium intake per day (i.e. this includes the calcium content of food and that in food supplements).
For example, if your daily diet contains 600 mg of calcium, you could get 400 mg from a supplement. You can estimate the calcium content of your diet with the help of online nutrition calculators (e.g. www.naehrwertrechner.de).
Interestingly, calcium-containing supplements are officially supposed to contain no more than 500 mg of calcium per daily dose. If they contain more, they are officially considered inferior and no longer recommended (e.g. Okotest, 2010 and 2017). It is often significantly higher doses that have proven to be helpful in studies.
Preparations that contain more than 500 mg per daily dose require drug approval. The packaging of these medicines may now also state that they may be used for the accompanying osteoporosis therapy.
In short, dietary supplements must be underdosed and therefore often do not work. If they are dosed correctly and are therefore effective, they are devalued and presented as bad. The same dosage in a preparation approved as a medicinal product and prescribed by a doctor, on the other hand, is considered good and safe.
Once you’ve decided on a specific dose, it’s a question of how and when is the best time to take your calcium supplement.
Take Calcium Properly
Taking calcium supplements correctly is almost an art. Because even if you have excellent calcium at home but take it incorrectly, you will not fully enjoy the calcium or you may not tolerate it very well. Therefore, here are the most important tips for correct calcium intake:
Do you take calcium with food or on an empty stomach?
Calcium carbonate requires sufficient gastric acid in order to be optimally absorbed, especially isolated calcium carbonate (usually contained in effervescent tablets), less the natural calcium carbonates such as the Sango sea coral or the red algae Lithothamnium calcareum.
If you only have a little stomach acid and eat calcium carbonate, you run the risk that the calcium carbonate will further reduce, namely neutralize, the stomach acid, which is already low. It is therefore best to take it outside of meals – in as many small doses as possible.
Calcium carbonate has a soothing effect on excess stomach acid (heartburn, etc.) so it can be taken in this case as soon as the relevant symptoms plague, i.e. also during or immediately after eating.
Calcium citrate does not require gastric acid for absorption. It can therefore basically be taken at any time – whether on an empty stomach, with a meal, or after a meal is almost irrelevant.
However, taking calcium – whether citrate or (if there is sufficient stomach acid) carbonate – with food also has a clear advantage: if the body is busy with the digestive work, the intestinal passage of calcium is slowed down, which gives the intestines the opportunity to take the calcium in peace and thus in larger quantities.
Also, taking calcium citrate on an empty stomach causes some people to experience stomach discomfort, so taking it with meals is often more comfortable.
If you have calcium carbonate at home but don’t tolerate it very well (possibly due to a lack of stomach acid), then add a little lemon juice, which increases tolerance.
Several small calcium portions or one big one?
A maximum of 500 mg of calcium can be absorbed from a meal, often less – always depending on the individual absorption abilities, one’s own vitamin D level, and also depending on what the meal consisted of and which other nutrients have to be absorbed at the moment.
So if you were to take your calcium daily requirement of 1000 mg all at once, it would put a strain on your kidneys (because at most half of it would be absorbed and the kidneys have to excrete the rest unused), but your daily requirement would still be a long way from it covered.
It is therefore best if you split the daily dose of calcium you wish to take into at least two doses, e.g. B. twice 200 or 300 mg. You are also welcome to divide the calcium into three or more doses if you are not overwhelmed by the organization.
Only when calcium is used therapeutically to prevent osteoporosis during or after menopause and when the diet is low in calcium are higher doses obviously worthwhile, as explained in the next section:
Do you take calcium in the morning or in the evening?
Especially if you want to prevent increased bone loss, you don’t want to make any mistakes when taking calcium.
A study with postmenopausal women showed that a single dose of 1000 mg in the evening would already be such a mistake. This method of ingestion could halt bone loss overnight, but not the following day.
Again, taking 500 mg in the morning and 500 mg in the evening reduced bone loss during the day but not at night. Only when taking 500 mg in the morning and 1000 mg in the evening could bone loss be inhibited both overnight and during the day. Mind you, this study involved postmenopausal women who were specifically at risk for osteoporosis.
Nevertheless, it is often recommended to take calcium in the evening to prevent nocturnal bone loss.
(Comment by Gert Dorschner: However, there are also voices that recommend taking calcium in the morning, since calcium, especially in the beneficial combination with vitamin C, has a stimulating effect and is needed for muscle function during the day.)
Combine calcium correctly with other vital substances
Of course, when taking calcium supplements, you also have to think about those nutrients and vital substances that the body needs for both absorption and utilization of calcium.
If these accompanying substances are missing, all the calcium effort would be in vain. Even the best source of calcium could then not work as hoped, yes, there would be a calcium deficiency despite excellent calcium intake.
First and foremost is vitamin D. Without vitamin D, calcium cannot be absorbed from the intestine. However, keep in mind that the more vitamin D you take, the more calcium you absorb. So if you take high doses of vitamin D for a long time (because you have to do this because of a vitamin D deficiency), this can also lead to a calcium overdose if you take increased calcium supplements at the same time.
In this case, only take as much calcium as you actually need. Because the stated daily requirement of 1000 to 1200 mg of calcium for adults assumes an absorption rate of just 30 percent. However, this rate can increase significantly with high doses of vitamin D.
In addition to a dietary supplement with around 500 mg of calcium carbonate, taking 1000 to a maximum of 2000 IU of vitamin D3 per day is generally sufficient – provided your vitamin D level is within acceptable ranges. Therefore, before taking vitamin D, have your vitamin D level determined.
Vitamin K2 is responsible for the proper redistribution of calcium in the body. If there is sufficient vitamin K2, the calcium can be taken to where it belongs, namely in the bones and teeth.
If vitamin K2 is missing, it can happen that the calcium is increasingly deposited in places where you don’t want it at all – e.g. B. in the blood vessels or in the kidneys (kidney stones) or similar.
The required vitamin K2 dose is between 45 and 200 micrograms per day – depending on your diet, your condition, and of course your vitamin D intake.
We recommend the following vitamin K2 intake:
- 100 µg of vitamin K2 with up to 2,500 IU of vitamin D per day
- 200 mcg of vitamin K2 for vitamin D doses over 2,500 IU per day
However, also note the vitamin K2 content of your food. If you get enough vitamin K2 from food, you may only need to take vitamin K2 for the first few weeks of your vitamin D intake. Information on the vitamin K content of foods can be found here: Vitamin K2.
Vitamin K2 is available in different forms, we recommend menaquinone-7, also abbreviated as MK-7, as a dietary supplement. It is vegan and is considered the best absorbable and most usable form of vitamin K2. Anyone taking blood thinners or other medications that do not go well with vitamin K must discuss vitamin K administration with their doctor as a precaution.
Magnesium activates vitamin D. This means that without magnesium there is no effective vitamin D, and without effective vitamin D there is no absorption of calcium in the intestine. Therefore, magnesium is one of the most important minerals to think about if you want to improve your bone health or optimize your calcium supply.
Studies have repeatedly appeared in recent years that have shown that dietary supplementation with calcium is not ideal (e.g. for the cardiovascular system) or does not have the desired effect on the bones. The problem here is not the calcium, but the lack of magnesium. If you are well supplied with magnesium, calcium in no way harms the heart (on the contrary) and can only now use the bones.
If you take the Sango Sea Coral, it already contains magnesium.
The daily requirement of magnesium for an adult is about 400 mg. If you take in this amount of magnesium every day through a magnesium-rich diet, you should be well supplied with magnesium with a vitamin D supplement of up to 5,000 IU. Quinoa, amaranth, pumpkin seeds, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and green leafy vegetables are particularly high in magnesium.
Anyone who does not eat a diet rich in magnesium or who takes more vitamin D should also take magnesium, between 200 and 300 mg per day. You automatically take in this amount of magnesium with a daily dose of Sango Marine Coral.
However, if you take a calcium supplement that only contains calcium, you will also need a magnesium supplement if you are on a low-magnesium diet, e.g. B. this magnesium citrate (per capsule 60 mg) or a vegetable magnesium (per capsule 110 mg). Both can be dosed quite individually, as there is not too much in one capsule, so you can take several capsules per day according to your individual needs.
Do you take calcium and magnesium together or separately?
It is often said that magnesium and calcium should not be taken together because they would interfere with each other’s absorption. This is incorrect as the minerals are not absorbed through the same transport mechanisms. In fact, the two minerals – if you take them in the right ratio – mutually support each other. For example, we already explained above that magnesium activates vitamin D, which is necessary for calcium absorption.
It only becomes a problem if you take a lot of one of the two minerals and very little of the other. This can lead to an undersupply of the mineral that is only consumed in small amounts.
A good magnesium-calcium ratio would be 1:2 to even 2:1 – although diet should also be included here. For example, if you practice a calcium-rich diet (e.g. eat a lot of dairy products), then you do not need a calcium supplement, but you need a magnesium supplement to restore the balance between the two minerals (e.g. this magnesium citrate or vegetable magnesium).
Assuming that your diet contains a balanced magnesium-calcium ratio, but contains too little of both minerals to meet your needs, then the following combinations would come into question, for example:
- If you take 800 mg of calcium, you could take 400 mg of magnesium.
- If you take 300 mg of calcium, you can theoretically take 150 to 600 mg of magnesium. (Theoretically, because magnesium in higher doses can have a laxative effect).
- If you take 150 mg of calcium, you can take 75 to 300 mg of magnesium.
In the Sango sea coral, both minerals are naturally combined in a good ratio (1:2).
If you have two different preparations (e.g. calcium citrate and magnesium citrate), then please make sure that the dosage corresponds to the desired ratio.
Magnesium and calcium can therefore be taken together. But you can also take one morning, noon, evening and the other morning and afternoon. A proper relationship should only be achieved throughout the day.
What to look out for when taking other dietary supplements?
If you take other dietary supplements in addition to calcium and magnesium, e.g. If you need iron and zinc, for example, then it is also often said that interactions can occur here. However, studies have shown the following:
- If you take calcium in doses of less than 1500 mg, you don’t have to fear any unfavorable interactions with other minerals or trace elements. However, with a daily calcium intake of more than 1500 mg (e.g. when calcium is used therapeutically), it is possible that the calcium inhibits the absorption of other minerals such as magnesium, zinc, and iron.
- In one study, it initially appeared that calcium supplementation inhibited the absorption of iron. But then it turned out that this really only seemed so, namely 1.5 hours after the simultaneous intake of calcium and iron. After 4 hours, however, no negative effects on iron levels could be observed.
- Conversely, iron and zinc can inhibit calcium absorption, but only if large amounts of iron or zinc are ingested (e.g. 60 mg per day, which nobody actually does) and low amounts of calcium were present at the same time.
- With organic iron compounds, e.g. B. iron chelate, there are even fewer influences on the absorption of other minerals to be feared than could be the case with an inorganic iron preparation (iron sulfate).
- In addition, studies have shown that mutual absorption inhibition can often only be observed if the substances are taken together on an empty stomach. If you take them to eat, everything was fine.
- If you still want to be on the safe side, then simply keep a time interval of three hours between the individual supplements.
What is the important time interval from medication when taking calcium?
If you have to take medication, it is advisable to leave a gap of at least two to three hours between taking the medication and taking calcium.
There are usually interactions with antibiotics, bisphosphonates (osteoporosis medication), and high blood pressure medication, so in these cases, you should take the calcium at least three hours apart.
The effect of heart medication can be enhanced by calcium. So here too – just like with L-thyroxine (thyroid hormone) – keep a decent distance. It is best to discuss the matter with your doctor or even better with the pharmacist, who is usually more familiar with interactions than a doctor.
These foods inhibit calcium absorption
Various foods or substances in them can inhibit calcium absorption or lead to increased calcium excretion via the urine and should, therefore – if you keep your Calciu and want to improve care – be avoided.
Table salt, for example (also contained in sodium-rich mineral water), flushes calcium out of the body. Those who eat low salt have an advantage here, namely a much lower calcium requirement than people who constantly add salt.
Alcoholic beverages, coffee, black tea, and other caffeinated beverages, and sugar also increase calcium excretion through the kidneys.
Foods containing phosphate such as B. sausages, processed cheese, soft drinks, etc. worsen the absorption of calcium from the intestine.
High-fat foods impede calcium absorption.
A high-protein diet promotes calcium excretion.
Antinutrients: When it comes to calcium, phytic acid and oxalic acid, known as antinutrients, are often mentioned, which are said to make calcium absorption more difficult. Phytic acid is found particularly in grains, seeds, and nuts.
However, nobody in our society suffers from a mineral deficiency due to phytic acid. The phenomenon is only known in poor countries, where people not only have little to eat but often have to live on nothing more than a little porridge.
Since phytic acid also has beneficial health effects, eliminating foods containing phytic acid from your diet isn’t really worth it.
Foods rich in oxalic acids, such as sorrel, cocoa, chard, purslane, goose foot, etc., are rarely eaten in large quantities and even more rarely eaten alone. They, therefore, do not have an excessive influence on the mineral balance of a person who eats a varied diet.
Dietary fiber is sometimes listed as impairing absorption. This may be true if you were to take a large spoonful of psyllium husk powder or wheat or oat bran with your calcium supplement. After all, these are concentrated and isolated dietary fibers that have a completely different effect than, for example, wholemeal bread, wholemeal pasta, or a vegetable dish.
Concentrated and isolated ballasts
Life is therefore usually taken on an empty stomach and at least 30 minutes apart from meals and food supplements – especially since they then have the best effect (digestive, detoxifying).
These foods promote calcium absorption
Fruits can promote calcium absorption. On the one hand, it is the organic fruit acids that improve calcium absorption, on the other hand, it is vitamin C that also fulfills this function. You can therefore very well take your calcium supplement with or after a fruit salad or with a colorful salad with a dressing of orange or lemon juice.
Of course, calcium can basically be taken with or after all base-surplus and vital substance-rich meals, as these are free of absorption-inhibiting properties (phosphates, sugar, salt, alcohol, caffeine) and are neither high in fat nor protein.
More information about calcium
We now hope that with all of this information you will be able to meet your calcium needs and take the calcium supplement you have chosen correctly.