Calcium & Menopause: Why you need this vital nutrient


Eileen Durward
@EileenDurward


12 June 2017

Read the full video transcript below

Today's topic

Hello and welcome to my weekly video blog. And today on A.Vogel Talks Menopause I'm going to be discussing the role of calcium in the menopause.

Now for those of you who have been watching for a while you know that a couple of months ago I posted a blog on 'How Important Magnesium is in the Menopause.' And one of the main reasons magnesium is important is to help with the absorption and utilisation of calcium. So I thought today we would do the other half and talk about calcium and how important it is during the menopause. 

What is calcium?

Now when most of us think of calcium and what it's used for, we'll go, "Oh, it's good for the bones, it's good for the teeth." And that's really all that we think about, but calcium is needed for so many different processes in the body. It's needed to carry messages along the nerves in your nervous system, it's needed for muscle contraction so it helps you moving and exercising, it's really important for regulating the heart. And low levels of calcium can contribute to anxiety, stress, mood swings, depression and it can interfere with your sleep.

And if that's not all, then if you are not getting enough calcium to help with all these other things which are very, very important then the body will actually take calcium from your bones to use in these instances and if this happens ongoing, then you can end up with either osteopenia or osteoporosis. And unfortunately during the menopause, you're falling oestrogen could also interfere with the ability of the bones to hang on to calcium. So you can end up with a double whammy of calcium loss in the menopause.

What do you need to do?

So, what do we need to do to counteract this? I'm going to tell you about the things you need to do to get lots of calcium and the things to avoid as well.

Osteoporosis

So, the most important thing here especially when we're looking at osteoporosis in the menopause is how to prevent it. Osteoporosis, there are over 3 million people in the UK at any given time with osteoporosis and there are over half a million people a year end up with fractures through osteoporosis and a large number of these are women either in the menopause or post-menopausal. So to get our calcium balance right in and after the menopause is absolutely vital for our ongoing health.

Where do we get calcium from?

So, where do we get this calcium from? The best way to get it is from food. Now, not all of these foods might be the tastiest but you can do wonderful things these days and there's recipe books galore to help you make the most of these particular foods.

Dark green leafy vegetables

Number one is your dark green leafy vegetables. So these would be things like collard greens, it would be things like broccoli, kale, bok choi and all sorts of dark green leafy vegge.

Beans

They're beans, the likes of white beans. Now I don't mean that you go and eat tins of baked beans because there's lots of sugar in them but the beans that go into baked beans if you use those on their own in stews and casseroles you get a lovely surfing of calcium out of them.

Mung beans and dried fruits

Things like mung beans are absolutely fabulous as well. You can look at dried fruits. Couple of dried figs a day will give you a lovely surfing of calcium.

Oranges

We can look at oranges and I was surprised at this because I didn't actually realise that oranges are quite high in calcium.

Meat & fish

If you're meat and fish eater we've got sardines, we've also got salmon, we've got nuts.

Almonds & tofu

Almonds are wonderfully high in calcium. You can get a nice serving of calcium from tofu.

Dairy

Now dairy, this is a bit of a contention. A little bit of dairy can be good for you but watch that you don't take too much. The reason being is that dairy is certainly really high in calcium which is great but it's very low in magnesium.

And if you have a lot of dairy products you can end up tipping the balance and that can cause problems with your magnesium which can cause problems with all sorts of other things. So if you must have dairy then go organic.

And this is really important for several reasons. Because of today's intensive farming methods, a lot of the cows are fed antibiotics they're also given all sorts of additives in their feed. And this will end up going into the milk. And also because of the intensive farming methods in the breeding of cows, a lot of cows have their own hormones whizzing around their system that get into the milk as well. So just make sure that if you have dairy then just a little bit of good quality organic dairy or grass fed dairy products can be really good as well.

Vitamins & minerals

Now, the other thing that your body needs is a combination of other vitamins and minerals that help with the uptake and utilisation and absorption of calcium. And these are vital, if you're going to get the best benefit out of the calcium that you're getting in your diet you need these other factors as well. So remember magnesium, obviously that's number one and we know that. vitamin K, vitamin D, phosphorus, and boron as well. 

How vitamin & minerals help calcium

Now, magnesium helps the body to absorb and retain calcium so it's going to keep the bones nice and strong. Your vitamin K helps to regulate the uptake of calcium and helps to form really strong bones. Vitamin D helps with the absorption of calcium.

Now this is really important here especially if you're wanting to have dairy products to help supplement your vitamin D. Vitamin D is fat soluble, so if you drink low fat milk, semi-skimmed milk, low fat cheeses you are going to get very little vitamin D. So in order to get the benefit of vitamin D from dairy products, you need to drink or eat the full fat varieties. Now your phosphorus as well is really important because that can help again with the balance of your calcium.

Where do you get these from?

So, looking at where do we get these things from. Nature is absolutely wonderful. Because nature also includes a lot of these vitamins and minerals with foods that are rich in calcium. So if you're getting a really good varied diet with all sorts of different vegetables and fruits and nuts and beans, you're going to get a wonderful combination of your magnesium, your vitamin K and your vitamin D and everything else that you need in order to have your healthy bones. So this is fabulous you know you don't really need to look at loads of different supplements to help with everything. 

What should you avoid?

Now, what about the things that you should avoid? Number one is salt. Salt will leach calcium from your bones and that will lead to brittle and weak bones.

Caffeine is another one that is so bad for the bones and they reckon more than two cups of caffeine and coffee a day will cause problems with your bones which is quite horrific.

We've got alcohol. And alcohol will interfere with the absorption and utilisation of calcium. So that should be kept definitely at a minimum.

We've got soft drinks and soft drinks contain chemicals called phosphates and phosphates, the body really doesn't like the phosphates they're very acidic. So if you drink a lot of fizzy drinks and soft fruit juices with lots of sugar in them the body will take the calcium from your bones in order to neutralise these phosphates. So fizzy drinks really should be avoided at all cost if you want to have nice healthy bones.

Something that may interest you

Read my blog - 5 drinks that can upset your menopause - for more information on drinks to avoid.

Exercises that can help keep the calcium flowing

The other thing to do is weight bearing exercises in order to help to keep the calcium flow going. So we're looking at things like walking, brisk walking, power walking, jogging if you can do it. And ballgames like tennis can be absolutely wonderful. Dancing you know if you love dancing, this is the fabulous regular exercise for keeping your bones absolutely strong.

A word of warning

Now, just sort of one word of warning here. We're looking at calcium supplements and a lot of people will just automatically think, "Oh, I'll just take a calcium supplement." You need to watch what kind of calcium supplements you're taking. The most common kind is called calcium carbonate. Calcium carbonate is basically chalk. And you are taking these tablets which are usually very big and probably quite difficult to swallow, your body will have a hard time breaking these down and the amount of actual usable calcium from these tablets is going to be very little. So try to avoid anything with calcium carbonate in it.

If you're looking for one of the best forms it is something called calcium citrate. Look for capsules purely because they are easier to break down and they are easier to absorb and if you are getting a really good diet, you shouldn't need a great big tablet.

Five hundred milligrams (500mg) at most should be more than ample to see you through the menopause. Try and take it in a divided dose because if you have too much calcium at once the body is really going to struggle with what to do with it, where do I need to put this? And sometimes it's a good idea to actually take it with a magnesium and you can also get calcium supplements now that have vitamin K and vitamin D in them. So it's a nice all round package if you can get it in the right quantity. 

Other medications

The one other thing that's really important here for two reasons is if you are on other medication. Some medications should not be taken alongside calcium so you need to double check if you're on anything from the doctor make sure that you can take calcium with it.

Digestive problems

And the other thing to look at is one of the things that we've discovered is that a lot of women get digestive problems because of the falling oestrogen but it's not picked up as being menopausal.

So they're going to the doctor and they are being given prescribed drugs that suppress stomach acid. Now these particular family of drugs by suppressing the stomach acid can also interfere with the breakdown of calcium and magnesium. So if you're on any of these types of tablets, most of them are called Proton Pump Inhibitors or PPIs, if you're on this form of medication if you are going through the menopause and if you are worried about your bone health then it's really important to talk to your doctor to see if there's some way that you can get around this.

Calcium in the menopause

So calcium in the menopause, it's a huge subject. It can be really, really complex. I've tried to just whittle it little down to some of the most important facts. Hopefully this will give you some idea of how important calcium is and also the ways in which you can quite easily incorporate it into your diet. 
 
So, I will now take a big deep breath and I will look forward to seeing you next week on A.Vogel Talks Menopause.

Menopause support – Soy Isoflavones for all stages of the menopause

60 tablets

£ 14.99

Buy now

Menopause Support can be used to help you through all stages of the menopause.
More info

Here's what I recommend

As the A.Vogel Menopause expert, I recommend Menoforce® Sage tablets and Menopause Support to help you through this stage of your life

Learn more

Did you know?

You won’t get the menopause the minute you turn 50! The average starting age is actually between 45 and 55 and it can often depend on a number of factors including hereditary, weight and health, however every single woman will have an individual menopause.

Learn the truth behind other menopause myths

Healthy & nutritious dinner ideas

Get new recipes in your inbox every week. Sign up now

Bloated? Constipated? Join our 5 Steps to a Better Digestion plan now