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Calcium supplementation during menopause: What you need to Know

July 2008
By Dr. Linda Mundorff, MPH,MSN,ND,RN,CNC,CTN

Decades ago, it was common practice when a woman needed to supplement with calcium, her doctor would recommend popping a couple of Tums. We have certainly learned a great deal since the 1980's about calcium supplementation! Today there is a variety of calcium preparation - from coral calcium, calcium citrate, to calcium carbonate. Some calcium supplements are buffered, while others are more readily absorbed. We also know that a single dose of more than 500mg is wasteful as the body can only assimilate 500 mg at a time. Therefore if the doctor recommends 1500mg a day, then you would take 500mg three times a day. Women in their childbearing years rarely have to supplement with calcium as estrogen aids in the absorption and utilization of calcium. However the opposite is true for menopausal women who lack estrogen. Menopause and certain medications will rob the body of calcium and lead to osteoporosis. To reduce the incidence of osteoporosis, some doctors recommend estrogen replacement therapy (ERT) during the three to five year periods after menopause. Since there are a number of risks associated with ERT many women are opting to take calcium supplementation instead.

Many studies have been done to determine the best way to properly assimilate calcium. While calcium is the primary supplement in a plan of care for bone density, there are many other nutrients, which are either related to the absorption of calcium or play some other pivotal role in bone health & integrity.

  • Vitamin D: Is the key to calcium absorption. The production of it is triggered when the skin is exposed to sunlight. Taken together with vitamin K and calcium the trio is a powerhouse for bone health.
  • Magnesium: Is an important nutrient as it is necessary in the production of bone. It is also used in a variety of chemical processes throughout the body.
  • Manganese: Is necessary for a variety of activities throughout the body. It provides an avenue for carbohydrate and fat metabolism and during pregnancy helps the baby form bone tissue.
  • Phosphorus: An often forgotten mineral, it is a vital component of bone health. Phosphorus is needed to balance the pH level of blood, helps transport fat, and is found in the myelin sheath of nerve cells.
  • Fluoride: It is stored in our bones and teeth and aids in hardening the enamel of our teeth thus reducing the incidence of cavities.
  • Vitamin K: Most of us know that this vitamin is necessary in the production of blood clotting enzymes but it is also needed to form bone tissue. Taken along with vitamin D and calcium the trio will ensure healthy formation of bone tissue.
  • Copper: Has many roles in the body one of which is to help produce strong bones.

Always consult with a physician when considering calcium supplementation and there are a number of contraindications in the usage of this and other minerals.
In health and wellness.

Happy Traveling!

Dr. Linda Mundorff

Disclaimer:Dr. Mundorff is a Board Certified Naturopath, and not a medical doctor. The information in this column is for educational purposes only and should not be used to self-diagnose and treat diseases. Naturopathy is a complementary practice to health care and should be used in conjunction with a competent health care practitioner. Many herbal and homeopathic remedies can actually be contraindicated in many health conditions, with certain prescriptions, and over-the-counter medications. Please consult your physician before starting any alternative modalities.