Calcium Deficiency: What Does It Do?

12/22/2021 | 6 min. read

Healthy Directions Staff Editor

Healthy Directions Staff Editor

Calcium is the most important supplement for our muscles and bones to stay strong and healthy, and it is the most abundant mineral in human bones. If our body lacks the proper amount of calcium, then our bodies can suffer in several ways.

Talking to your doctor about how to counteract deficiencies should always be the first step, but taking proper vitamins and eating calcium-rich foods are some of the most common ways of preventing a case of calcium deficiency.

In this article, however, we’re going to discuss what exactly happens in the event of low calcium levels.

What Is Osteoporosis?

As was mentioned, calcium is a mineral that is vital for strong, healthy bones. Lacking calcium causes the bone’s strength to deteriorate, which, given enough time, can bring on various diseases and discomfort. In rare cases, children can also be born with a calcium deficiency.

Outside of any particular disease, weak bones are simply “not good.”

Weakened, malnourished bones are more fragile than healthy ones, putting the body at more risk. Even what were once mundane activities can suddenly become a hazard if the body begins to develop a calcium deficiency due to inadequate intake. Bruising, for example, is more exaggerated and frequent when calcium intake is low.

Osteoporosis is highly likely to be a result of calcium deficiency as well. In fact, osteoporosis is specifically caused by a lack of calcium or vitamin D, or hormonal changes can cause it. Osteoporosis degrades the bones, damages tissue, and can bring a lot of pain with it.

As a result of osteoporosis, arthritis and joint pain can often follow it. Osteopenia is simply a milder case of osteoporosis, but if a child or adult notices light yet consistent pain in joints, it shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Rickets and Osteomalacia

Rickets are similar to osteoporosis in that they weaken and soften the bones due to a calcium or vitamin D deficiency. Rickets, however, are not typically caused by hormonal changes, and here’s why: rickets is a disorder that primarily attacks children, starting around the time of infancy, when they do not get enough calcium.

Unfortunately, rickets is easier to detect later in life when a child can walk, meaning it can go undetected in younger children. Due to the weak bones in a child’s legs after a calcium deficiency, the child may experience pain or instability, and growing up with these sensations teaches them to stand and walk in a distinct manner.

When a child has rickets, they may develop bow legs where the knees point outwards or knock knees where the knees come together. Both become an involuntary accommodation for the weakness in the knees and other joints and lead to more pain or damage in the hips and spine.

Hypocalcemia

Hypocalcemia is a disease that causes a deficiency of calcium, specifically in the bloodstream. Because of this, the body may not be receiving proper nutrients, like calcium, that bring strength to the skeleton.

Hypocalcemia may lead to an increased risk of muscle cramps, bone fractures, and high blood pressure. Vitamin D or magnesium deficiency can also contribute to hypocalcemia, as can hormones like a parathyroid hormone.

Hypocalcemia can only be treated as of now, not cured, and it’s important to talk with your doctor in order to find the best approach. It can be hard to detect hypocalcemia if symptoms go unnoticed, meaning it will go untreated, potentially resulting in worse damage.

 Deterioration 

Our bodies are equipped with many safeguards in the event of lacking proper nourishment. When you are extremely hungry, your body’s instinct is to begin taking nutrition from anywhere that’s available. That’s how people can lose weight simply by not eating.

The body will slowly start to eat itself. When you are hot, the body recycles sweat to keep the body cool until it is hot again, and the cycle continues.

In the same way, when the human body has low calcium levels, it will look for it in other parts of the body. Hair follicles, fingernails, and skin all contain calcium levels, so they can start to deteriorate during a dietary calcium deficiency.

The body will stop feeding healthy calcium cells into places with hair, for example, and divert them to somewhere more necessary. In doing so, your skin may start to get flaky, and you may have brittle nails or hair that falls out.

Recycling like this is tiring for your body, however, so fatigue is yet another side effect.

The first target for more calcium, however, is usually your teeth. Your teeth contain a lot of calcium themselves, so during a deficiency, your body will borrow from the roots of your teeth.

After this, teeth may start to hurt, become more fragile and unstable, and eventually fall out entirely. Even before the teeth fall out, gum disease can be a result of the process.

Damaged Nervous System 

Calcium deficiencies can hamper vital functions of both the nervous system and some organs.

Your eyes specifically have been known to become affected by low dietary calcium intake, and cataracts can form, causing eyesight to become blurry. In the same way, the brain can be involved in ways that cause disorientation. If the lack of calcium is extreme, brain damage can be more extensive.

Since calcium is a contributor to the health of nerve cells, the brain can become a direct recipient of much of the damage. Cases of calcium deficiency have proven to reduce cognitive function such that confusion and memory loss can occur.

Amidst all these effects, the body can still experience exhaustion and fatigue as it attempts to maintain the nervous system, skeleton, and organs without the proper amount of calcium.

You can prevent a calcium deficiency by eating plenty of calcium-rich foods, such as:

  • Dairy products like yogurts or cheese
  • Sardines
  • Salmon
  • Fortified fruit or vegetable juices, like orange juice

Those who already have a calcium deficiency may benefit from a calcium supplement to meet the daily allowance, and you should consult your doctor before starting supplementation. Vegans and postmenopausal women may be at an increased risk for calcium deficiency.

Some people may be struggling with poor absorption of calcium, in which case a supplement alone may not be enough.

Conclusion

Calcium is the most abundant mineral in human bones, and sufficient calcium levels are key for health and strong bones and muscles. When calcium levels become too low, a person may develop a calcium deficiency, putting their health at risk.

Calcium deficiencies can lead to rickets, osteoporosis, and even a compromised nervous system if left unaddressed. Eating plenty of calcium-rich foods and making sure to take a supplement if your diet is low in calcium can help prevent a calcium deficiency, but you should always consult your doctor for the best advice.

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Sources:

Clinician's Guide to Preventing Osteoporosis | NCBI

Rickets in Children | NCBI

Treatment of Hypocalcemia | UpToDate

11 Signs & Symptoms of Calcium Deficiency | Self Decode

Healthy Directions Staff Editor