People who do not get enough calcium and vitamin D run the risk of having thin and brittle bones (osteoporosis), which can lead to serious injuries. Children and adults need to get enough calcium and vitamin D, which help keep bones strong as you get older and protect against possible breaks.
The body also uses vitamin D to help muscles absorb calcium and work well. The lack of calcium can cause muscles to cramp, hurt, or feel weak. This could lead to chronic muscle aches and pains. The risk of hip fracture can be reduced significantly by getting appropriate amounts of calcium and vitamin D. Studies have shown that more than 50 percent of postmenopausal women with osteoporosis had low blood levels of vitamin D.
For children, the lack of vitamin D can affect their growth and they have a chance of getting a rare disease called rickets, which causes weak bones. Breast-fed infants need vitamin D supplementation.
Calcium should always be taken along with vitamin D, which the body needs in order to absorb calcium. Talk to your doctor about the recommended daily amount of calcium and vitamin D.
It is difficult to get adequate vitamin D from food alone, and many people, especially the elderly, need vitamin D supplementation. But calcium and vitamin D may interact with other medicines so talk to your doctor before starting supplements and tell your doctor about all of the medicines you take, including over-the-counter drugs, herbs, and pills. Also tell your doctor about all of your current medical problems.
Many foods are fortified with calcium and vitamin D, and your body uses sunshine to make its own vitamin D. Calcium is in foods such as milk, cheese, and yogurt and vegetables like broccoli, kale, and Chinese cabbage. You can get calcium if you eat the soft edible bones in canned sardines and canned salmon. Foods with added calcium include some cereals, juices, soy drinks, and tofu.
Vitamin D is in foods such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel. Other foods that have vitamin D, but in small amounts, include cheese, egg yolks, and beef liver. You can also get vitamin D from fortified foods such as milk and some cereals, orange juices, yogurts, margarines, and soy drinks.
It is possible to get too much calcium and vitamin D. If you get too much calcium, you may get kidney stones and it can cause constipation. Too much vitamin D can damage kidneys and tissues and can cause nausea and vomiting, constipation, and weakness.
People with certain health conditions, such as kidney disease and osteoporosis, should have their vitamin D level checked. Talk with your doctor to learn if testing is appropriate.
By Ellen Wenberg, MD, ThedaCare Physicians-Waupaca.