Medicine often points the finger to high sodium levels as being contributory to heart disease when in fact the culprit may be low calcium, potassium or magnesium levels. These nutrients work as a team to make nerve impulses conduct and muscles contract. These minerals must be present concurrently and in adequate amounts.
Potassium, magnesium and calcium levels can be measured in blood serum. However, the calcium blood measurement is not so useful, because when blood calcium is low, the body takes calcium out of bone to raise the blood calcium levels. When bone tissue is broken down in this manner, both calcium and phosphate are released from the bone into the blood stream, thus elevating blood serum levels. This regulation process is great to keep nerves conducting and muscles contracting. However, the process weakens bones because it removes calcium and phosphate. If this calcium and phosphate are never replaced, bone breakdown and eventually osteoporosis results.
Since blood calcium measurements do not give us an accurate indication of whether calcium levels are being maintained through dietary methods or from bone storage, medicine measures bone calcium levels through density scanning techniques such as DEXA scan. DEXA scan measurements that are between +1 and -1 are considered normal. Measurements between -1 and -2.5 are considered osteopenic (reduced bone mass) and measurements less than -2.5 are considered osteoporosis. More information can be found on http:// http://www.niams.nih.gov/health_info/bone/Bone_Health/bone_mass_measure.asp.
Noticeable physical indications of low blood calcium levels include muscle cramps, restless legs and broken bones. Muscles need adequate calcium, sodium, and potassium to contract and relax. Calcium supplements help relax a muscle cramp. This is due to lactic acid build up during exercise. Calcium may bind lactic acid, relaxing the muscle and releasing the cramp. Sparkling water and club soda, given their alkali nature, also help to neutralize the lactic acid relieving a muscle cramp. While massaging and stretching a tight muscle feels good, this may damage the fibers. Muscle relaxation and contraction is best restored when adequate minerals are provided. While a calcium supplement and alkali water, club soda, or sparkling water may be a temporary remedy to relieve muscle cramps or restless legs, a long term dietary and supplement plan will be important to maintain muscle, bone, and nerve health.
Because calcium is critical to humans, the bones have been cleverly designed to be the body’s mini storage units for calcium. We maintain these storage units and blood calcium levels through food intake and supplementation. Some of the best calcium foods according to WebMD are “cheese, yogurt, milk, sardines, dark leafy greens (spinach, kale, turnips, and collard greens) and orange juice”. You can find specific food calcium and nutrient information on NutritionData.com. Some of the best calcium supplements contain calcium citrate, calcium phosphate, and magnesium. Many supplements contain calcium carbonate which is lime. Current calcium recommendations range from 1000mg – 1500mg/day. Vitamin D also has an important role in transporting calcium into bone.
While calcium supplementation is frequently recommended. It is less recognized that calcium citrate and phosphate are important supplements, given that they constitute a larger percentage of bone. The remaining portion of bone is composed of collagen. The collagen component of bone is never mentioned, yet it comprises anywhere from 10-30% of bone. Collagen is a flexible tissue found in young bone, tendons and ligaments. Collagen is found throughout the body in tissues, organs, joints, gums and teeth. In addition to calcium citrate and phosphate to make the calcium salts in bone, we need all of the nutrients to maintain the collagen network found in bone. The collagen network is formed by vitamin C and the amino acids lysine, proline and glycine. Collagen fibers can be damaged by injury, repetitive use, stretches or strains when muscles are weak. Collagen can additionally be damaged by our immune system. This is due to the attachment of wheat gluten to collagen fibers throughout the body. Our immune system sees wheat gluten and wheat defense proteins as foreign invaders. This causes the secretion of immune system chemicals contributing to arthritis, asthma, and many organ diseases. (More information can be found on http://www.wheatfreediseasefree.com.)
In summary, all of the nutrients: calcium citrate, phosphate, magnesium, vitamin D, vitamin C, lysine, proline and glycine must be present concurrently to build flexible collagen and healthy bone tissue. They can be found in a variety of foods and these supplements are available at nutrition stores. (Teeth may be a lysine storage site, and adequate lysine and vitamin C levels may contribute to gum and teeth health.)
So, we discussed calcium’s importance to muscle and nerves, and the body’s brilliant regulation mechanism for calcium such that when blood calcium levels are low, the body removes calcium from bone to maintain the blood calcium levels. As we mentioned, this regulation mechanism is great for maintaining nerve and muscle function, but not so great at maintaining bone strength and density. A good visual analogy might be a Corvette production line. All of the parts to build the Corvette must be supplied to build the car. If one part is missing, the technicians and robots build what may look like a car and feel like a car, but may not function like a car. One small part may make the difference. Bones and collagen work the same way. They are composed of many “parts” (calcium citrate, phosphate, magnesium, vitamin D, vitamin C, lysine, glycine, and proline). All nutrients must be supplied in adequate amounts for your body to build bone, tendon and ligaments. If “parts” are missing, the body may build structures that look like bone, tendon and ligaments, but they might not function that way. Bones may break easily and muscles may cramp easily. Restless legs may result. Tendons may tear. Adequate parts produce beautiful, zero to 60mph in 4 seconds Corvettes, and adequate nutrients produce healthy, functional bones, tendons and ligaments.
Why is Calcium Removed from Bone ??
As we discussed, our bodies remove calcium from bone tissue to maintain critical muscle and nerve function. This eloquent measure is likely designed to work temporarily when dietary/ supplemental calcium is insufficient. Alas, in osteoporosis, this calcium removal measure is apparently being forced to work long term. There is a second important reason calcium may be lost from bone. Many of our foods are acidic. The blood is carefully regulated to be around pH of 7.4, this is critical for chemical pathways. Acidic foods would drive the blood pH below 7.4. Recycled bone calcium contains bicarbonate which acts as a pH buffer in the blood to balance these acidic foods, maintaining the pH. Alkali water, club soda, and sparkling water all bind acid to help maintain this normal blood pH. This process might be somewhat like bath water. If the bath water is too hot, cold water can be mixed with hot water to neutralize it’s effect. Finally, calcium can be removed from bone and excreted when the adrenals are fatigued. Both mental and physical stress, can fatigue the adrenals. Our high consumption modified grain and sugars fatigues our adrenals. As a result, calcium leaves the body.
Calcium Buildup in Tissues Other than Bone
Often, calcium builds up in tissues other than bone. Calcium buildup is found in breast tissue, kidney stones, gallstones, cysts and many other tissues, where it doesn’t belong. Why? What should we do? Should we reduce calcium intake to reduce this tissue buildup? Interestingly, calcium buildup in the wrong tissues appears to occur when individuals have insufficient dietary/supplemental calcium intake. Researchers have found that increasing dietary calcium and supplements decreases calcium buildup in the wrong tissues and increases calcium buildup in the right place, bone (Gul and Monga, 2014).
Your curious mind may ask, why is calcium showing up in the wrong tissues when dietary/ supplemental calcium levels are low? We would like to propose a theory to answer this question. We know that when blood calcium levels are low, recycled calcium (and phosphate) being released from bone to raise blood calcium levels. It is likely that the recycled bone calcium is structurally different from the calcium we eat in food and/or supplement, and possibly the recycled calcium from bone cannot be redeposited into bone tissue once blood levels normalize. Perhaps, the body can’t easily excrete excess recycled bone calcium, thus it builds up in tissues where it doesn’t belong. Certainly, releasing calcium from bone, to maintain blood calcium levels, was meant to be a temporary measure, not a long term process.
What is the impact of having recycled calcium delivered to the wrong tissues? “Insufficient intake of dietary calcium (<600mg/day) can increase… the risk of stone formation“, (Gambara, 2016). Gambara confirms that “stone formation is frequently associated with other diseases of affluence such as hypertension, osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, and insulin resistance.” Research studies such as the 2012 NHANES find “a 70% increase from the 1994 NHANES” in urinary tract stone disease, (Gul and Monga, 2014). Thus, our calcium deficiencies are worsening. These researchers report that “newer research is finding that stones are associated with several serious morbidities”.
Researchers have found that calcium buildup in the form of hydroxyapatite in breast tissue contributes to breast cancer (Cooke, 2003). Let’s repeat this sentence. Calcium build up in breast tissue is involved with breast cancer. One in eight women will have breast cancer. Researchers also recognize that radiation can modify healthy cells and turn them into uncontrollable cancerous cells. Mammograms contain radiation and radiation damage is additive in the body. Researchers have found that citrate and phosphate may have a role in removing hydroxyapatite deposits in breast tissue. In one research study, women taking phosphate bone density drugs had reduced incidence of breast cancer.
How to Deliver Calcium to Bone
Given this information, how shall we best increase calcium in our bones and decrease calcium tissue deposits and stones?
One common solution, is to take a calcium supplement such as calcium citrate and/or calcium phosphate. Bone is composed of calcium citrate, calcium phosphate, magnesium, vitamin D, and collagen (vitamin C, lysine, proline, and glycine). It used to be that many calcium supplements were composed of calcium carbonate. Calcium carbonate is lime. Many supplements are now changing ingredients to calcium citrate or calcium phosphate. We need both.
Why calcium citrate? Citrate works in two ways. First, citrate is a buffer. Therefore, when the blood pH is low, citrate will buffer the pH and calcium will not be pulled from bone tissue to normalize pH. Alkali water, club soda or sparking water are alkali drinks that help to increase blood pH. Secondly, calcium citrate is found to combine well with phosphate and collagen components to make bone. Calcium citrate appears to be a key strength component in bone tissue. More information on citrate properties: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/ 2011/06/110608153548.htm. Finally, citrate and phosphate help remove calcium buildup in the wrong tissues: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=breast%2C+hydroxyapetite %2C+citrate%2C+phosphate. Researchers found that citrus bioflavonoids and lemon peel inhibit stone formation: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=27241030. This is critical information to the long term prevention calcium build up in the wrong tissues and maybe critical to the long term prevention of breast cancer. Many calcium supplements are now calcium citrate.
Calcium phosphate is the other important component of bone. Calcium citrate and phosphate can be found in supplements. Researchers have found that citrate and phosphate may have a role in removing hydroxyapatite deposits in breast tissue. These deposits found on mammograms may contribute to the formation of breast cancer. In one research study, women taking phosphate bone density drugs had reduced incidence of breast cancer.
The Linus Pauling Institute has found that many other minerals and vitamins are found in bone such as magnesium, fluoride, sodium, vitamin A, D and K. More information can be found on: http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/micronutrients-health/bone-health#minerals. More individuals than recognized may be deficient in vitamin A, as seen in dry eyes and in vitamin K as seen in nose bleeds. (Caution: vitamin K, found in leafy green vegetables, allows the blood to clot when vessels are damaged. Blood thinners interfere with vitamin Ks ability to clot blood. Ingesting additional vitamin K interferes with blood thinner drugs)
Secondly, drink plenty of fluids to produce at least 2.5L of urine per day (Gul and Monga, 2014). Gul recommends avoiding the colas which are acidic, yet not being quite as concerned with the “citric acid containing sodas, which include most clear soft drinks.” As we learned above, citric acid found in lemons and limes can be beneficial to bone health.
Remember that if you are eating a lot of protein, taking amino acids for brain or sports health, or drinking wine your blood may be more acidic which will pull carbonate from your bones to buffer the pH of your blood. So you may want to increase your calcium citrate or alkali water, club soda, and/or sparkling water consumption to balance these actions.
Finally, stressing your adrenals, the little walnut shaped organs that sit on top of your kidneys, (the adrenals produce neurotransmitters) results in the loss of calcium. Minimizing both mental stress activities and physical stress, often caused by the consumption of manufactured wheat and sugar, will help the adrenals. High glucose (grains, sugars) levels result in high stone levels (Gul and Monga, 2014).
Cooke MM1, McCarthy GM, Sallis JD, Morgan MP. Phosphocitrate inhibits calcium hydroxyapatite induced mitogenesis and upregulation of matrix metalloproteinase-1, interleukin-1beta and cyclooxygenase-2 mRNA in human breast cancer cell lines. Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2003 May;79(2):253-63.
Gambaro G1, Trinchieri A2., Recent advances in managing and understanding nephrolithiasis/ nephrocalcinosis. F1000Res. 2016 Apr 18;5. pii: F1000 Faculty Rev-695. doi: 10.12688/ f1000research.7126.1. eCollection 2016
Gul Z1, Monga M2., Medical and dietary therapy for kidney stone prevention.
Korean J Urol. 2014 Dec;55(12):775-9. doi: 10.4111/kju.2014.55.12.775. Epub 2014 Nov 28.
Citrate helps reduce stone formation:
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=17509313 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=26582172 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=27072174 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=25855777 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=26439475 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term
Chronic alcohol use may weaken bones: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1854370.
EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate) found in green tea shows promise inhibiting the formation of kidney stones in rats:
Mediterranean/fruit/vegetable diet may protect against stone formation: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24502605
Weight loss may reduce kidney stone formation: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=25586245
Polycystic kidney disease may be slowed by curcumin in rodents:
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=24184483 Glucose promotes polycystic kidney disease:
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