Is Too Much Calcium Dangerous?
The media today is flush with references to calcium intake, indicating that a huge percentage of the American public is not consuming adequate amounts of calcium in
their diet. Milk mustache ads are seen in every magazine, with pictures of almost every celebrity one can think of donning the white mustache to encourage the public to drink milk. However, some studies are indicating that there is a very real danger of the opposite problem as well: too much calcium.
How Much Is Too Much?
Short term excesses of calcium in the body can generally be relatively easily overcome by the body’s natural inclination to maintain equilibrium. However, consuming large amounts of calcium for long periods of time, whether by eating significant amounts of dairy or processed foods fortified with calcium can result in a number of problems.
What Are the Symptoms?
An elevated level of calcium in the blood, known as hypercalcemia, has the potential to cause a number of painful medical issues. Many kidney stones are found to be caused by calcium deposits, indicating too much calcium in the body. Interestingly enough, the United States leads the world in both the public push of calcium as well as the incidence of kidney stones. Some relatively minor symptoms include nausea, diarrhea, increased urination, and fatigue.
Are there Any Non-Dietary Causes?
Most cases of hypercalcemia are caused by either thyroid disorders or cancer. However, other less common causes include renal failure, Vitamin D metabolic disorders, and prolonged immobilization of the body as a whole. Some other rare causes include thiazide use, Vitamin A intoxication, multiple myeloma, aluminum intoxication, lithium use, and Paget’s disease of the bone.
What’s the Treatment?
If there is just a slight elevation of calcium in the body, due to an excess in the diet, some simple diet modifications may be enough to prevent any medical issues. By cutting out excess dairy and any processed foods fortified with calcium (such as bread and fruit juice), most minor cases can be resolved without any additional intervention.
In more severe cases, there are a few classes of medication that can offer significant relief from symptoms as well as decrease the level of calcium in the body to a healthy level. The initial therapy is usually forced hydration, often by way of IV, as many patients suffer from dehydration due to symptoms such as vomiting and decreased urination. In addition, salt intake is also frequently increased to help the body excrete excess calcium more quickly.
As may be seen, the answer to the question “Is too much calcium dangerous?” is a resounded affirmative. However, by scheduling regular physician check-ups as recommended and getting any requested blood work when ordered, a general practitioner can monitor calcium levels and make any needed recommendations. By consuming a healthy diet and practicing the old adage of “everything in moderation,” most people can avoid any problems related to calcium intake.