Today we will be talking on menopause, and we will be discussing the role of calcium in the menopause. Now, when most of us think of calcium and what it’s used for; we will go! Oh, it’s good for the bones, it’s good for the teeth and that’s really all that we think about. But calcium is needed for so many different processes in the body. It’s needed to carry messages along the nerves in your nervous system, it’s needed for muscle contraction so that it helps you moving and exercising and it’s really important for regulating the heart.
Low levels of calcium during menopause can contribute to anxiety, stress, mood swings, depression and it can interfere with your sleep and if that’s not all, then, if you are not getting enough calcium during menopause to help with all these other things, which are very, very important, then your body will actually start to take calcium from your bones to use in these instances – and if this happens ongoing, then you can end up with either osteopenia or osteoporosis.
Unfortunately, during the menopause your falling estrogen can also interfere with the ability of the bones to hang on to calcium. You can end up with a double whammy of calcium loss in the menopause. There will be a more rapid decline in your bone. So what do we need to do to counteract this? I am going to tell you about the things you need to do to get lots of calcium and the things to avoid as well when passing through the menopausal period.
The most important thing here, especially when we are looking at osteoporosis in the menopause, is how to prevent it. There are over three million people at any given time with osteoporosis and there are over half a million people a year end up with fractures through osteoporosis, and a large number of these are women either in the menopause or postmenopausal.
Calcium Rich Foods For Menopause
To get the calcium balance right in and after the menopause is absolutely vital for a woman’s ongoing health. So where do we get this calcium from and what is the best way to get it? It is from food? Yes? But not all of these calcium rich foods might be the most tastiest. Although you can do wonderful things these days and there’s recipe books galore to help you make the most of these particular calcium rich foods.
Nature has provided calcium in abundance in various plant-based foods which we can incorporate in our daily diet to replenish our calcium requirements, especially after menopause. Its just that we have become ignorant towards it that we don’t know how to make the best use of it.
Number one is your dark green leafy vegetables. This would be things like collard greens, broccoli, kale, bok choy and all sorts of dark, green, leafy, veggies, the likes of white beans. Now I don’t mean that you go and eat tins of baked beans because the sort of sugar in them, but the beans that go into baked beans if you use those on their own in stews and casseroles, you will get a lovely serving of calcium out of them.
Things like mung beans are absolutely fabulous as well. You can look at dried fruits. A couple of dried figs every day will give you a lovely serving of calcium. We can look at oranges – and I was surprised at this because I didn’t actually realize that oranges are quite high in calcium.
We have got nuts and almonds that are wonderfully high in calcium. You can get a nice serving of calcium from tofu. As for dairy products, this is a bit of a contention. Dairy products are very low in magnesium and if you have a lot of dairy products, you can end up tipping the balance and that can cause problems with your magnesium, which can cause problems with all sorts of other things.
I never recommend dairy because today’s intensive farming methods, a lot of the cows are fed antibiotics. Antibiotics that your body might be intolerant to. They are also given all sorts of additives in their feed and this will all end up going into the milk. Also because of the intensive farming methods in the breeding of cows, a lot of cows have their own hormones that get into the milk as well.
The other thing that your body needs is a combination of other vitamins and minerals that help with the uptake and utilization and absorption of calcium. And these are vital if you are going to get the best benefit out of the calcium that you are getting in your diet. You really need these other factors as well.
So remember, magnesium, obviously that’s number one, and we know that vitamin K, vitamin D, phosphorus and boron as well are all equally important. Now magnesium helps the body to absorb and retain calcium. So it’s going to keep the bones nice and strong. Your vitamin K helps to regulate the uptake of calcium and helps to form really strong bones. Vitamin D helps with the absorption of calcium.
Your phosphorus as well is really important because that can help again with the balance of your calcium. So looking at where do we get these things from? Nature is absolutely wonderful, because nature also includes a lot of these vitamins and minerals with foods that are rich in calcium.
If you are getting a really good varied diet with all sorts of different vegetables and fruits and nuts and beans, you are going to get a wonderful combination of your magnesium, your vitamin K and your vitamin D and everything else that you need in order to have your healthy bones. So this is fabulous. You don’t really need to look at loads of different supplements to help with everything.
Foods To Avoid During Menopause
Now, what about the things that you should avoid during menopause? Number one is refined salt. Salt will leach calcium from your bones and that will lead to brittle and weak bones. Caffeine is another one that is so bad for the bones, and they reckon more than two cups of caffeine and coffee a day will cause problems with your bones, which is quite horrific. We have got alcohol, and alcohol will interfere with the absorption and utilization of calcium. So alcohol should be kept at definitely at a minimum.
We have got soft drinks and soft drinks contain chemicals called phosphates. So the body really doesn’t like the phosphate. They are very acidic. If you drink a lot of fizzy drinks and soft fruit juices with lots of sugar in them, the body will start taking the calcium from your bones.
In order to neutralize these phosphates of fizzy drinks, they really should be avoided at all cost if you want to and have nice healthy bones. The other thing to do is weight-bearing exercises in order to help to keep the calcium flow going. So we are looking at things like walking, brisk walking, power walking, jogging if you can do it and ball games, like tennis, can be absolutely wonderful. Dancing, if you love dancing, this is a fabulous regular exercise for keeping your bones absolutely strong.
Just sort of one word of warning here. We are looking at calcium supplements and a lot of people will just automatically think, oh, I will just take a calcium supplement. You need to watch what kind of calcium supplements you are taking. The most common kind is called calcium carbonate. Calcium carbonate is basically chalk and you are taking these tablets, which are usually very big and probably quite difficult to swallow. Your body will have a hard time breaking these down, and the amount of actual usable calcium from these tablets is going to be very little. So try to avoid anything with calcium carbonate in it.
One of the better forms of calcium supplement is something called Calcium Citrate. Look for calcium capsules purely because they are easier to break down and they are easier to absorb. But if you are getting a really good diet, you shouldn’t need a great big tablet. 500 milligrams a day, at the most should be more than ample to see you through the menopause.
If you are on calcium supplement, try and take it in a divided dose, because if you have too much calcium at once, the body is really going to struggle with what to do with it, where do I need to put this. Sometimes it’s a good idea to actually take it with a magnesium, and you can also get calcium supplements that have vitamin K and vitamin D in them. So it’s a nice all-round package, if you can get it in the right quantity.
One thing that’s really important here, for two reasons is – if you are on any other medication. Some medications should not be taken alongside calcium. So you need to double check, if you run anything from your doctor, make sure that you can take calcium supplement along with it.
The other thing to look at is its been discovered that a lot of women get digestive problems because of the falling estrogen? But it’s not picked up as being menopausal and so these women are going to the doctor and they are being given prescribed drugs that suppress stomach acid.
Now these particular family of drugs, by suppressing the stomach acid, can also interfere with a breakdown of calcium and magnesium. So if you are on any of these types of tablets, most of them are called proton pump, inhibitors or PPIs. If you are on this form of medication, if you are going through the menopause and if you are worried about your bone health, then it’s really important to talk to your doctor to see if there is some way that you can get around this.
Calcium and the menopause is a huge subject. It can be really, really complex. I have tried to just whittle it down to some of the most important facts. Hopefully, this will give you some idea of how important calcium is during menopause and also the ways in which you can quite easily incorporate it into your diet. I always recommend my patients to go natural and be less pharmaceutical dependent.
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