Menopause and Calcium Deficiency

Menopause and Calcium Deficiency

Elina Dawoodani profile Authored by Elina Dawoodani on 16 May 2014 - 16:31.

Menopause is a phase of a woman's life when she stops menstruating, which indicates cessation of her reproductive span. During this period the ovaries stop producing the hormones estrogen and progesterone.  The menopause age varies from woman to woman, but generally the bracket is between 40-55 years.

Menopause is accompanied with an array of symptoms, namely:

  • Hot flashes
  • Night sweating
  • Vaginal dryness, itching and irritation
  • Sexual problems
  • Irregular periods
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Urge for frequent urination
  • Depression
  • Poor memory
  • Fatigue
  • Weight gain
  • Acne
  • Wrinkles
  • Most importantly, the decline in estrogen production during this phase leads to decrease in calcium absorption and thinning of bone. (Ref: 1)

Calcium Deficiency and Menopause:

It is an evident fact that the post menopausal women are at the highest risk of developing calcium deficiency. This is because, as women age, they tend to lose some amount of calcium as bone loss occurs. And to add on to this if the woman is consuming less calcium than required then the bone is demineralised by the blood. Moreover, calcium is absorbed in the body with the help of estrogen. But during menopause, the levels of the hormone, estrogen fall drastically. This becomes a hindrance in absorption of calcium by the body and worsens the situation. The bone mineral density thus reduces to a great extent and can result in brittleness and fragility of bones, which is alarming. This also leads to development of osteoporosis.

Symptoms of Calcium Deficiency

  • Muscle cramps
  • Tooth decay
  • Poor bone mineral density
  • Insomnia
  • Brittle nails
  • Heart palpitations
  • Impaired growth
  • Increased cholesterol levels
  • Increased PMS symptoms
  • Numbness

Calcium and Vitamin D Requirements During Menopause:

Calcium Requirements: Calcium is a vital nutrient requirement for women especially around menaopause stage of her life. Though it is unclear as to how much calcium intake can mitigate bone loss, it is recommended that pre-menopausal women should consume 1000mg and post menopausal women should consume 1200 mg of calcium.

Vitamin D Requirements: Vitamin D is crucial for absorption of calcium in the body. Both calcium and Vitamin D are cornerstones of osteoporosis prevention and treatments. Premenopausal women should consume around 800-900 IU of Vitamin D. (ref: 2)

In order to meet these requirements, the diet should be abundant in both the nutrients. Let’s learn a little about their food sources.

Food Sources of Calcium and Vitamin D

Calcium:

  • Milk and all its products like cheese, cottage cheese (paneer), yogurt, cream etc.
  • Spinach
  • Ragi (Finger millet, nachni)\Soya beans
  • White beans
  • Okra (Lady fingers)
  • Fishes like Salmon, sardines
  • Dried fruits and nuts
  • Sesame seeds

Vitamin D:

Although, sunlight is the best form of Vitamin D, below mentioned are a few food sources of the same:

  • Egg yolk
  • Liver of beef
  • Liver oils e.g. Cod, shark etc
  • Salmon Fish
  • Tuna Fish
  • Margarine
  • Butter
  • Swiss cheese

Nutritional Management:

  • Prevention is always better than cure. It is highly recommended that as soon as a woman enters her 30’s, she should consume at least one glass of milk every day. This can be in any form e.g. milkshake, smoothie, plain milk etc.
     
  • Yogurt is also a good source of calcium. Include it in your diet in the form of gravy ingredient, salad, buttermilk or by itself.
     
  • Avoid excess sodium intake (common salt), it increases calcium excretion from the body.
     

If one is suffering from lactose intolerance, then the absorption of dairy calcium is hindered. In such a case, one can prefer soya milk or milk treated with enzyme lactase.

  • ​Cook food in small amount of water and for short duration so as to get maximum calcium from it.
     
  • Avoid consuming excess of fibre since it binds with the calcium and excretes it. E.g. carrot, wheat flakes etc.
     
  • As mentioned above, vitamin D helps in calcium absorption. Hence, it’s inclusion in diet helps.

 

Supplementation:

If you aren’t able to consume adequate amount of calcium from foods, consult your physician and opt for supplementation.

Calcium and Vitamin D are found in a number of multivitamin and mineral supplements.

Absorption of calcium is best when 500 mg of it is consumed in supplement form at a time. It is available in 4 forms:

1. Calcium Citrate: It contains 40 percent elemental calcium

2. Calcium Carbonate: It contains 21 percent elemental calcium

3. Calcium Gluconate: It contains 9 percent elemental calcium

4. Calcium Lactate: It contains 13 percent elemental calcium

The type of supplement you choose depends upon the severity of the deficiency, tolerance, other medications, symptoms and complications, age etc. Your family physician is the best person to decide which supplement is apt for you. Though the fact remains, that correcting your diet is always the best option.

 

References:

1.     Calcium absorption in women: relationships to calcium intake, estrogen status, and age. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2816496

2.      Vitamin D and bone health in postmenopausal women http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12737713

*Disclaimer: This is not medical advice. The content is for educational purposes only. Please contact your doctor for any health care issues.