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Information on Calcium Supplements

What You Should Know About this Important Mineral

Many women are worried about the potential for developing osteoporosis and most are taking a supplement. This article will explain the difference in quality between sources of calcium and why you should be concerned about the type that you take.

Calcium's Role in the Body
Which Type Is Absorbed the Best?
Which Type Do Most Vitamins Use?
Is Taking TUMS Good for Me?
Conditions that Inhibit Absorption
Vitamin D for Preventing Osteoporosis
Coral Calcium
Foods High in Calcium
Drinking Milk Is Not the Same as Taking Calcium

Calcium's Role in the Body

Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body. The bones contain more than 99% of the body’s calcium. Other than building and maintaining bone and teeth, it is also important for the contraction of muscles, regulation of the heartbeat, transmission of nerve signals, normal clotting of blood, and plays a role in many enzyme functions.

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Calcium Absorption

Calcium comes in several forms. These forms vary greatly in their ability to be absorbed by the body and in their ability increase bone density. The most commonly seen forms of calcium supplments are:

  • Calcium carbonate
  • Calcium oxalate
  • Calcium citrate
  • Calcium citrate-malate.

Comparison of calcium absorption rates:

  • Oxalate is the least absorbable.
  • Carbonate absorption can be as low as 22%.
  • Citrate-malate is the most absorbable -- it has been measured at 42%, nearly double that of carbonate.
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Which Type Do Most Vitamins Use?

Most inexpensive multivitamin and calcium supplements contain calcium carbonate. Check yours to be sure. You may have also heard of other forms of calcium including microcrystalline hydroxyapatite and coral calcium. Neither of these is any better than carbonate.

If your vitamins contain any of these then be sure to upgrade to a higher quality supplement. For your convenience these are available at my office at a reasonable price.

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The amount of calcium you require depends on your age and other risk factors. It is clear, however, that there is no benefit from taking more than 1500 mg of calcium per day, regardless of the form. This means that you cannot make-up for a poorly absorbed form by increasing the dosage.

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Is Taking TUMS Good for Me?

TUMS is an antacid, not a calcium supplement. It contains calcium carbonate as well as aspartame, sorbitol and yellow dye #3. Lowering stomach acid doesn’t do any favors to your body’s ability to absorb calcium, either. Ironically, even the TUMS website states that the absorption of “the calcium source in Tums® is best when taken with meals.” This is because you produce more stomach acid when you eat and you absorb minerals better. Doctors started prescribing TUMS as a calcium supplement only after GlaxoSmithKline started marketing it as one.

If you have heartburn, acid reflux or indigestion, you should call the clinic for an appointment (206-264-1111) so that we can correct the problem. Shutting down your acid production will only lead to worse digestion and more problems down the road. There are other solutions that will solve your symptoms and result in better digestion and better overall health.

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Other Conditions that Inhibit Calcium Absorption

Lactose intoleranceand low stomach acid both cause poor calcium absorption. This is also true for many food allergies, and especially true if you are gluten intolerant or have celiac sprue. If you are concerned about these conditions you can be tested for food allergies as well as poor digestive function.

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Why Vitamin D May Be More Important than Calcium
for Preventing Osteoporosis

Vitamin D is required for calcium to be incorporated into bone. Vitamin D is produced by the body in direct response to sunlight. However, studies have been very clear in demonstrating that people living in the northwest do not get enough sun exposure September through March to produce adequate vitamin D.

Therefore, if you are taking calcium but not getting enough vitamin D you may still be susceptible to developing osteoporosis.

If you live in the northern half of the U.S. you can and should have your vitamin D level measured this winter. This is a simple blood test. However, be forewarned, your lab result will only be compared to the average Vitamin D level of people living in our area. Therefore, the result may look normal when you are really quite deficient in this nutrient. Only a doctor trained in nutritional medicine will know the difference.

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Coral Calcium

There is nothing special about coral calcium except the unfortunate destruction of our coral reefs. And if it’s coming from dead coral, then why is it dead? Pollution. If you know about this scam, then you need to turn off your TV!

There is absolutely no reason to buy coral calcium from questionable sources when you can buy a superior product such as 3A Calcium.

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Calcium-Rich Foods

It is possible to obtain all your calcium from dark green vegetables (where do you think the cow gets theirs from?). The darker the better. Cooked collard greens and kale are especially good. Kelp, dandelion greens, turnip greens, broccoli, and soybeans are also high in calcium. If you or your child is unable to take in large amounts of green vegetables, you might want to supplement with calcium.

  • Collard Greens
  • Kale
  • Kelp
  • Dandelion greens
  • Broccoli
  • Soybeans.

Many nuts are high in calcium, in this order:

  • Almonds
  • Brazil nuts
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Sesame seeds
  • Walnuts
  • Pecans.
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Drinking Milk Is Not the Same as Taking Calcium

Everyone knows that cow's milk contains lots of calcium. However, what you eat and what you absorb are two different things. There is not one single study that shows that drinking milk prevents osteoporosis. And studies do that show that if you are lactose intolerant you absorb very little of the calcium in milk.

Dairy is the number one food allergy that I see in my practice. A milk allergy can cause a runny nose, ear infections, skin problems, irritable bowel syndrome, diarrhea, constipation, nausea, headaches, and many other symptoms. If you are wondering whether or not you have a dairy allergy please contact my office for an appointment. We can determine exactly what your allergies may be.

You probably are wondering what will happen to your bones and teeth if you stop drinking milk. Strong bones are about much more than just calcium. The majority of the world's population takes in less than half the calcium we are told we need and yet they have strong bones and healthy teeth.

Besides calcium, cows' milk is also rich in phosphorous (as is soda pop). Phosphorous can combine with calcium and prevent its absorption. The protein in milk also accelerates the excretion of calcium via the kidneys. For other food choices rich in calcium please refer to the article on the left.

Don’t be fooled by the dairy industry. Be healthy, be smart, and think for yourself!

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Return to Lactose Intolerance Page

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This information is not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. All material provided in this website is provided for educational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health program.

Dr. Stephen Wangen

Email: info@CenterForFoodAllergies.com
11300 Roosevelt Way NE Suite 100 Seattle, WA 98125 · 206-264-1111

Food Allergies · Food Intolerance · Gluten Intolerance · Wheat Allergy
Milk Allergy · Peanut Allergy · Lactose Intolerance · Allergy Testing
Elimination Diet · Allergy Products · Supplements