How Calcium Supplements Affect Women Differently

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Calcium supplementation in women may be helpful in two circumstances: for pregnant women who need to support the developing fetus' needs as they grow, and to prevent osteoporosis later in life, post-menopause. However, you don't need to be having a baby or going through menopause to take calcium supplements. Here are some ways any woman can enjoy the benefits of calcium supplementation.

Why Do I Need Calcium Supplements?

Calcium is important for the prevention of osteoporosis in later life, though it should be noted that modern research shows that calcium supplements should be taken in youth to help prevent post-menopausal osteoporosis. Calcium supplementation in older, post-menopausal women has not been shown to effectively prevent osteoporosis. Calcium is also believed to reduce the risk of high blood pressure. Another bonus? If you suffer from the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome, consuming 1200 mg of calcium a day may reduce your symptoms by almost half.

Calcium-Rich Foods

The best way to get the right daily amount of calcium is to eat a diet rich in calcium-containing foods. All dairy products provide calcium, including milk (non-fat dry, low-fat, skim, or whole), yogurt, cheeses, and ice cream. Other calcium-rich foods include tofu fortified with calcium, seafood such as salmon, sardines (an excellent source with 370 mg of calcium in 3 ounces), and shrimp, as well as a number of plant sources, such as broccoli and other green leafy vegetables, as well as nuts and seeds such as almonds and sesame seeds.

How Do I Know I'm Getting Enough Calcium?

When diet isn't enough, calcium supplements may be recommended to help you bridge the gap. These can be a great way to ensure you're meeting your body's needs. Some individuals, such as those with stomach or intestinal problems and those chronically taking steroid medications for the treatment of a medical condition, may specifically be recommended to take supplements, as these issues can result in a loss of calcium. Sounds simple enough: Buy a calcium supplement product, pop a tablet, and you're good to go. There are, however, a few things you should be aware of if you are going the supplement route.

Things to Consider Before Using Calcium Supplements

Sometimes other health conditions can affect the use of calcium supplements, as they may worsen the condition or its side effects. Be sure to tell your healthcare provider if you have any of the following issues before use:

In addition, calcium supplements can interact negatively with some drugs.

Considerations for Pregnant and Breastfeeding Women

Pregnancy is a time when proper calcium intake is of particular importance. The growing fetus depends on its mother to provide a daily supply of adequate nutrients, including calcium for healthy growth and development. This does not mean that you should overload on vitamins and minerals, however, since too much may be harmful to the mother and/or the developing fetus. Talk to your doctor about meeting your calcium needs and doing it safely.

If you decide to breastfeed your baby, you need to continue getting the correct amount of calcium so that your baby will grow properly. Remember not to overdo it, though; get the proper amount of calcium and other minerals and vitamins so that you don't risk causing harm to you and/or your baby.

Ready for Calcium Supplements?

If you're clear to take calcium supplements but aren't sure of the proper amount and/or type of calcium supplement you should be taking, talk to your doctor.

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