Here's the thing: Calcium might seem like an easy thing to get (who doesn't love cheese, right?), but you can actually be on the low end, where you're simply not getting enough of that bone-building nutrient in the day.
And, if you're lactose intolerant, which many people are, cheese is off limits. (That means no to this delicious lemon ricotta dip and toast.) Still, no excuses, as fish, leafy and cruciferous greens, nuts, eggs, and lean meats are also high in calcium, so there's a variety of ways to get your fix.
Yet, no matter how available these sources are, many times people forget to eat enough at each meal. Or, they might engage in lifestyle habits that are stripping away calcium from the bones, says Maggie Moon, MS, RD, and author of The MIND Diet. A few? Eating excess protein, drinking too much coffee and other acidic substances, like alcohol, or exercising too much. (Overtraining is definitely possible, and actually pretty common.)
If you're leaching calcium from your bones, and not getting enough in the diet, you're putting yourself at risk of osteoporosis, where your muscles and bones are achy and weak and you risk injury and falls as you age. And, you can always take a supplement if you think you need some extra.
So, what are the symptoms? These five Moon mentions, below.
Numbness & Muscle Cramps
If your fingers feel numb or tingling, it could be related to calcium deficiency, says Moon. And, it can occur in the tongue, lips and feet, too. Yikes.
And, what's more, if it's more serious, where levels are incredibly low, you might also suddenly develop Tetany, which are involuntary muscle twitching, cramps, and spasms. Yet, this is rare. A tip? Pair a calcium supplement with magnesium, as magnesium can improve muscle cramps and fatigue, too.
It's not just numbness or tingling you need to worry about, here. If you're deficient in calcium, you might also experience muscle cramps predominantly in the legs, as in the calves, as well as the back, she says.
Moon explains that when you're low in calcium, you might lose some energy an endurance. Plus, when your body feels achy and you're muscles are sore, you're going to be less mobile and energetic, too. (And, here are a few ways to perk yourself up to beat that afternoon 3 p.m. slump.)
If you start to feel very weak, as well, it could be a sign. As you're bones aren't as strong, you could start to feel more imbalanced, where you're more likely to fall or get a bone fracture, says Moon. (And, as your risk of osteopenia and osteoporosis is higher, it'll be easier to slip to fall and not be able to steady yourself in time.)
Decrease in Appetite
If you're not as hungry as usual, it could be related to low calcium levels, says Moon. What's more, if you're not eating enough (of calcium, yes, but really of anything), then you might also notice bruising on the skin, which is a common sign of malnutrition and damage to the organs.
So, be sure to keep a regular eating schedule, says Moon. Even if you need to pack your own lunch or set an alarm, be sure to eat when you need to throughout the day. (And, getting enough sleep can help regulate your appetite, too.)
Brittle Nails & Damaged Teeth
It's not just about strength of bones, but also of teeth, nails, and skin. If your nails are super brittle and rough, it could be a sign of calcium deficiency, says Moon. (As well as white blotches on the nail beds, which could be a mineral deficiency, such as calcium or zinc.)
And, if you're not eating enough calcium rich foods or taking a supplement, you could also increase your risk of poor dental health and cavities, she adds. Trust us, getting those cavities taken out will not be pleasant. (Here are some tips for good dental care.)
Good news? Cheese can also help protect your teeth's enamel and erase plaque, so eating a morning yogurt provides two benefits in one.
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