Hypoparathyroidism is a condition in which the parathyroid glands do not produce enough parathyroid hormone. Parathyroid hormone helps regulate the amount of calcium and phosphorus in the blood. Most symptoms of hypoparathyroidism are due to low levels of calcium in the blood and include muscle spasms, hair loss, dry skin, numbness, tingling, yeast infections and seizures. Treatment usually includes supplementation as well as dietary changes.
The primary treatment for hypoparathyroidism involves increasing calcium levels in the blood. Most treatment plans include a calcium supplement, but make sure you talk to your doctor before adding it to your diet. Consume foods high in calcium like dairy, beans, dark leafy greens, almonds, fortified juices and cereals, oats and sardines. Dr. Karen Winer, a scientist with the National Institutes of Health who is known for her work with hypoparathyroidism patients, suggests getting about 1,000 to 1,500 mg in four small meals throughout the day. Your doctor will recommend the proper dose for you.
Parathyroid hormone stimulates the kidneys to form the active form of vitamin D, so levels might be deficient in those suffering from hypoparathyroidism. Vitamin D plays a key role in calcium absorption, so your doctor might suggest a supplement. Dietary sources of vitamin D are limited, primarily fortified dairy products, fatty fish and fortified cereals. Most people meet some of their vitamin D needs with sun exposure, since our skin also can create vitamin D from ultraviolet radiation, but sun exposure should be limited to prevent skin cancer.
Phosphorus blood levels usually are too high in people with hypoparathyroidism because the hormone produced by the parathyroid helps to regulate phosphorous levels. Therefore, intake of dietary phosphorus should be limited. Milk, while one of the best sources of calcium, also has high levels of calcium, so intake of dairy products should be moderate. Other sources of phosphorus include soda, meat, hot dogs and eggs.
Other Dietary Considerations
Calcium absorption is decreased by consuming excess amounts of meats, phytates found in whole grains, and oxalic acid found in plant foods like spinach, chard and rhubarb, as these compounds bind to and decrease the availability of calcium. Other food components that can interfere with calcium levels include caffeine, tea, alcohol and sodium. A dietitian can help plan an appropriate menu for people with hypoparathyroidism. Ask your health care provider for recommendations for registered dietitians specializing in this area.