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Your Body Won't Absorb Calcium -- What Can You Do?

Calcium is an essential mineral for the health of your bones. It also plays important roles in nerve transmission and muscle function. On average, humans only absorb about 30 percent of the calcium in foods, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements. This percentage can vary depending on the types of foods you eat and other lifestyle habits. If your body does not absorb calcium properly, you can take several steps to improve absorption.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is essential to the proper absorption of calcium. Vitamin D allows calcium to pass from your gut into your bloodstream so that your body has access to the mineral. Without sufficient vitamin D, your body cannot absorb calcium, regardless of how much you consume.

You can increase the amount of vitamin D in your body by taking in more vitamin D-rich foods, such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, fortified milk, egg yolks, enriched cereals and fortified orange juice. If you live in a warm climate, you can also get vitamin D through sun exposure. Your body can synthesize some vitamin D with the help of ultraviolet rays.


Causes of Decreased Calcium Absorption

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Consuming too much calcium at once can actually negatively affect your body’s ability to absorb it. Your body absorbs calcium more efficiently when it is consumed in small amounts throughout the course of the day, rather than in large doses. According to the Office of Dietary Supplements, calcium is best absorbed when you consume it in doses of less than 500 milligrams at a time.


Your body excretes some calcium through your urine, stool and sweat. Some minerals, such as sodium, increase the amount of calcium that your body excretes, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements. High protein intake can also increase the rate at which your body excretes calcium. To increase your body’s absorption of calcium, reduce the amount of sodium and protein in your diet.

Some plant foods can also decrease the amount of calcium your body is able to absorb. Spinach, sweet potatoes, beans and collard greens, contain substances called phytic acid and oxalic acid, which bind to calcium and inhibit its absorption. To increase your body’s ability to absorb calcium, eat calcium-rich foods separately from these plant foods.


Does Calcium Cause Headaches?

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Drinking too much alcohol can inhibit your body’s ability to absorb calcium in two ways. Alcohol decreases the amount of calcium that your gut is able to absorb, decreasing the amount of calcium in your blood. Alcohol also inhibits enzymes that are necessary to convert vitamin D into its active form. If the vitamin D in your body is not in its active form, it cannot increase the absorption of calcium. If you are not able to absorb calcium, reduce your intake of alcohol or eliminate it from your diet completely.