Are you taking too much calcium?

by Jim Sliney, Jr.
Are you taking too much calcium? Having too much calcium in the blood is called hypercalcemia.
It can be brought on by a number of things including
  • Taking too much calcium or vitamin D
  • Elevated vitamin D levels
  • Overactive parathyroid glands (hyperparathyroidism)
  • Certain medications (eg, lithium, which can cause hyperparathyroidism)
  • Dehydration
  • Certain cancers (eg, bone, breast, parathyroid)
So how do I know if I'm taking too much calcium? The amount of calcium in the blood that causes hypercalcemia will vary from person to person. Mild hypercalcemia may have no symptoms; the best way to check for it is with a blood test. Hypercalcemia is usually accompanied by some or all of the following symptoms:
  • Headache - possibly secondary to dehydration as your body focuses on getting rid of excess calcium through the urine
  • Increased thirst - you get thirsty, so you'll drink more causing you to urinate more
  • Frequent urination - this is how the body gets rid of excess calcium
  • Nausea - possibly secondary to dehydration
  • Brain fog, confusion
  • Fatigue
  • Constipation
  • Muscle weakness
Why should I be concerned about hypercalcemia? Well, the symptoms can be pretty unpleasant. But if left unaddressed, it can lead to serious health problems over time. If the calcium levels get high enough some of the symptoms may present themselves. Chronic hypercalcemia can lead to
  • Abnormal heart rhythms
  • Kidney stones or kidney failure
  • Neurological problems (eg, brain fog, confusion, dementia)
  • Osteoporosis - if your bones are giving away their calcium, as in the case of hyperparathyroidism, this can lead to thinning of the bones
So remember when taking calcium, it is best absorbed at doses of 500 mg or less and in the company of vitamin D. If you think you are experiencing symptoms of hypercalcemia, please consult with your healthcare provider.