Absorption of your calcium supplement is crucial for getting enough calcium into your body for it to work. Anything you eat has to be digested in order to be absorbed. When we eat food, chewing is the first step in absorption because it breaks food into smaller bits, saturates it with saliva which moistens it, and begins the digestion process. You can’t chew your calcium supplements (YUCK!) unless they are labeled as “chewable” (DOUBLE YUCK!), so how do we best absorb our calcium?
Marcy B. Bolster, MD is a professor of medicine in the Division of Rheumatology and Immunology at the Medical University of South Carolina and director of the MUSC Center for Osteoporosis and Bone Health. She says she recommends calcium carbonate because “it’s inexpensive, won’t cause discomfort, and is a good source of calcium.”
Calcium carbonate is also used as an antacid to relieve heartburn, acid indigestion, and upset stomach.You can buy it with or without a prescription; however, when using this medicine as a dietary supplement, take it with food or following meals.
The presence of food in the stomach causes the release of acid which is necessary to break down most calcium supplements. Also, when calcium is taken with food, it slows down the movement of calcium in the intestines allowing more time for calcium to be absorbed. Therefore, it is best to take calcium supplements with food.
So what counts as food?
The scientific answer is that food can be anything that causes the stomach to secrete acid. It can contain any combination of fat, carbohydrates, or protein. So, to a koala bear, eucalyptus leaves are food. To a dragon, knights are food. To pigeons, pretty much everything is food.
What about for those of us without the scientific mind? Here are a few food options. This is NOT a recommended diet, I’m just sharing a few things that might help you out.
- A cracker – that’s right, a teeny, tiny cracker. You don’t have to have a cheeseburger and fries in order to digest calcium carbonate
- But then again, cheeseburger and fries – because they taste so good!
- Shakes – like protein or nutrient shakes. Why? Because they contain fine or very small solids
- Pizza and for argument sake, this includes that deep dish stuff which is really more of a savory casserole (Disclaimer: I’m from The Bronx)
- Coffee with milk, not so much coffee without milk, that’s too much like water
- Bread, with or without butter, margarine, peanut butter, hot sauce, whatever…
- Oatmeal or oatmeal-ish foods
- Spaghetti, with or without meatballs, sauce, or tuna (My mom tried that tuna thing on us a few times as kids…not awesome…love you mom!!!)
- Gummy bears – yes, I went there
- Broccoli, baked beans, and Brussels sprouts smoothie with a side of cauliflower (also a great way to get a subway car all to yourself during rush hour, ahem)
Okay, so tell us, What food do you take your calcium carbonate with?
Interested in learning more about calcium? You can learn about the most common forms of calcium here, whether calcium actually will constipate you or not here, and how to take calcium with other medications here.
Disclaimer: The information in this article is for informational use only, It does not intend to replace the services of a healthcare professional. Please see your healthcare professional if you have any questions about calcium or calcium supplements.
For more information about calcium, download our calcium tip sheet.