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Choosing a Calcium Supplement
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NATIONAL OSTEOPOROSIS FOUNDATION
Susan Allison, RNC, BSN, MPA posted:
If you don't get enough calcium from foods, you may need to take a calcium supplement. Many people ask which calcium supplement they should take. The best supplement is the one that meets your individual needs. Calcium supplements are available without a prescription in a variety of types such as tablets, capsules, chewables and liquids. They are also available in different amounts and doses.

The body easily absorbs most brand name calcium products. Calcium supplements need to dissolve in the stomach for calcium to absorb. Chewable and liquid supplements dissolve well because they break down before entering the stomach. Calcium, whether from diet or supplements, is best absorbed when taken in amounts of 500 — 600 mg or less. Taking your calcium all at once, however, is better than not taking it at all.

Try to get your calcium-rich foods and/or supplements in smaller amounts throughout the day, preferably with a meal. Most calcium supplements should be taken with food. Eating food produces stomach acid that helps your body absorb calcium. Calcium citrate supplements, on the other hand, absorb well when taken with or without food.

Side effects, such as gas or constipation, may occur from calcium supplements. If increasing fluids and fiber in your diet does not solve the problem, try another type or brand of calcium. It is important to drink plenty of water (six 8 oz glasses) throughout the day when you are taking calcium supplements. It may require trial and error, but fortunately there are many choices. When you take a new calcium supplement, start with smaller amounts. For example, start with 200-300 mg of calcium a day for a week, and drink an extra 6-8 ounces of water with it. Then gradually add more calcium each week.

Look carefully at calcium supplement labels for the serving size. Often the amount of calcium shown on the label is the amount you receive in more than 1 tablet or unit. For example, the label may show "Calcium, 630 mg," but if you look at serving size, it may show "2 tablets". Choose a calcium supplement with vitamin D added to help you reach the daily intake of Vitamin D recommended by your healthcare professional.

And finally, unless otherwise advised by your health care professional, avoid consuming more than 2,500 mg of calcium (food plus supplements) per day.
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