Calcium is probably the most widely taken supplement. Whether the instruction comes from our doctors or the media, we have been trained to think supplementation is necessary to maintain good bone health. Almost every client I begin to see has taken or is currently taking calcium supplements. This may or may not be dangerous depending on their current diet and heath concerns. Though the obsession with calcium can actually be causing more damage than good. To see this point, there must be an understanding of how calcium works with other factors and minerals in our bodies to do its intended job.
Vitamin D and the Calcium Connection
In the last few years, research has been coming out supporting the amazing benefits Vit D has to offer. We know that vitamin D is needed to pull calcium from digestion into the bloodstream, which means we must be sure to have adequate amounts of vitamin D, otherwise calcium can never leave the digestion site. Vitamin D3 is the natural form we make in the skin when we are exposed to Ultra Violet B light. Vitamin D is made in the skin, converted in the liver, then converted again in the kidneys. That final product gets circulated in the bloodstream and goes into the intestines where it stimulates the formation of proteins. These proteins are what is needed for the activation of calcium to get from our food into our bloodstream, for our body to place into bones and teeth.
Food Sources of Vitamin D:
- Egg yolks
- Wild Shrimp
- Raw Milk from grass fed cows
- Butter from grass fed cows
- Cod liver oil
The Underrated and Powerful Vitamin K2
Although this may not be new research, the understanding and awareness of the importance of vitamin K2 in bone health is coming full circle. K2 is very different from vitamin K1 which we typically hear about. In my undergrad, I learned only about K1 and its ability to clot blood. It’s easily found in the diet through green leafy vegetables. In the last few years is only when I started to hear about K2, which has a very different action. It helps to move calcium around the body and guides it into bones and teeth where it belongs, rather than soft tissues where calcium can cause hardening of the arteries. This is becoming more common as people continue to take calcium supplements hoping to restore bone health, though since they do not have sufficient amounts of vitamin D or K2, the calcium gets distributed into other parts of the body, which could lead to deadly outcomes such as atherosclerosis. Many people are also beginning to supplement with vitamin D3, as more than 42 percent of U.S. adults are deficient according to a 2010 study in Nutrition Journal. Though it is good that awareness is spreading, there is more to the story. Supplementing and isolating nutrients can really throw our bodies off balance if not done under care to monitor levels. When more Vit D is taken, this creates more of these proteins that need K2 to be activated. This is what keeps calcium where it belongs. K2 and Vitamin D work together to maintain bone and heart health. If you take supplemental vitamin D, you need to take K2. Some may argue that our bodies have the ability to convert vitamin K1 to vitamin K2. While this is true, most of what is produced in the intestines is surrounded by bacterial membranes and not available for absorption.
We don’t see symptoms of vitamin D toxicity very often. But when we do, those symptoms are inappropriate calcification. That’s the symptom of vitamin D toxicity. And it is actually a lack of vitamin K2 that can cause that…” -Rheaume-Bleue, N.D.
What If You Are Truly Calcium Deficient?
It is best to start with food sources before turning to supplementation. Our bodies utilize the calcium from food better because of the synergistic effect of all the other nutrients, including K2 and Vit D. This is also much safer as the calcium is correctly deposited.
Best calcium sources with D and K2 naturally occurring:
- Dairy- yogurt and cheese (preferably raw and cultured)
- Sardines with bones
- Sesame Seeds
Although harder to absorb, spinach, collard greens and basil contain calcium, but not K2. If you still choose to supplement, start with Magnesium before turning to calcium. Magnesium is another nutrient very deficient in the American diet, and is needed to maintain calcium in the cell and work appropriately. A delicate dance between Ca, Mg, vitamin D and K2 need to be enforced if supplementing. This is why I suggest to make it easy and stick with food!
Food Sources of Magnesium:
- Sea Vegetables
- Swiss Chard, Spinach, Broccoli
- Summer Squash
- Pumpkin Seeds
- Properly prepared grains (soaked and sprouted), otherwise Mg will not be released.
Where Do I get Vitamin K2?
Vitamin K2 is found in foods that many westerners shy away from or choose low quality versions of, which will not contain K2. These are what you should look for:
- Natto (highest source of K2)
- Eggs- coming from pastured chickens
- Cheese (particularly Brie and Gouda, due to the bacteria needed to make these) and dairy products coming from grass fed and pastured animals.
- Butter from grass fed cows (conventional grain fed animals will not produce butter with K2)
- Fermented foods (some, not all)- K2 producing bacteria can be formed.
- Pâte- Chicken Liver
- Cod Liver Oil ( mixed with butter oil for better absorption)
Food For Thought:
When we’re lacking K2, we’re at much greater risk for osteoporosis, heart disease, and cancer. And these are three concerns that used to be relatively rare. Over the last 100 years, as we’ve changed the way we produced our food and the way we eat, they have become very common.” Rheaume-Bleue, N.D
Are you looking to test your vitamin D or calcium levels? I offer a variety of lab testing to ensure accuracy and create custom plans to suit your body’s particular needs. Contact me to get started.