Health – How Important is Calcium?

No element is less understood and more ignorantly applied than calcium and its compounds. Calcium is the great builder of the structural parts of the body, not only of the bones and ligaments, but the walls of the arteries, the heart, the walls of the veins, the teeth, the epithelial, and connective tissue. It is also an integral and necessary element in both blood and lymph. We know that many malnutrition diseases are usually the results of a deficiency of calcium.

At the same time, an excess of calcium is responsible for arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries); also for scleroma (sclerosis of tissue, liver, skin, eyes and so forth). In fact, old age itself is brought about by a gradual hardening of the whole structural system through deposition of calcium compounds that are insoluble and inorganic.

While the young growing organism can use relatively large amounts of calcium, a fully matured and solidified body requires less. For middle age, comparatively less than half the amount is necessary. The older age requires a very small amount, above which calcium becomes a very dangerous thing to use, often bringing about most disastrous results, and yet never being thought of as the cause of the chronic suffering, and sometimes death of the patient.

The type of calcium that causes the trouble is inorganic. Inorganic calcium cannot be used in the life process of the cell, but forms instead the greatest number of obstructions to the normal life processes of the human organism.

Organic calcium, as found in some foods and herbs, is distinctly alkaline in reaction, such as lemons, limes, oranges, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, lettuce, string beans and onions. Others have an acid reaction upon certain fluids and tissues such as milk, cheese, peas, beans, lentils, cucumbers, radishes, fish, meat, and potatoes.

Green and leafy vegetables contain calcium chloride, as do many berries and herbs. Organic calcium chloride is found in red clover, wheat bran, rhubarb, yellow dock, watercress, blue vervain, motherwort, cactus, hawthorn berries, comfrey root, marshmallow, and many others.

When we see how important calcium is in body action, we should never use something that will counteract its power. When using refined sugar, we are using a substance that is known as a calcium destroyer.

Dr. Bernard Jensen, D.C., N.D., in his book, You Can Master Diseases, (Bernard Jensen Publishing Division, California, 1984), states: “White sugar has been called a leacher of calcium.”

As soon as sugar enters the body, it goes directly into the bloodstream and commences removing the calcium it comes into contact with and robs the cells of the calcium, from the arteries, veins, capillaries, tissue, muscles, and bones.

It is crucial for a woman carrying a fetus to have adequate calcium for both herself and also the baby. The baby, by nature, will draw from the mother’s body any calcium it can get for its own survival, drawing from the veins, arteries, muscles, teeth and bones of the mother. This is the reason for so much varicosity and loss of teeth during pregnancy.

The more sugars and starches (which turn to sugar) the mother consumes, the faster the drainage of calcium from her body, and trouble from weakened areas.

Forearm and Hip Fractures Most Common

“The principal clinical manifestation of osteoporosis is fracture,” Dr. B. E. C. Nordin, professor of mineral metabolism at the University of Luds, points out, “and three osteoporotic fracture syndromes can be defined: the lower forearm fracture, which predominantly affects women between the ages of 50 and 65; the fracture of the proximal femur (the hip), which affects both sexes over the age of seventy; and the relatively rare vertebral crush fracture syndrome, which may be present at any age, but is most common in elderly women.” (British Medical Journal, March 13, 1971).

Osteoporosis characteristically occurs in women after menopause and is presumably related to low estrogen output—the female hormone that dwindles when ovulation and the monthly periods cease. In men, fragile porous bones typically develop considerably later in life and disorder is less severe. However, although the disease is associated with late middle age and old age, the process probably begins many decades earlier.

“I would advise women to start calcium and vitamin D supplements at age 30, or perhaps 25,” says Dr. Jennifer Jowsey of the Mayo Clinic. With the average American diet, there’s apparently a long-term gradual loss of bone mineral exceeding the rate of mineral uptake and bone formation. In later years, when hormonal changes increase the susceptibility to osteoporosis, the skeleton has already lost a good deal of its substance. By then, because of previous loss, the rate of bone formation must not only equal the rate of bone demineralization (the normal condition) but must exceed it if bone strength is to be restored.

It is far more difficult, Dr. Jowsey warns, to induce new, compensatory bone formation than it is simply to slow down bone demineralization. Adequate calcium and vitamin D in the diet will go far to accomplish the latter. But preliminary finds, the Mayo scientist says, indicate that lost bone will not be automatically restored by such dietary correction.

Osteoporisis, Puff by Puff

We can believe from what Dr. Jowsey says that long-term marginal deficiency in calcium and vitamin D is the principle villain in the tragedy of osteoporosis. However, other factors, too, influence bone health. We now know, for example, that cigarettes contribute to bone demineralization and that we should swear off smoking, supposing we are still hooked on this altogether harmful habit.

In a letter appearing in the Journal of the American Medical Association (July 31, 1972), Dr. Harry W. Daniell reports his findings that heavy cigarette smoking appears to be a prominent factor in inducing osteoporosis. Dr. Daniell, who practices in Redding, California, was prompted to undertake his study when he realized that most of his under 65 patients suffering from osteoporosis were habitual heavy smokers. (When it occurs before 65, osteoporosis is considered “premature.”) The west coast physician and his associates then studied records from the three small hospitals in the area, coming up with the cases of 17 women who have had at least one characteristic osteoporotic bone fracture prior to age 65. Follow-up interviews with the patients of surviving relatives revealed that of the 17, only one was a nonsmoker; one smoked less than 20 cigarettes a day; and 15 of the 17 had smoked 20 or more cigarettes daily for many years. An 88 percent correlation between heavy smoking and early incidence of osteoporosis is “statistically significant!”

As to how cigarette smoking could so affect the bones, Dr. Daniell points out that bone minerals (mostly calcium and phosphorus, responsible for the bone’s hardness) are “known to be strikingly more soluble in acid solutions,” and cigarette smoking is known to increase the acidity of bone tissue. Thus the bone minerals could be expected to dissolve and be absorbed into the bloodstream at a much faster rate when smoking provides the acid environment.

Studies have shown, Dr. Daniell says, that three consecutive cigarettes cause a prompt transient hypercalcemia—or high content of calcium in the blood. This finding, he explains, suggests that the act of smoking is associated with rapid calcium loss from bone structures.

Still other factors can influence the onset of osteoporosis. Writing in the British Medical Journal (June 2, 1973), Dr. P. E. Belchotz and colleagues suggest that taking your calcium supplement just before going to bed might make a difference in preventing excess mineral loss.

Here’s the rationale: regular meals during the day constantly provide at least some calcium to the bloodstream. But calcium absorption from the gut continues only three to five hours after eating, and therefore from about midnight on, the lack of incoming calcium from the intestinal tract triggers the action of the parathyroid hormone (parathormone), which stimulates bone demineralization or “resportion.” The female hormone, estrogen, the authors note, to some extent, desensitizes bones to the action of parathormone. But in postmenopausal women, this protection has been reduced.

Initial clinical studies by the investigators tend to confirm their hypotheses.

Another factor that triggers the action of parathormone, according to Dr. Jowsey and her associates at the Mayo Clinic, is a mineral imbalance, with phosphorus intake grossly exceeding calcium intake. (Postgraduate Medicine, October 1972.) Heavy meat eaters are at risk of this condition because meat, while very poor in calcium, has a high phosphorus content. It is meat eater’s unbalanced high phosphorus intake, in Dr. Jowsey’s opinion, that accounts for the now established fact that longtime vegetarians are less susceptible to osteoporosis than are omnivores.

Bones that are osteoporotic are like beams in a frame house that have been eaten away for years by termites. But instead of termites, what’s eating away the calcium from the bones of an osteoporotic person is their own blood. That happens because every nerve in the body—including those that cause the heart to beat and the brain to function—needs a precise amount of calcium to carry out its job. Our bodies are strictly programmed to keep this calcium at the required level. If there is not enough of this mineral coming in from dietary sources, complex metabolic machinery immediately removes the required amount from the legs, hips, spine, ribs and arms.

Ordinarily this is a slow but relentless undermining process, but with cortisone administrations, it is swift and relentless. There are usually no symptoms produced until the patient discovers that a minor bump or fall results in a broken arm, leg, or worse still, a hip.

Increased Risk of Fractures

An article on the subject of calcium was published in the newsletter (February, 1974) of the Jewish Hospital of St. Louis, Missouri. It began by pointing out that cortisone and its derivatives are being administered to several million patients in the United States who suffer from a number of chronic disorders, rheumatoid arthritis being just one of them. It warns that however useful these compounds may be in alleviating these disorders, they result in a number of serious side effects, including the production of often severe bone loss with an increasing risk of bone fractures.

It is not unusual for patients to have a loss of 30–50 percent of their bone mass after several years of high-dose cortisone treatment.

Dr. Theodore Hahn, a spokesman for a bone research team at the Jewish Hospital, says it appears that cortisone directly blocks the activity of the bone forming cells and at the same time decreases intestinal absorption of calcium. As if these two effects weren’t bad enough, the calcium deficiency in turn can produce “secondary hormonal changes which increases bone breakdown.”

But Dr. Hahn and his coworkers have some good news for people who have been taking cortisone drugs. Large but carefully controlled doses of vitamin D, along with calcium supplements, can reverse this severe degeneration of the skeleton. The article, “Preliminary Results from a Group of 30 Patients Treated with this Regimen”, states indirectly that bone mass can be increased by as much as 25–30 percent over a six-month period, thereby greatly decreasing the risk of bone fracture in cortisone treated patients.

Activity Fortifies the Bones

In 1970, at the annual meeting of the Swedish Medical Society held in Stockholm, Drs. Nils Westlin and Bo Nilsson of Malmo, Sweden, reported that when they measured bone densities in young men they found that 64 athletes had significantly higher bone density than 39 nonathletes of the same age. Density was found to rise with increases in physical activity. (Medical Tribune, February 6, 1970.)

Dr. Carlton Fredericks said that women with bones weakened by osteoporosis should, if they are capable of doing it, skip rope as a means of therapeutic exercise. The impact on the spine, vertically exerted, generates the electrical forces that drive calcium to the bone areas requiring reinforcement. (The Carlton Fredericks Newsletter of Nutrition, July 1, 1972.)

Obviously, an elderly man or woman is not likely to take up jumping rope after having not exercised for several years. But much the same effect could be gained from walking. A brisk walk at least, for those unable to perform more vigorous exercise, is essential if bones are to stay healthy.

Dr. John R. Christopher, Excerpts from School of Natural Healing Newsletter, Volume 1, Issue Eleven.