Tums for osteoporosis
your fragile bones
Lack of calcium, the most abundant mineral in your body, is one of the
leading nutritional deficiencies in North America today. But there's any easy
way to overcome this critical shortfall. Take Tums.
That's right, Tums -- the little mint- or fruit-flavored tablet you chew when
you have an upset stomach. Tums and many other antacids are made from calcium
carbonate because the carbonate neutralizes stomach acid. Carbonate is cheap and
easy to find when it's combined with calcium, and important nutrient that can
help prevent osteoporosis and a host of other diseases.
In fact, calcium helps your brain and nerve cells work together, and there is
even research linking senility and Alzheimer's disease with calcium.
The importance of calcium
"Low calcium intakes have been
implicated not just in bone disease, but in obesity, high blood pressure, a
variety of cancers -- the list is almost so broad it's hard to believe," says
Robert P. Heaney, an internationally recognized expert in bone biology and
calcium nutrition at Creighton University's Osteoporosis Research Center.
And a brand-new Surgeon General's Report makes a clear statement that there's
a huge gap between the amount of calcium Americans take in versus recommended
"Well over half the US public is not getting the calcium intake it ought to
have," Heaney, who is both a medical doctor and a professor of medicine, points
out. "For certain age ranges, and particularly for women, that could be as much
as 85 percent. In a sense, you could just assume you're not getting enough."
There are no outward signs of a simple calcium deficiency. When your body is
not taking in enough calcium, it's pulled from your bones to maintain normal
nerve and muscle functions. That makes your bones weaker and more likely to
The best place to get more calcium is from food, Heaney says. That's because
people with low calcium also tend to be low on other nutrients as well. "A low
calcium intake is a marker of a poor diet. It's OK to fix that with a calcium
supplement, but then you're not fixing the rest of the problem. You need good
nutrition on multiple fronts in order to reduce your risk of high blood
pressure, obesity, and cancer of the colon and so on," he says.
The primary source of calcium is dairy products. If you aren't drinking at
least a couple of glasses of milk a day because you are lactose intolerant, a
vegan vegetarian, or some other reason, you might want to take a supplement.
How it works
The calcium carbonate in Tums is the
same ingredient used in many tablets sold as calcium supplements. It's
effective, cheap, easy to get, and tastes better than other chemical compounds.
You can use other antacids, but be sure and check the ingredients. Other
substances, like magnesium carbonate and aluminum hydroxide gel, might actually
be better antacids, but unless and antacid contains calcium, it won't help your
You get the best results when you chew a single 400 or 500mg
tablet two or three times a day. That's because calcium isn't easily absorbed,
and absorption goes down when you take larger doses.
However, Heaney says it doesn't hurt to take a large dose, like, 1,000mg,
because the more you take it, the more you absorb. For instance, you may absorb
30 percent of a 100mg dose, but only 15 percent of 1,000mg. That's still 150mg
against only 30 mg from the more efficient dose.
How much do you need ?
"You probably need to absorb a couple
hundred milligrams of calcium a day," advises Heaney. that means taking in 1,000
This is particularly important with older people because calcium absorption
drops off as you age. calcium absorption can be as high as 60 percent in babies
and young children, but it slowly drops to 15 to 20 percent in adulthood. After
age 50, it's even lower.
Other factors that increase risk for osteoporosis and the need for calcium
include being female, thin, or inactive, smoking, and excessive use of alcohol.
It's also more important for post-menopausal women to get enough calcium because
the lack of estrogen increases bone loss.
Just don't overdo it. The Tolerable Upper Intake Level for calcium is 2,500mg a day, so consider your entire dietary intake -- including fortified foods --
before adding supplements.
Too much calcium can cause kidney problems and interfere with the absorption
of other minerals in your body. Other side effects include gas, bloating, and
constipation. If side effects are a problem for you, take your supplement with