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While many of us will have learnt about calcium’s critical role in the building of bones, cell development, muscle contraction and exertion – not a lot of us will know that it is a nutrient that is critical in the the release of neurotransmitters – which send messages from the brain to cells within the nervous system.
Too much or too little calcium can cause major problems, not least with depression.
If there is chronic calcium deficiency in the body, there will be the tell tale signs of rickets, bone weakening and low levels of blood clotting. However, short term deficiencies also have quite prominent indicators which include: nerve sensitivity, twitching muscles, brittle nails, palpitations, and mood and behavior disturbances including irritability, anxiety, depression, dysphoria (mild depression) and insomnia.
In some cases, short term calcium deficiency can cause muscle cramps, numbness, stiffness of hands, abnormal heartbeat, tingling of the extremities and depression.
Doctors have also recognised a link to mania with people who are deficient in calcium. People who have been recognized most at risk of this are older people, people on high fibre or high protein diets, athletes and people who are on dairy-free diets as well as people who consume high levels of alcohol.
An excess of calcium is not just in people who are taking too many calcium supplements. Calcium excess is normally found in people suffering with pre-existing conditions, particularly types of cancer, or problems resulting from the parathyroid glands. According to
The parathyroid glands produce parathyroid hormone, this is the hormone which regulates calcium, vitamin D and phosphorus levels within the blood and bone. When blood calcium levels are low, the parathyroid gland releases parathyroid hormone, which causes calcium to be taken from the bone and released into the blood stream. It also enhances the efficiency with which dietary calcium is absorbed by the intestines and kidney. In a condition called hyperparathyroidism, the parathyroid gland produces too much parathyroid hormone, which causes too much calcium to be released into the blood stream. Effects of hyperparathyroidism include back pain, bone and joint pain, blurred vision, increased thirst, itchy skin, muscular weakness, personality change, fatigue and depression.
Calcium and links to depression
So as we have mentioned, calcium deficiency is associated with irritability, anxiety and depression, and excesses of calcium are associated with depression. According to the LiveStrong blog, while research has been conducted that shows the effectiveness of calcium supplementation in alleviating depression associated with PMS symptoms, there is little research that directly examines the effectiveness of calcium supplementation in alleviating other forms of depression.
“Calcium dysregulation is but one of many possible causes of depression, so calcium supplementation has not been a primary focus of depression research. If you have a depression that is potentially associated with hypocalcaemia, or that is symptomatic of a hyperparathyroidism, then calcium supplementation could potentially bring relief. If you suspect you have a calcium deficiency or excess that contributes to a depression, consult with your physician, who can evaluate your blood calcium levels, evaluate your parathyroid functioning and make recommendations regarding supplementation. Given that either too much or too little calcium can contribute to depression, it is prudent to consult with your physician before using a calcium supplement.”