There is no need for calcium supplements on the Wheat Belly lifestyle. They can even be dangerous. Let me explain.
Calcium is a mineral that the body needs to conduct hundreds of physiologic processes, as well as serve as the structural material for bones and teeth. Without calcium, you’d be sunk.
But taking calcium as a nutritional supplement is like tossing a bunch of bricks into the backyard hoping that they form a nice, neat patio—the world doesn’t work that way. Just because bones contain calcium does not mean that taking calcium orally will cause it to be directed to the bones. In fact, calcium taken as a supplement can contribute to calcification of arteries (part of atherosclerosis and heart attacks) and probably to making heart valves stiff (e.g., aortic valve stenosis treated by surgically replacing the valve). Several recent studies suggest that calcium supplements raise risk for heart attack by 30% and stroke by around 20%, as well as worsening of cholesterol values. Ironically, the data are also quite clear: calcium supplementation has little to no effect on osteopenia/osteoporosis (bone thinning) and little to no effect on reducing risk for osteoporotic fractures. Likewise, drinking more milk or consuming more dairy products does not protect from osteoporosis but has been associated with a modest increase in osteoporotic hip fracture and total mortality.
Yet doctors continue to urge female patients to supplement calcium, often at high doses, and to consume more milk and dairy products for bone health—outdated, even dangerous, advice. (Remember: healthcare has little to do with health, but plenty to do with dispensing revenue-generating products and procedures for the benefit of healthcare insiders.)
Well, there are additional reasons to not take any calcium supplements while living the Wheat Belly lifestyle. Among them:
- Gluten (actually gliadin) from wheat and grains increases calcium loss in the urine, calciuria, by 63%, reversed with wheat/grain elimination. (By this means, grains also increase risk for calcium oxalate kidney stones, by the way.) In other words, you retain more calcium when wheat- and grain-free.
- Intestinal calcium absorption increases dramatically with removal of wheat/grain phytates that bind calcium in the intestinal tract, making it unavailable for absorption. Removal of grain phytates also allows better absorption of magnesium that contributes to bone health.
- Intestinal calcium absorption increases with restoration of vitamin D, one of the cornerstones of the Wheat Belly lifestyle.
- Although only a modest effect, wheat/grains tip the body’s pH towards acidic, a situation that encourages calcium removal from bones; removing wheat and grains allows a net shift towards alkaline.
Combine the above—wheat/grain elimination, vitamin D restoration—with a handful of additional strategies, such as exercise involving axial impact (e.g., jumping), vitamin K2 restoration (via bowel flora cultivation and K2-rich foods and perhaps supplements), and magnesium supplementation, and you can appreciate that the idea that calcium must be supplemented for bone health holds as much water as the “eat more whole grains for health” argument.