Hypothyroidism and calcium have not always been linked together in the medical community, but they are being mentioned together more and more. For a refresher, hypothyroidism is when the thyroid gland begins to malfunction and becomes underactive.
When the thyroid does not produce the necessary hormones, the body starts to falter. The thyroid has been proven to actually regulate the amount of calcium that goes through the human body to help keep bones strong. This is one of the reasons why calcium is the most found mineral out of any other in the human body.
However, if the thyroid does not have any calcium to regulate, then the body’s bones start to break down. This and more will be discussed throughout this article.
What is the Parathyroid?
People may have heard of the thyroid, but what then is a parathyroid? First off, the parathyroid is not the same thing or even connected to a thyroid. While the thyroid helps regulate a human’s metabolism, the parathyroid is a hormone that helps level calcium within the body.
Specifically, the parathyroid hormone, or PTH, helps absorb calcium from a person’s diet, controls how much calcium the kidneys release into the body, and decides how calcium should be kept in the bones for later. The human body can actually store pounds worth of calcium in the bones for later, but it is always readily available to be taken from the bones and placed in the bloodstream at the discretion of the parathyroid. Because of the massive amount of calcium that the parathyroid regulates, vitamin D is also involved in this process.
Without vitamin D, minerals like phosphorus and calcium would not be able to be absorbed at all.
Furthermore, muscular and nervous systems work better when the parathyroid functions appropriately. Though the parathyroid is connected with the endocrine system, rather than the muscular or nervous system, it still plays a vital part in the functioning of other systems in the human body. When calcium gets involved, muscles are then able to contract and nerves perform more accurately. In every human, there are 4 different parathyroid glands, and they are all about the size of a piece of rice each. Also, the parathyroid is located behind the thyroid.
Parathyroid Disorders and Diseases
When the parathyroid struggles to work properly, that is when disorders and diseases pop up in the body. Specifically, if the parathyroid releases too little or too much, issues like hyperparathyroidism, hypoparathyroidism, and osteoporosis happen. Hyperparathyroidism is the most prevalent disease that connects with the parathyroid. What happens is the body thinks it needs to make more hormones in the body, even though the levels of calcium are spot on. This disorder causes the parathyroid to push forward, when no more hormones are needed.
Next is hypoparathyroidism. This happens when the hormone production is not happening at all. Additionally, this causes the body to have less amount of calcium and more phosphorus in the blood stream. If this happens within the body, many doctors remove the parathyroid glands all together from the body to stop this issue from becoming a further problem.
Osteoporosis happens when the parathyroid becomes overactive. It continues to release hormones, while releasing calcium from the bones at such an extreme rate, that the bones lose their density and structural integrity. This can cause people to break bones a lot easier than before. Even though many people think osteoporosis is only for the elderly, a malfunctioning parathyroid can give people osteoporosis when they are younger than they thought possible.
How Calcium Corroborates Hypothyroidism
Much research has been done connecting calcium to the thyroid. For example, there is evidence that a body with higher calcium levels than usual may have hyperthyroidism. However, on the other side of things, it does not appear that much changes in the body when calcium is metabolized in hypothyroid patients. A study done by the “Biological Trace Element” looked into how levels changed in patients who had hypothyroidism. They checked the status of 3 minerals: zinc, magnesium, and calcium. After the research was completed, they discovered zinc went down, magnesium went up, and calcium stayed the same in most patients.
Another research study was done by the “Endocrine Journal.” It found similar results that patients with and without hypothyroidism had a comparable calcium metabolism. However, when this type of study was focused on female patients, interesting data started to come to the forefront. For starters, scientists found that levels of ionized calcium changed in female patients who had hypothyroidism, but just like in the “Endocrine Journal” and the “Biological Trace Element,” the total calcium levels did not have much change at all. Even though researchers were hoping for a big break with this study, they were still pleased to dive into material that showed calcium’s importance to help patients with heart-related issues.
However, these studies did show a few important clues. First, calcium is the very first mineral which encourages a spike of cellular sugar in the body. Also, calcium is released by the thyroid gland near the heart, so this may have something to do with heart issues like hypertension or high blood pressure. Blood pressure, in particular, may be able to blame calcium for its heightened issue and hypothyroidism may not have so much to do with the problem after all.
Intake Amounts of Calcium
As people get older, they should be consuming more foods and beverages that have calcium. For example, newborns to 6 month babies should have 200 mg per day. 7 to 12 month infants need 60 more mg per day. One-year olds up to 3 year olds need 700 mg. 4-year-olds to 8-year-olds need 1000 mg, while 9 to 18-year-olds must have 1300 mg. From 19 to 70-years-old, this is when the calcium intake can got back down to 1000 mg per day, but it shoots back up to 1200 mg from 71 years of age until death.
Essential Calcium-Based Foods
When people are looking to establish a solid dieting plan, it is imperative that they find things with calcium. Milk is not the only substance that has calcium; there are many other options to choose from. Let’s start with other dairy products like cheese. If a person was to pick any cheese on the shelf of a grocery store, there would probably be some calcium packed inside. Take parmesan for example. Parmesan has the most calcium of any other cheese. With 331 mg of calcium, or 28 grams, per ounce in parmesan cheese, that is 33% of the recommended daily intake, or RDI. On the other side of the spectrum, soft cheeses have calcium, but usually a lot less. Brie cheese, one of the softest cheeses around, only has 5% RDI per ounce or 52 mg.
Yogurt is another dairy brand that is packed with calcium. Low-fat yogurt has a RDI of calcium at 45% in one single cup, while plain yogurt has 30% of the RDI for calcium. Unfortunately, many people really like Greek yogurt, but are saddened by the fact that there is not very much calcium in every bite. It has a lower calcium RDI than low-fat and plain yogurt.
Beans are another great source of calcium. Legumes are good, but winged beans are better. One full cup of cooked beans has 244 mg of calcium and 1 cup of white beans that are cooked are given a 13% rating of RDI for calcium.
Fish is the next calcium-rich food source on the list. When people think fish, they think of the mineral iron, but calcium has a big part to play, too. Fish, like salmon, supplies the body with a ton of calcium. 3 ounces amounts to a recommend daily intake of 21%. On the other hand, sardines are a great source as well. If an individual was to buy a 3.75-ounce container of sardines, they would take in 35% of the RDI for calcium.
Many people are surprised that seeds are full of calcium. Sure, much has been made that Omega-3 fatty acids are in seeds, but calcium has been more of an afterthought. Seeds like sesame, celery, poppy, and chia have a plethora of calcium. A tablespoon of sesame seeds have 9% the RDI, while poppy seeds have 13% of the calcium RDI at 126 mg per tablespoon.
There are many other foods and beverages that help with calcium intake, but tofu is one of the best. To put it into perspective, it supplies 86% of the RDI for calcium in the body. Not many other foods can do what tofu does for a human being.
Calcium Supplement Concerns
When it comes to supplementation, people always need to be alert and aware of what they are consuming. Calcium supplements are no different. When they are used appropriately, supplements are great for solidifying a RDI. Usually, supplements help to fill the void that is left by either a poor diet or one that needs added help. This can include minerals like calcium, zinc, and copper, along with vitamins like vitamin A, B, C, D and E.
Based on research over the years, supplementation has been proven to greatly benefit patients who are dealing with a thyroid problem. On the other hand, patients have seen mixed results when it comes to using calcium. One study, done by JAMA, revealed that calcium would absorb less and less T4, while taking on added levels for thyrotropin. Ultimately, patients dealing with hypothyroidism should always talk with their doctor before they start any supplementation. Many patients who are dealing with hypothyroidism are prescribed levothyroxine. If an individual is wanting to add a calcium supplement, but are already taking levothyroxine, they should consult their doctor on what to do. The same can be said if an individual is already taking a calcium supplement and their doctor is interested in putting them on levothyroxine. A doctor should always be referred for this, too.
At the end of the day, calcium supplements and levothyroxine should never be taken at the same time. This is because they will counteract each other. Instead, if the doctor approves this method, patients can take the medication three hours apart, so they will be able to work properly.
Hypothyroidism and calcium have more reasons than not to steer clear from one another. But, there are occasions when calcium can be used to get other body functions moving to help fight against hypothyroidism. There is still so much that needs to be learned and studied to find out the relationship between calcium and hypothyroidism. In the long run, vitamins and minerals are imperative to the working of the human body. Hypothyroidism is a disorder that researchers are looking to eradicate. With the help of testing, more and more knowledge is on the horizon that could affect the next generation as a whole when it comes to hypothyroidism and calcium.
- Endocrine Web. 2015. “An Overview of the Parathyroid.” Retrieved from: https://www.endocrineweb.com/endocrinology/overview-parathyroid.
- 2017. “Calcium and Thyroid Relationship.” Retrieved from: https://www.thyromate.com/blog/calcium-and-thyroid-relationship.
- 2017. “Calcium & Hypothyroidism.” Retrieved from: https://www.livestrong.com/article/490448-calcium-hypothyroidism/.
- 2018. “Thyroid Disease, Osteoporosis, and Calcium.” Retrieved from: https://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=18637.
- 2001. “Serum Calcium in Thyroid Disease.” Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11233472.
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