Calcium Deficiency: Symptoms & Treatments

[Article updated on 19/09/2023]

The body needs nutrients such as minerals and vitamins to function properly. Each nutrient plays a specific role in the body and there is also a certain amount required. A deficiency manifests itself when it is insufficient. It could even lead to serious illness if not treated in time. In this article I will talk about the case of a calcium deficiency, the causes, symptoms and preventions.

Before reading on

I’m not an expert in this field, but I am passionate about nutrition and health.

The articles you’ll find on my site are the result of in-depth research that I’d like to share with you. However, I would like to stress that I am not a health professional and that my advice should in no way replace that of a qualified physician. I’m here to guide you, but it’s important that you consult a professional for specific questions or medical concerns. Your well-being is important. So be sure to consult the appropriate experts and take the best possible care of yourself.

What is a calcium deficiency?

Calcium is a mineral salt present in both blood and bones. There are 2 types: the one which is linked to proteins, notably albumin, and the one which is not, which is called ionized calcium. It is the latter which contributes to the proper functioning of the body such as coagulation and bone mineralization. This deficiency called hypocalcemia occurs when the level of ionized calcium in the blood is extremely low.

Everything you need to know about Calcium deficiency
Calcium is a mineral salt present in both blood and bones.

What are the possible causes?

The causes of hypocalcemia are very varied. In most cases, this is due to illness, but lifestyle can also be the reason. The lack can, in addition, occur during a specific period of life.

  • Age: the older a person gets, the higher the risk of calcium deficiency;
  • Insufficient consumption of this nutrient over a long period of time, especially during childhood;
  • Massive blood transfusion;
  • Intolerance to foods rich in calcium;
  • The vegan diet: the foods consumed do not provide enough calcium;
  • Menopause ;
  • Endocrine disorders such as hypoparathyroidism lead to a reduction in the production of parathyroid hormone or PTH, which controls the amount of calcium in the blood;
  • Lack of vitamin D which complicates the absorption of calcium by the body;
  • Pancreatitis;
  • Lack or excess of magnesium;
  • Excess phosphate in the blood;
  • Renal failure ;
  • Certain medications reduce calcium absorption such as phenytoin, phenobarbital, rifampicin, corticosteroid

What are the symptoms of a deficiency?

It is entirely possible that the body does not show any signs of calcium deficiency, especially in the early stages. Symptoms only appear when the person has hypocalcemia for too long.

Everything you need to know about Calcium deficiency.
There are various symptoms of calcium deficiency

Calcium is an essential element in the body. It ensures the proper functioning of many parts of the body. Symptoms can then appear almost everywhere:

  • Memory loss, hallucinations, seizures;
  • Tingling and numbness of the face and limbs;
  • Repetitive muscle cramps;
  • Bones break easily;
  • Nails become fragile and break easily;
  • Stopping or slowing down hair growth.

What to do in case of deficiency?

If you have symptoms of a calcium deficiency, the first thing to do is to make an appointment with a doctor as soon as possible and follow their instructions. Above all, avoid taking supplements without consulting a health professional. An overdose can lead to other illnesses such as kidney stones.

The diagnosis

The doctor will start by checking your family history in terms of hypocalcemia and osteoporosis. You will then be asked to take a blood test, in case of suspicion. The test consists of measuring the total amount of this nutrient in the body, the amount of albumin and the amount of ionized calcium.

For an adult, the normal level is between 8.8 to 10.4 mg/dL. A level below this range may already confirm that you have a calcium deficiency. The normal rate is, however, a little high in children and adolescents.


Hypocalcemia is generally easy to treat. It involves simply adding more calcium to your diet. The most recommended calcium supplements are:

  • Calcium carbonate: the cheapest on the market and the one with the highest calcium content;
  • Calcium citrate: the easiest to absorb by the body;
  • Calcium phosphate: also easy to absorb and does not cause constipation.

Calcium supplements are available in several formats: liquid, tablets, lozenges.

Treatment can last anywhere from a few days to three months, depending on the severity of the deficiency. In some cases where the supplements and diets adopted are not enough, a regular injection will be carried out.

Everything you need to know about Calcium deficiency.
Calcium supplements are available in several formats: liquid, tablets, lozenges.

It is also necessary to take into account the negative interference of calcium with certain medications:

  • Atenolol: it can reduce calcium absorption if not consumed 2 hours before;
  • Colestipol: it can reduce the absorption of calcium and increases the loss of calcium in the urine;
  • Estrogens in the form of medication: these elements help to increase the level of calcium in the blood and can thus lead to hypercalcemia if taken at the same time as calcium supplements;
  • Diuretic medications: either they will increase the calcium level as in the case of hydrochlorothiazide, or reduce it if using furosemide;
  • Antibiotics like fluoroquinolone and tetracycline which can reduce calcium absorption.

Foods to choose to limit the risk of calcium deficiency

This nutrient therefore plays an important role in heart health, muscle functioning, bone strengthening, etc. The best way to prevent hypocalcemia and maintain a stable level of this nutrient in the blood and replenish it through diet.

However, many foods rich in calcium also have a high content of saturated fatty acids which can cause other diseases such as cardiovascular disease or high cholesterol. To avoid this, it is best to take the foods mentioned below which are lactose-free, but rich in calcium.

  • Sesame seeds, poppy seeds, celery seeds, chia seeds;
  • Lactose-free cheeses such as Parmesan, Comté, Gruyere;
  • Low-fat yogurt;
  • Canned sardines and salmon;
  • Beans and lentils;
  • Almonds ;
  • Whey protein;
  • Certain leafy vegetables such as spinach, choukale;
  • Rhubarb;
  • Strengthening foods like cereal bars, cornbread;
  • Amaranth;
  • Edamame;
  • Tofu ;
  • Fortifying juices like orange juice;
  • Dried figs;
  • Goat’s milk.

For children and adolescents, the recommended daily dose of calcium is 1300 mg; 1000 mg for people aged between 19 and 50 and 1200 mg for those over 50.