The BIG 3

(Calcium-Vitamin D-Magnesium)

Keeping to the theme on what vitamins or minerals we may be deficient in, if you are vegan, elderly, menopausal, or with certain digestive problems as below; you may not be absorbing what you need:

  • Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD – heartburn)
  • Gallstones
  • Celiac Disease
  • Crohn’s Disease
  • Ulcerative Colitis
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Already covered were VitB12 and Iron.  The other big one is calcium.  Calcium is a mineral that is necessary for life. In addition to building bones and keeping them healthy, calcium enables our blood to clot, our muscles to contract, nerves to signal and our heart to beat. About 99% of the calcium in our bodies is in our bones and teeth. Every day, we lose calcium through our skin, nails, hair, sweat, urine and feces. Our bodies cannot produce its own calcium. That’s why it’s important to get enough calcium from the food we eat. When we don’t get the calcium our body needs, it is taken from our bones. But it needs help from a few friends in order to be absorbed and do its job properly.  

Vitamin D is one such friend, often referred to as the “sunshine vitamin,” because your body produces vitamin D naturally when it’s directly exposed to sunlight.  Sun exposure to the hands, face, arms and legs 2-3x per week is an easy, reliable way for most people to get adequate vitamin D.  Exposure time can differ, depending on colour of skin, the lighter you are the less time required, the darker you are the more time needed, which formulates into about 10-30 minutes each time.  This would equal 1/4th of the time it would take to develop a mild sunburn for you to produce enough vitamin D.   Deficiency is common for those living in the northern hemispheres, especially in the winter months.  The elderly living in southern climates or the snowbirds (over 65 years of age) can also be at risk for deficiency due to aging kidneys (this organ helps convert to Vitamin D to a useful form), or fewer receptors in their skin that convert Vitamin D.  Also, the elderly along with younger children/babies might be covered up more, or use too much sunscreen blocking out Vitamin D formation.  You can also get Vitamin D through certain foods and supplements.  Without sufficient vitamin D, a hormone, calcitriol (“active vitamin D”) will not form and this in turn leads to insufficient calcium absorption from food intake and the body must take calcium from its stores in the skeleton.  This weakens existing bone and prevents the formation of strong, new bone, putting you at risk for developing bone abnormalities such as soft bones (osteomalacia – in kids’ rickets) or fragile bones (osteoporosis).

Calcium’s other friend is Magnesium in which Vitamin D also relies heavily on.  Every cell in your body contains magnesium to function. Magnesium is involved in more than 600 reactions in your body!  Some of its highlighted functions are:

  • Energy creation: Helps convert food into energy.
  • Protein formation: Helps create new proteins from amino acids.
  • Gene maintenance: Helps create and repair DNA and RNA.
  • Muscle movements: Is part of the contraction and relaxation of muscles.
  • Nervous system regulation: Helps regulate neurotransmitters, which send messages throughout your brain and nervous system.

Magnesium’s role in calcium absorption is that it assists in the activation of vitamin D which helps regulate calcium and phosphate balance.  This influences the growth and maintenance of bones by its formation of calcitriol as mentioned above. Without enough magnesium, calcium is poorly, if at all, absorbed in the blood or bones and can collect in the soft tissues causing arthritis and or osteoporosis.  Oddly enough by taking the proper amount of magnesium and not more calcium, can sometimes resolve a calcium deficiency

So, as you can see it is a delicate balance between these 3.  There are also other chemical reactions that happen with different substances as enzymes, hormones or proteins that help through this process as well.  That is why what you are eating is important as food contains these other vitamins or minerals to either create, activate or assist in the functions of these different substances.  Supplements, may be needed however if very low in any of the Big 3. 

Make sure to follow DEEM Health Facebook Page.  We are doing free classes and nutrition tips for another couple of weeks during this time of isolation.  We want to help keep you healthy.

Mikkie Nettles, Certified Personal Trainer/Holistic & Sports Nutritionist

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