Some new findings about boring old calcium could have a serious impact on many of our lives. First, let's do a little due diligence on calcium (from chemistry.about.com):
• Calcium isn't found in nature, but it can be purified into a soft silvery-white alkaline earth metal.
• Calcium is the fifth-most abundant element in the Earth's crust, present at a level of about 3 percent in the oceans and soil.
• The element is essential for animal and plant nutrition. Calcium participates in many biochemical reactions, including building skeletal systems and moderating muscle action.
• Vitamin D is essential for calcium absorption by the human body.
• While calcium and its compounds are not considered to be toxic, ingesting too many calcium carbonate dietary supplements or antacids can cause milk-alkali syndrome, which is associated with hypercalcemia sometimes leading to fatal renal failure.
• Calcium is used for making cement, making cheese, removing nonmetallic impurities from alloys, and as a reduction agent in the preparation of other metals.
• Pure calcium metal reacts vigorously and sometimes violently with water and acids.
Nice to have some facts about calcium, but now let's get the rest of the story. Scientific findings recently published in Current Biology could possibly lead to methods involving calcium that would ultimately speed up the healing process.
When you are injured, have surgery, or are wounded, your body goes into a predetermined action that begins the healing process, which simplistically stated is the migration of white blood cells to the site of the wound. This migration is somehow triggered by the damaged cells at the wound site, yet very little is known about how that initial process actually works.
Times are a-changing. Through a collaboration of the University of Bristol and the University of Bath researchers (both in England), they have shown that a flash of calcium is the first trigger in the cellular process of healing. The implications of understanding the complicated process of healing are enormous, from more rapid healing after surgery and treatments of wounds.
This discovery is the merely the first step in understanding the very sophisticated pathways that lead to healing. As Will Razzell, the head researcher of this study said, "We are more than ever understanding the pathways that lead to immune cell attraction to wounds. As calcium represents the immediate inflammatory signal, we now have a good foundation to investigate this complicated process further."
So, now you can follow Sally Field even more ardently when she speaks in her TV ads of the need to strengthen your bones (calcium is a strong element for doing so). Rest assured that through your ingestion of calcium, you are also helping to speed along the healing process of any wounds/injuries you may experience.
Interactions with medications
Calcium supplements have the potential to interact with several types of medications. This section provides a few examples. Individuals taking these medications on a regular basis should discuss their calcium intake with their healthcare providers.
Calcium can decrease absorption of the following drugs when taken together: Biphosphonates (to treat osteoporosis), the fluoroquinolone and tetracycline classes of antibiotics, levothyroxine, phenytoin (an anticonvulsant), and tiludronate disodium (to treat Paget's disease).
Thiazide-type diuretics can interact with calcium carbonate and vitamin D supplements, increasing the risks of hypercalcemia and hypercalciuria.
Both aluminum- and magnesium-containing antacids increase urinary calcium excretion. Mineral oil and stimulant laxatives decrease calcium absorption. Glucocorticoids, such as prednisone, can cause calcium depletion and eventually osteoporosis when they are used for months.
• M.T. Shannon, B.A. Wilson, C.L. Stang, "Health Professionals Drug Guide."
• J.M. Jellin, P. Gregory, F. Batz, K. Hitchens, "Pharmacist's Letter/Prescriber's Letter Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database."
• M.L. Peters, M. Leonard, A.A. Licata, "Role of alendronate and risedronate in preventing and treating osteoporosis."
Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels in Eagle County. He may be reached at www.visitingangels.com/comtns or 970-328-5526