There are a number of factors that can affect calcium absorption, which include a healthy diet and sufficient amounts of vitamin D. High amounts of sodium, caffeine, and saturated fats, on the other hand, can inhibit calcium absorption. The amount of calcium that is consumed, age, and low estrogen levels can also affect how calcium is absorbed.
Vitamin D seems to play a large role in the amount of calcium that is absorbed into the body. It helps to increase the production of calcium-binding proteins within the digestive tract, which aid in calcium absorption. In addition, vitamin D is also helpful in reabsorbing calcium within the kidneys. It can be obtained naturally from sunlight exposure as well as from vitamin D-fortified foods. Other nutrients that help with calcium absorption include vitamin C and magnesium.
Estrogen, which is a female hormone, is helpful in absorbing calcium as well. The production of this hormone generally decreases with age and therefore can often result in low levels. As a result, the amount of calcium that gets absorbed decreases.
A moderate dose of healthy fats is also important as fat gets converted into cholesterol, which is essential for the production of vitamin D. Excess amounts of fats, however, can have adverse effects. They tend to contribute to an acidic environment within the digestive tract, which can inhibit the absorption. Consuming plenty of alkaline-forming foods can help to maintain a healthy environment within the digestive tract. These include vegetables, nuts and seeds, and most fruits.
Certain acids in foods also tend to interfere with calcium absorption. Leafy greens such as collards and spinach contain oxalic acid, which can inhibit calcium absorption, especially when consumed with dairy. Many nuts and seeds, as well as beans, contain phytic acid, which also binds to calcium and reduces the amount that is absorbed. These foods, however, might not hinder the process too much because many of them also contain amino acids and silicon, both of which help to increase the absorption of calcium. Other calcium-binding substances are caffeine, sodium, and the stress hormone, known as cortisol.
Calcium absorption naturally decreases with age and thus the encouragement for a higher calcium intake. The doses, however, should be kept at minimal dosages, as the higher the dose, the less is absorbed into the body. Therefore, it is best to take a calcium supplement several times per day for maximum calcium absorption.