Constipation from Calcium Supplements
Q: I'm 50 years old and perimenopausal, so my doctor suggested taking a daily
OTC calcium and magnesium supplement to help protect my bones from osteoporosis.
I've been following his advice for a few months, but now I'm constantly and
painfully constipated. I've tried increasing my fluid and fiber intake and being
more active but it doesn't seem to help. How can I help my bones without this
annoying side effect?
Dr. Donnica: First of all, you're right to be taking calcium supplements
to protect your bones. Premenopausal women need a total daily calcium intake
of 1,200 mg per day. If you're getting much of this from supplements rather
than from your diet, my advice is to take it in divided doses, not once a day.
Not all calcium supplements are equally constipating: calcium citrate (e.g.
Citra cal TM) is said to be the least constipating as it is digested more effectively,
but it is more expensive than calcium carbonate. Another option is to consume
calcium fortified foods and beverages, like orange juice.
For anyone with constipation, I recommend drinking 10 glasses of water per
day, consuming 5 servings of fresh fruits and vegetables per day, and getting
at least 20 minutes of exercise per day. If constipation prevails, it is better
to add a fiber supplement or a gentle stimulant laxative than to stop taking
the calcium. Daily calcium supplementation is not just good for your bones;
studies have shown that it can have several other health benefits including
reducing PMS, improving blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and even reducing
the risk of colon cancer.
Created: 11/21/2003  - Donnica Moore, M.D.