The calcium mineral is vital for the optimal function of various physical and mental processes. Calcium is commonly known to be necessary for dense, strong bones and teeth, and the majority of the substance is stored in these locations. The mineral is also needed for the movement of muscle fibers and the electrical conduction of the heart. However, not many realize that the element is important for the production and release of neurotransmitters that carry messages between nerve cells. An imbalance of the mineral can cause depression.
Calcium deficiencies occur in people consuming high-fiber, high-protein diets that lack dairy or other calcium-rich foods. Phosphorus-rich diets containing mainly meats, cheeses, processed foods and sodas are also void of sufficient calcium. Strict vegetarian diets and habitual alcohol consumption also cause calcium deficiencies. Symptoms of mild calcium deficiency include brittle nails, muscle twitching, nerve sensitivity and heart palpitations. Behavioral symptoms include anxiety, depression and insomnia.
Calcium excesses occur from overdosing on supplements or a problem with the parathyroid glands. The glands produce parathyroid hormone that regulates levels of calcium, vitamin D and phosphorus in the blood, bone and teeth. When calcium levels dip below sufficient levels, the parathyroid gland releases the hormone that excretes calcium from the bones. When the gland produces too much of the hormone, an excess of calcium floods the bloodstream. Hypercalcemia symptoms include bone and joint pain, back pain, blurred vision, elevated thirst, dry itchy skin, muscle weakness, generalized fatigue and depression.
Millions of women suffer from some form of PMS. During the menstrual cycle, estrogen levels fluctuate. As the ovarian hormone affects calcium metabolism, absorption and the parathyroid glands, when levels drop, calcium levels are also affected. Researchers believe that hypocalcemia plays a large part in the symptoms of PMS, which include anxiety, depression, irritability and generalized fatigue. Studies dating back to 1989 revealed that more than 70 percent of women who took 1,300 milligrams of calcium plus manganese experienced a reduction in PMS symptoms. In 2000, another study indicated that 48 percent of women who took 1,200 milligrams of calcium had reduction of mood symptoms, water retention, cravings and menstrual discomfort.
As insufficient or excessive calcium levels contributes to depression and other mood changes, someone having emotional symptoms might consider having their blood levels evaluated. In order to improve daily dietary intake, nutritionist recommend that individuals get the mineral naturally from foods. Adult men need 1,000 milligrams of calcium daily and women need 1,200 to 1,300 milligrams. The foods offering the most calcium include:
• Yogurt-eight ounces-42 percent of RDA
• Mozzarella cheese-1.5 ounces-33 percent
• Sardines-three ounces-33 percent
• Cheddar cheese-1.5 ounces-31 percent
• Milk-eight ounces-30 percent