Calcium Levels Parallel Hormone Changes in Menopause and PMS: A Clue to Irritability and Insomnia

Research journals and nutritionists continue to clarify the relationship between declining levels of estrogen and lowered calcium levels in women. Adelle Davis, the first nutritionist to base her recommendations on science-based studies says, “The amount of calcium in a woman’s blood parallels the activity of the ovaries. The blood calcium falls to such an extent during the week prior to menstruation that PMS, nervous tension, irritability, and perhaps mental depression result.”

Davis continues: “During the menopause, the lack of ovarian hormones (estrogen and progesterone) can cause severe calcium deficiency symptoms to occur, such as irritability, hot flashes, night sweats, leg cramps and insomnia.”

Helen Bishop MacDonald agrees with this in her article from the journal *Nursing British Columbia*. She says that, “Aging, combined with the estrogen reduction that occurs at menopause, results in an estimated 20 to 25% deterioration in calcium absorption in women from 40 to 60 years of age.”

The National Institutes of Health fact sheet on calcium discusses other factors that can affect calcium absorption. Vitamin D helps improve calcium absorption. Your body can obtain vitamin D from food and it can also make vitamin D when your skin is exposed to sunlight. Dietary sodium (salt) and protein increase calcium excretion in ratio to the amount their intake is increased.

Increasing dietary potassium intake (such as with 7 to 8 servings of fruits and vegetables per day), may help decrease calcium excretion, particularly in postmenopausal women. Alcohol can also affect calcium status by reducing the intestinal absorption of calcium.

We think of calcium as food for our bones, but it’s also a natural sedative that releases the sleep-inducing amino acid tryptophan. Calcium is directly related to our cycles of sleep. In one study, published in the European Neurology Journal, researchers found that calcium levels in the body are higher during some of the deepest levels of sleep, such as the rapid eye movement (REM) phase.

The study concluded that disturbances in sleep, especially the absence of deep REM sleep or disturbed REM sleep, are related to a calcium deficiency. Restoration to the normal course of sleep was achieved following the normalization of the blood calcium level.

Regarding the relationship between calcium and insomnia, Adelle Davis says, “A calcium deficiency often shows itself by sleeplessness and insomnia, another form of an inability to relax. The harm done by sleeping tablets, to say nothing of the thousands of dollars spent on them, could largely be avoided if the calcium intake were adequate.”

Jobee Knight, a nutritional researcher and founder of Nutrition Breakthroughs in Glendale, CA., is someone who fought her own battle against premenopausal insomnia. After testing several formulas containing calcium, one stood out from the rest. The product, which became Sleep Minerals II, contains calcium, magnesium, vitamin D and zinc. The ingredients are formulated with carrier oils such as rice bran oil, an oil that has been shown to increase mineral absorption.

Valerie H. of Santa Clarita, California says: “I had such severe menopause insomnia that it took me hours to fall asleep even though I was extremely tired. My legs also had crawling and tingling feelings at night. I got the Sleep Minerals and after about a week, it started to work really well. I fall asleep now within 20 minutes and no more restless legs.”

Adelle Davis recommends calcium is best taken by balancing it with about half as much magnesium, and complementing it with Vitamin D. Davis says, “Because calcium is less well absorbed and the urinary losses are greater when the output of estrogen decreases, such calcium-deficiency symptoms as nervousness, irritability, sleeplessness, headaches, and depression are common (at menopause). These problems can be easily overcome if the intakes of calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D are all generously increased and are well absorbed.”

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