Apr 15, 2013

My pet hate from working in Health Food Stores + Why our bodies need Calcium

Having worked in a health food store for close to 3yrs now, I've seen healthy people, sick people, and everything in between. Some individuals pop in to just scout around, where others often know exactly what they are after. Either way, I have to say the vast majority are all wanting something they they think they need thanks to Google.
Don't get me wrong here, I'm not discounting Google as such; they are an exceptionally valuable tool in this day and age, but i believe that when it comes to our health, it can do us more harm than good.

Whilst working I have always had a niggly little pet hate that I've struggled with. I'm there to help the customers best choose what they need, but it is also a business, and so far none of them have been my business. So there's money to be made. And sometimes I have to shut my mouth and let the customer buy what they want.

Calcium suplements are that thing I have to shut up about and let them buy. And it really rubs me up the wrong way. Let me just say though, I'm not a staff member that doesn't first let customers know the natural, simpler, safer, and often cheaper alternatives to whatever they are after, first. I always do. But it's when they're not willing to hear it (coz Google self diagnosis surely means they need African Mango for weight loss and talking about their diet with me - who appears to know nothing - doesn't mean shit), I shut my mouth, and the product in question gets bought; for the sake of this post, it's that said calcium supplement.

Why do we need calcium anyways?

+ It is used by almost every cell in the body including the heart and nerves
+ It is necessary for muscle contraction
+ Needed for the development and maintenance of bone structure and teeth structure
+ For muscle contraction
+ For proper blood clotting
+ For nerve impulses to work optimally
+ To keep the body alkalised

Although we imagine our bones are permanent, they are actually being constantly renewed throughout our life and replaced with new bone tissue.  In fact, our entire skeleton is renewed approximately every seven years! So ensuring adequate calicum is very important. We want to prevent this day and age's ever so common osteoporosis instead of just dealing with it once we get it - which by then is irreversible.

So why do calcium supplements erk me?

As the dairy industry has forever told us how much we need sufficient calcium for our bones (silly them; they should have taken the protein debate instead and they might have gotten somewhere - dairy has pretty good protein levels, but does nothing to add calcium to our bones), we have always believed that we need to be consuming it (ie. dairy) everyday. And if we're not eating dairy, we must need a supplement. Basic math so-to-speak. Right?

Well, first up, as I mentioned above, dairy is a real crappy source of calcium --

Allow me a sec to explain pH here; on a scale of 0-14, 0 is super super acidic, and 14 is super super alkaline. Our blood pH sits beetween 7.35 and 7.45. If it's either side of this very specific range, somethings very wrong. Our stomach pH however sits at about a 2 so that our foods can be broken down. Ever had reflux? That burn? This will explain
why it hurts so much. It's literally acid.

So back to the dairy. It's naturally an acid-forming food. Not bad in of itself (apples turn into acid in our gut for exmple, and apples aren't a bad food), but too much of any acidic food will force our body to find alkaline minerals to balance back out, and stay within that 7.35-7.45 window. So where do these alkalne minerals come from then? Our bones. Calcium, magnesium, phosphorus... these are all alkaine minerals in our bones that get pulled out when our blood is too acidic. So explain to me how multiple servngs of dairy each day is helping our bones? "Countries with the highest rates of osteoporosis, such as the United States, England, and Sweden, consume the most milk. China and Japan, where people eat much less protein and dairy food, have low rates of osteoporosis." Nutrition Action Healthletter, June, 1993

So if not dairy then we must take a supplement right?

This is where my pet hate lies; "do you have a calcium supplement?"
It has always erked me long before I really understood anything about supplemental calcium. I knew only that calcium is often sourced from rocks... and I simply felt that calcium from rocks surely cannot be useful in our bodies. Yes, I said rocks.

Calcium citrate, calcium gluconate and calcium lactate, all readily available from health stores under various brand names, are all processed from limestone or chalk. Calcium hydroxyapatite is dervied from crushed animal bones. Vegetarian or not, I don't think my body needs crushed up bones, let alone limestone or chalk. To me, these are all foregin materials and my body is likely to have a hard time recognising something foreign, and then trying to process it into something useable. If nothing else, it's possibly a waste of money buying something that our bodies potentially cannot use.

Science (common sense, and intuition if you listen to it) tells us that calcium in a natural food complex is the best form of calcium to take, as our bodies can and do use the calcium in plants and food sources far better than they do from those that are not plant or food based (that's those rocks I mentioned above).

But before jumping into even the supplemental plant sources of calcium, my first recommendation is and will always be to get it from your foods. Plant based sources of calcium are far superior than any other regardless, and within them you'll also get other synergistic vitamins and minerals (such as vitamin D) that work with the calcium for better absorption. Some of my favourites include:

+ Tahini
+ Sesame seeds
+ Kale
+ Broccoli
+ Dark green leafy vegetables
+ Tofu
+ Sardines

If you still need a calcium supplement (an athlete, pregnant woman, peri- or post-menopausal woman, smokers, or a vegan that's sadly allergic to tahini?), I suggest getting your blood levels checked first by a doctor, and them assessing them with either your doctor or nutritionist. Be warned here though; if your doctor says you need a supplement, he'll no doubt prescribe that dodgy Caltrate from the chemist, or another formula made from rocks and chalk. So go chat to your local health shop chic. She will likely give you one of two products, and if not you can get them both online. These are the only calcium products I will happily sell someone;

+ Green Calcium from Green Nutritionals
+ Natural Calcium from LifeStream (Certified Organic)

These are both 100% pure, plant-sources of calcium sourced from marine plants and naturally rich in calcium as well as magnesium and another 72 (or there abouts) trace minerals from the ocean that are important and needed for optimum calcium absorption and bone and teeth health.
I have also compared the calcium content from these plant sources with a leading practitioner brand (which shall remain unnamed), and found them to be almost exactly the same.

So now that you know a little more about calcium supplements, and why we need calicum, you are better equipped to make the perfect decision for your and your body.

Psst... are you getting my newsletter yet? You're missing out on snippets of Thailand if not so get your butt over here and sign in today

Christie xx


  1. I was so indoctrinated by the dairy industry that when I stopped having milk I went to the doctor to ask if I needed a calcium supplement. She picked up my hand and looked at my fingernails (which grow like bamboo and naturally look like I've had a french manicure) laughed and told me to stop worrying and go home so she could look after the sick people.

    1. Haha great story Faith :) You're obviously getting adequate levels of calcium in your diet :)

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