Commonly, calcium deficiency becomes more prevalent during menopause as the body’s hormones start to decrease. However, it can happen earlier if we do not eat a calcium-rich diet or have enough essential vitamins in our diet.
Calcium levels fluctuate at different times during a woman’s menstrual cycle. Hormones released from the ovaries, particularly estrogen, supports the intestinal absorption of calcium. Vitamin D, magnesium and vitamin K also help the absorption, regulation and retention of calcium. All of these vitamins also help to relieve PMS.
Studies show that typically the height of PMS is when calcium is at its lowest. Some suggest that eating more calcium-rich foods during the luteal phase ( the latter part of the menstrual cycle from ovulation to the 1st day or your period) can help with PMS symptoms.
Some specialists believe that women with PMS lose more calcium than they absorb from their food.
PMS symptoms like depression and anxiety can result from low calcium levels in the central nervous system. Calcium is not just responsible for healthy teeth and bones but also for muscle contraction and heart regulation. Calcium depletion inhibits neurotransmitters’ release from brain cells and can lead to stress, mood swings and affect your sleep.
Clinical trials have determined that calcium helps women with PMS. Calcium supports relief for most of the symptoms sustained in PMS.
Studies show that women who eat more calcium and vitamin D rich foods have a lower PMS risk and higher bone density.
Maintaining optimal calcium levels is, therefore, not only crucial for postmenopausal women in lowering their risks of osteoporosis but also for women suffering from PMS symptoms.
Here are some foods that are calcium and vitamin D rich and reduce PMS severity and increase bone health.
Sesame seeds are packed to the brim with organic minerals, especially calcium. Whole sesame seeds (unhulled) contain more calcium than milk. Just a quarter cup of natural sesame seeds gives you more calcium than a whole cup of milk. When the hulls of sesame seeds are removed it thought that calcium levels decrease considerably, however, the seeds are much easier to digest when made into butter or tahini so regardless of how you take your sesame seeds, they are still a powerhouse of calcium and a must add to any vegan and dairy-free diet.
Dark leafy greens.
Dark leafy greens like kale, collards, chard, spinach, broccoli are high in calcium and have the highest amounts of vitamin K and are rich in magnesium. These can be tougher for those with a vata type digestion, so make sure you cook with ample ghee and Avocado oil or add flax or hemp oil after cooking. Spices like fresh ginger, black pepper, cardamom and cumin are excellent digestives and add warmth to these bitter and astringent leaves. Greens are great for both pitta and Kapha types in abundance. Although not ideal until later in the postpartum period, the astringent and bitter taste affects your breast milk and give baby gas!
Dairy is incredibly high in calcium but lacks magnesium. However, it is a decent source of vitamin D. Vitamin D is also necessary to absorb and regulate calcium. Vitamin D is fat-soluble, so fat-free dairy means you are not processing vitamin D fully. It’s essential to consume full fat, good quality dairy that is organic, grass-fed where possible and non homogenised.
Pasture-raised cows have spent more time outside, eating grass-fed by the sun, culminating in higher levels of Vitamin D. Conventional dairy is packed full of hormones and antibiotics. The feed and treatment of cows are questionable, and the milk itself has been through multiple processes that render the milk difficult to digest. A2 milk is much easier to digest, even for those with lactose intolerance. Milk is fantastic for Vata and pitta types and should be used in moderation for kapha types, although full fat is still suggested just a lesser amount and cut with filtered water.
Bone Broth doesn’t have as much calcium as milk, but the minerals are more bioavailable and easily absorbed into the body. The pure nourishment and nutrients, including calcium, magnesium, and potassium from the bone, marrow and joints, are extracted during the cooking process. The result is exceptionally nutritious, delicious broth and has a nourishing and healing effect on our gut, bones, and overall health.
You get 162 mg of calcium in every 100 grams of dried figs. Figs are also a rich source of fibre and antioxidants.
Meat & fish
sardines, anchovies and salmon are fish with a high amount of calcium and essential omega 3 fatty acids.
Almonds & tofu
Almonds are high in calcium, and you can get a nice serving of calcium from tofu.
beans are a great source of calcium, although again, they can be aggravating for Vata types. Always soak beans beforehand and cook beans with asafetida (hing) and a stick of Kombu seaweed. This aids digestion, and the iodine in seaweed is helpful for thyroid health.