- What are calcium salts? How do calcium salts work?
- What are calcium salts used for?
- What are the side effects of calcium salts?
- What is the dosage for calcium salts?
- Which drugs or supplements interact with calcium salts?
- Are calcium salts safe to take if you are pregnant or breastfeeding?
- What else should you know about calcium salts?
What are calcium salts? How do calcium salts work?
Calcium is an important mineral required for the proper functioning of many organs and tissues. Calcium is needed for the heart, skeletal muscles, and nervous system to work properly. Additionally, calcium plays an important role in blood coagulation (stops bleeding).
Our bones store calcium which can be released depending on our body's needs. Calcium is naturally found in many of the foods we eat. Calcium supplements are needed when we are unable to get enough calcium from the foods we eat.
Calcium is available in various forms as salts combined with other elements which differ in the amount of calcium they contain. Because of the various forms in which calcium exists, different formulations of calcium supplements are not interchangeable on an mg per mg basis; they do not contain the same amounts of calcium. In order to compare forms of calcium, elemental calcium (i.e., the amount of calcium excluding the other elements with which the calcium is combined) can be expressed in milliequivalents (mEq) or (mg) with 1 mEq equal to approximately 20 mg). Listed below are the commonly used calcium salts and their respective calcium content.
- Calcium acetate: 250 mg (12.5 mEq) per gram
- Calcium carbonate: 400 mg (20 mEq) per gram
- Calcium chloride: 270 mg (13.5 mEq) per gram
- Calcium citrate: 210 mg (10.5 mEq) per gram
- Calcium Glubionate: 64 mg (3.2 mEq) per gram
- Calcium gluconate: 93 mg (4.65 mEq) per gram
- Calcium lactate: 130 mg (6.5 mEq) per gram
Brand names for calcium salts are Cal-Citrate, Cal-Lac, Calcionate, Calciquid, Calcitrate, Calcium Acetate, Calcium Chloride, Calciym Citrate, Calcium Gluceptate, Calcium Gluconate, Calcium Lactate, Calphosan, Calphron, Citracal, Citracal Liquitab, Citrus Calcium, Eliphos, Neo-Calglucon, Phos Cal, PhosLo, Phoslyra, Ridactate, Rolaids, Oysco, and Oyster Shell, Tums.
Calcium salts are available in generic form over the counter (OTC) without a prescription.
What are calcium salts used for?
- Calcium supplements are used in individuals who are unable to get enough calcium from their regular diet. Severe deficiency can result in low levels of calcium in the blood (hypocalcemia).
- Calcium supplements are commonly used to prevent osteoporosis (bone loss).
- Injectable calcium may be used to treat patients in cardiac arrest or those with life threatening cardiac arrhythmias (abnormal heartbeats).
- Injectable calcium may be used to treat severe hyperkalemia (abnormally high levels of blood potassium), or hypermagnesemia (abnormally high levels of blood magnesium).
- Calcium salts also are used as antacids.
What is the dosage for calcium salts?
Doses of calcium supplements are different for different patients. Dosing depends on age, reason for taking the calcium, formulation used, and other patient specific factors.
General recommendations to prevent calcium deficiency are as follows:
- Adults ≥ 51 years of age 1200 mg by mouth per day (range 1000-1500 mg per day)
- Postmenopausal women 1200 mg by mouth per day
- Adults 19-50 years of age 1000 mg by mouth per day
- Children and adolescents 9-18 years 1300 mg by mouth per day
- Children 4-8 years of age 1000 mg by mouth per day
- Infants 6-12 months of age 200 to 260 mg by mouth per day (from all sources including breast milk, formula, and solid food)
- Neonates and infants < 6 months of age 200 mg by mouth per day (sources of calcium should only include breast milk, formula, or food)
Which drugs or supplements interact with calcium salts?
- Injectable calcium should be avoided in patients taking cardiac glycosides such as digoxin (Lanoxin) because the combination increases the risk for the development of arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms).
- Calcium salts may interfere with the absorption of oral phenytoin (Dilantin). Therefore, administration of phenytoin and calcium salts should be separated by at least 2 hours.
- Calcium salts also may interfere with the absorption of some antibiotics. Administration of tetracyclines or quinolone antibiotics and calcium salts should be separated by at least 2 hours.
- Calcium salts may decrease the absorption of thyroid hormones. Levothyroxine (Synthroid) and other thyroid hormones must be taken at least 4 hours before or after calcium supplements.
Are calcium salts safe to take if you are pregnant or breastfeeding?
- Adequate intake of calcium is important to maintain a healthy pregnancy, and for the proper growth and development of the fetus. No evidence of harm has been reported with the normal daily intake of calcium within the recommended dose limits. All pregnant women should seek the advice of their doctor or pharmacists to ensure that their daily intake of calcium is adequate.
- Calcium supplementation is thought to be safe and effective when used during breastfeeding. Breast milk naturally contains calcium, and calcium supplementation does not have any significant effect on the amount of calcium normally found in human milk.
What else should you know about calcium salts?
What preparations of calcium salts are available?
- Calcium acetate oral capsules: 667 mg
- Calcium acetate oral solution: 667 mg/5 ml
- Calcium acetate oral tablets: 667 mg
- Calcium chloride solution for injection 10%
- Calcium citrate oral tablets: 200 and, 950 mg
- Calcium gluconate oral tablets: 50, 500, and 650 mg
- Calcium gluconate solution for injection: 10%
- Calcium carbonate oral tablets: 500, 750, and 1000 mg
How should I keep calcium salts stored?
- Tablets should be stored at room temperature, away from heat, moisture, and direct sunlight. All medications should be kept away from children and pets.
Calcium salts (Cal-Citrate, Tums) are used to supplement calcium in the diet of individuals who cannot get enough calcium from their regular diet; to prevent osteoporosis, and to treat cardiac arrest and hyperkalemia. Side effects, drug interactions, warnings, dosage, and pregnancy and breastfeeding information should be provided prior to using any drug or supplement.
Multimedia: Slideshows, Images & Quizzes
Osteoporosis Super-Foods for Strong Bones With Pictures
What sweetener is loaded with calcium? These bone-building super foods can help stave off osteoporosis, and many of them will...
What Is Osteoporosis? Treatment, Symptoms, Medication
Osteoporosis is a disease characterized by low bone mass and density. Osteoporosis causes symptoms of weak, thin, fragile bones....
Sudden Cardiac Arrest - Test Your Heart Health IQ
Take the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Quiz. Learning about this potentially deadly condition may save a life.
GERD Quiz: Test Your Digestive Diseases IQ
Who is at risk for developing GERD? Are you? Take this quiz to learn what GERD is, if you're at risk, and what you can do about...
Osteoporosis Quiz: What is Osteoporosis?
What are the causes, symptoms, and risk factors of osteoporosis? Quiz yourself about vitamin deficiency, maintaining bone...
Picture of Gastroesophageal Reflux (GERD)
The stomach contents regurgitate and back up (reflux) into the esophagus The food in the stomach is partially digested by...
Picture of Osteoporosis
Thinning of the bones with reduction in bone mass due to depletion of calcium and bone protein. See a picture of Osteoporosis and...
Picture of Osteoporosis Progression
Bone mass (bone density) is the amount of bone present in the skeletal structure. See a picture of Osteoporosis Progression and...
Related Disease Conditions
Intestinal Gas and Gas Pain
Intestinal gas and painful bloating are common. Learn about what causes gas pain and how eliminating certain foods from your diet can help relieve symptoms.
Heartburn is a burning sensation experienced from acid reflux (GERD). Symptoms of heartburn include chest pain, burning in the throat, difficulty swallowing, the feeling of food sticking in the throat, and a burning feeling in the chest. Causes of heartburn include dietary habits, lifestyle habits, and medical causes. Treatments for heartburn include lifestyle changes, OTC medication,prescription medication, and surgery.
GERD (Acid Reflux, Heartburn)
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), also called acid reflux, can cause symptoms like heartburn, chest pain, regurgitation, and nausea. Learn about causes, diagnosis, treatment and prevention.
Indigestion (Dyspepsia, Upset Stomach Pain)
Indigestion (dyspepsia, upset stomach) can be caused by problems related to, or not related to the gastrointestinal tract. Signs and symptoms are upper abdominal pain, belching, nausea, vomiting, abdominal bloating, and abdominal distention. Treatment depends upon the cause.
Low Blood Sugar (Hypoglycemia)
Low blood sugar or hypoglycemia occurs when blood sugar is dangerously low and is often complication of type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Learn about symptoms, dangers, and treatment.
High Potassium (Hyperkalemia)
Hyperkalemia is an abnormally high level of potassium in the blood. Hyperkalemia symptoms include nausea, fatigue, tingling sensations, or muscle weakness. Hyperkalemia may also cause no symptoms. Hyperkalemia treatment may include a low-potassium diet, medications, and intravenous glucose and insulin. Causes of hyperkalemia include kidney dysfunction, certain medications, adrenal gland diseases, and potassium shifts.
Learn about osteoporosis, a condition characterized by the loss of bone density, which leads to an increased risk of bone fracture. Unless one experiences a fracture, a person may have osteoporosis for decades without knowing it. Treatment for osteoporosis may involve medications that stop bone loss and increase bone strength and bone formation, as well as quitting smoking, regular exercise, cutting back on alcohol intake, and eating a calcium- and vitamin D-rich balanced diet.
Sudden Cardiac Arrest
Sudden cardiac arrest is an unexpected, sudden death caused by sudden cardiac arrest (loss of heart function). Causes and risk factors of sudden cardiac arrest include (not inclusive) abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias), previous heart attack, coronary artery disease, smoking, high cholesterol,Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome, ventricular tachycardia or ventricular fibrillation after a heart attack, congenital heart defects, history of fainting, heart failure, obesity, diabetes, and drug abuse. Treatment of sudden cardiac arrest is an emergency, and action must be taken immediately.
Heartburn During Pregnancy
Heartburn during pregnancy is quite common. During pregnancy the lower esophageal sphincter muscle becomes weakened , which likely occurs due to the effect of the high levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone during pregnancy. Fortunately, this resolves after pregnancy. Management of heartburn during pregnancy are generally involves lifestyle changes and avoiding foods that promote heartburn, for example, don't smoke, avoid tight clothing, eat small, frequent meals, chew gum, or sip liquids.
Treatment & Diagnosis
Medications & Supplements
Report Problems to the Food and Drug Administration
You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit the FDA MedWatch website or call 1-800-FDA-1088.