We all know that calcium plays a big part in healthy teeth and bones; we see it on all the milk and cheese string adverts. Doctors advise plenty of dairy intake to young children to ensure proper skeletal development however there are much better ways I believe in keeping calcium levels up in the body. Too much dairy really doesn’t help the body at all. It can overload the liver and create cold and dampness in the lung and large intestine. Better places to source calcium are tofu, white beans such as soya, green leafy vegetables such as kale, pak choi, broccoli, parsley, watercress, sesame seeds and tinned fish such as sardines and pilchards or whitebait, where you can eat the bones. Spinach and chard however due to their high oxalic acid content prevent their calcium absorption.
Ahhh dem bones, dem bones, we tend to think of them as solid and set but in reality they are dynamic and ever changing. In children, cells are being added constantly but that dynamism doesn’t stop when we stop growing. Cells are continually forming and being reabsorbed by the body. The process of recycling is governed by the kidney. Excess calcium is excreted here or reabsorbed if the body’s calcium is low. 99% of calcium is stored in the bones and teeth but a critical 1% is contained in the body’s soft tissues and is vital for the nervous system and muscle control. Here the western view corresponds with Chinese medicine, where the Kidney and Bladder Organs and Meridians govern the skeletal structure and the nervous system. They are seen to be our very core, where our essence of life is stored, so it is essential to ensure that they are supported. There is no point in eating calcium building foods if it is to be lost through leaky kidneys, especially important in an aging body where bone demineralization (osteoporosis) can occur. So support the kidneys, great foods to do this are sesame seeds, walnuts, miso soup, oats and barley (also see recipe blog – positive life winter recipes). The kidney and Bladder meridian loves a salty taste so take food which has this flavour. The best to my mind is seaweed, sprinkle it in crunchy salads or soak it, chop it and add it to rice or any other grain. Seaweeds are so packed full of the whole range of vitamins and minerals I cant recommend them highly enough. As ever in Chinese medicine the principle of yin yang applies and overloading the body with salt can seriously negatively affect kidney function, high sodium leading sometimes to kidney stones. Other diuretics such as coffee can also inhibit calcium absorption. I am not here to reject coffee or any other substance rather to encourage connection with your body. To ask what it needs and to allow space to listen to the answer.
If you have ever put a few grains of salt on your tongue you will know that contracting feeling. It draws all the moisture to its centre and that contracting energy that links it to calcium. Another of calcium’s function is to enable the muscles to contract. It even plays a part in the contraction of blood cells as they clot within the body. Our body is constantly contracting and relaxing, for example the action of peristalsis enables food to move through the whole digestive tract. From the oesophagus to the large intestine, continually moving, tightening and letting go, often we are unaware of this movement. Just as in a healthy life there is a search for the balance between control and flow, for being and doing, so too this is reflected within the body. Calcium is responsible for control and contraction whilst magnesium oversees the relaxation and letting go. The two are ever intertwined just like yin and yang.
Magnesium will be the topic of my next blog, just press the follow button so you don’t miss a thing.
I hope you enjoyed my first blog and that you found it helpful, please feel free to leave comments or questions in the box below.