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Tuesday, November 22, 2016

A Highly Effective, Cheaper Alternative to Calcium Supplements is Already in Your Kitchen

Photo credit: Chris Salt

The importance of calcium intake is grossly underrated. When you think of calcium, you probably only think of it as a necessity for strong teeth and bones, but this mineral is required for so much more. For example, did you know that the formation of your cells depend on calcium? Your heart rhythm, muscles, nerves, and your mental health also need a supply of this mineral in order to function properly. 
The health problems that can manifest from low calcium levels are mind-boggling. Sleep, is one example -- Insufficient calcium levels can prevent you from getting good quality, deep sleep. 

Could you be deficient in calcium?  
Hypocalcemia or "calcium deficiency" is more common than you'd think and it can have devastating effects on your health.

Signs of hypocalcemia
Hypocalcemia can be asymptomatic for some people while others may experience life-threatening symptoms. 

It's important to know all the symptoms, but here are some of the more common signs of low calcium levels.
  •  Muscle spasms/twitches, including in your face
  •  Muscle cramps
  •  Muscle weakness
  •  Numbness
  •  Shaking and trembling
  •  Loss of body control 
  •  Tingling sensations in your feet, hands, or lips
  •  Seizures 
  •  Slow or uneven heartbeat
  •  Lightheaded-ness 
  •  Cardiac arrest, in severe cases
  •  Anxiety
  •  Depression 
  •  Confusion
  •  Anger
  •  Hallucinations, including auditory hallucinations
Those last 5 are interesting, if not scary. If you have the signs of calcium deficiency, then first thing you should do is start implementing this important mineral into your diet. 

Let's talk about how you can get those calcium levels up without having to shell (no pun intended) out a fortune on expensive supplements. 

Photo credit: Fetching Photos
For an alternative to expensive, questionable calcium supplements, try getting your calcium from eggshells

I know, it sounds horrifying, when you imagine crunching and swallowing something as sharp and glass-like as broken eggshells. 

The truth is, eggshell calcium is made by grinding eggshells into a fine powder, so it's much smoother than chewing on glass shards.

Is eggshell calcium better than a supplement?
Aside from the fact that it's cheaper to use eggshells (and cheaper is sometimes better in my opinion), there are a couple of reasons that eggshells may be a better alternative to calcium supplements.
  •  Eggshell calcium (calcium carbonate) is said to be the perfect source of bio-available calcium, according to the research conducted in the1940's by Hungarian physician I. Krompecher. (Krompecher and his colleagues are the folks who developed the basics of therapeutic eggshell use.) The calcium in eggshells is similar to that found in our bones and teeth, so it's no surprise that eggshell calcium is at least a good source of calcium, if not "perfect," as Krompecher found.
*Bio-avaiable means that it's easily absorbed by the body. Some believe that our bodies don't always absorb minerals like calcium when we take them in the form of supplements. There's probably a reason why nutrition obtained from food sources (over supplements) is always the preferred and recommended route.

  • Eggshells can contain up to 27 important minerals (like magnesium, phosphorous, silicon) and 20 essential amino acids (such as lysine, cysteine, isoleucine) all of which are critical for healthy bones and teeth. 
  •  Store bought supplements often contain questionable ingredients like preservatives, additives, and who-knows-what-else. If you use organic, free-range eggs, you don't have to worry about the questionable ingredients that are found in supplements. Just be sure to opt for organic, free-range eggs.

Diseases That Benefit From Eggshell Calcium 
photo credit: Dawn Endico

1. Orthopedic diseases like osteoporosis.

Eggshell powder has shown significantly positive effects in the treatment and prevention of osteoporosis, according to researchers from the National Institute of Rheumatic Diseases. Furthermore, clinical studies found that eggshell powder decreases pain and osteoresorption (problems caused by decreased bone formation) while increasing mobility in women with senile osteoporosis and post-menopausal women with osteoporosis.

The study authors also noted that healing time was faster when eggshell calcium was used in the treatment of orthopedic problems such as osteoporosis.

2. Arthritis 
Eggshell calcium stimulates the growth of cartilage and decreases pain from arthritis, according to a study conducted on animals.

3. Bone Mineral Density
Another study, published in the British Journal of Nutrition, found that a year of taking eggshell calcium (added to a vitamin/mineral supplement) increased the bone mineral density in healthy, late post-menopausal women. 

4. Plaque and weak tooth enamel
Using an eggshell based toothpaste can strengthen tooth enamel and some folks are even using it to help remineralize their teeth and prevent cavities.

There's some information swarming the Internet claiming that  a dentistry school in the Philippines found that when used overtime, eggshell toothpaste leads to stronger enamel, cleaner teeth, and less plaque formation. I have to be upfront and say that I've had no luck finding any reputable source that mentions this "study."

5. Nutritional Rickets
Some parents use ground eggshells to prevent nutritional rickets and promote healthy bone tissue formation.  Dr. Krompecher, from the Biological Research Institute, began using crushed or ground eggshells to treat rickets in children back in the 40's. According to the study published in the International Journal of Clinical Pharmacy, Dr. Krompecher would administer up to 6 grams of eggshells daily to children with rickets.

Note: Low levels of phosphorous and Vitamin D are also known to cause rickets, so don't rely solely on calcium. Eggshells are commonly ground into a fine powder and added to foods for this purpose.

How To Make Your Own Eggshell Calcium
If you're as thrilled as I was to learn a simple way to get of calcium without spending a lot of money, then you'll want to make your own right away. There are a few slightly different ways to go about making eggshell calcium, but each method is pretty simple. If you want to make your own eggshell calcium, pick whichever method suits you and follow the instructions below:

1. Rinse the eggshells, but feel free to leave the nutritious "membrane" (the white papery film attached to the inside of the egg.)

2. Bake or Hard boil the eggs to kill any pathogens. Some people speculate that boiling the eggshells would diminish their mineral content. Reports have stated that this isn't the case except with the potassium content, which will leach out of the shells. Some people opt to bake them, which is what I do. Spread the shells out on a baking sheet and bake at 325 F for 15 minutes.

3. Crush 'em! (Use a food processor, coffee grinder or blender) Personally, this is my favorite part and you'll probably find it odd, but I actually enjoyed crushing them by hand (mortar and pestle style.) There's something a little soothing about the repetitive crunching of the shells. Either that or I had no other option but to crush them by hand, so I've convinced myself it was enjoyable! 

It's much more time consuming to crush the eggshells by hand. I have managed to crush a batch down to powder form, but you'll probably want to use a coffee bean grinder or a food processor if you have one. Just don't use the plastic bag + hammer method. I tried it the first time and it was a total fail. 

As for using a blender, it won't grind them down into a fine powder, but you can mortar and pestle the rest of the way or just toss your eggshell in the blender with smoothie ingredients.

4. Store
your eggshell calcium in a jar with a tight lid. Glass baby food jars work well, but the only jar I had on hand was a plastic instant coffee container. Some people store the jar of calcium in the fridge.

How to Make Calcium Citrate:
Calcium citrate is a more easily absorbed form of calcium for some people. You can make calcium citrate easily by adding either lemon juice or apple cider vinegar to your eggshells. I only tried making calcium citrate once, but I find the powdered method easier.  

Watch the step-by-step video tutorial by Living The Hedge Witch Life if you're interested in making your own calcium citrate.

How Much Eggshell Calcium Should You Take

1 teaspoon of crushed eggshell contains around 800 - 1,000 milligrams of calcium. Or around 400 milligrams per gram. The old study "Eggshell Calcium for the Prevention and Treatment of Osteoporosis" published in the International Journal of Clinical Pharmacy says 1 gram of powder contains 370 milligrams of calcium.

Obviously, the daily dosage of calcium will depend on your personal daily needs, so you'll have to adjust your dose accordingly. The most common "dosage" I've heard of people using is between half a teaspoon to  1 teaspoon daily. I'm not one for exact measurements, so I typically just dip my teaspoon in and eyeball it.

How Should You Take Eggshell Calcium?
If you ask me, the quicker and easier, the better. Well, when it comes to taking supplements. 

Most days, I just scoop a small amount of powder out (usually around half a teaspoon) and swallow with water or juice. However, you can add this virtually tasteless powder to many foods and drinks if you really care to.

Most people seem to prefer taking their supplements in smoothies. You can put your eggshell calcium in applesauce, oatmeal, juice, ice cream, thick soups, etc. You can even sprinkle it on your salad or other dishes. Just keep in mind that the powder will give your smoothies/foods texture. If small bits of powdered shell is bothersome, you might have to get creative.

How to Make Natural Toothpaste Using Eggshells 
You can make your own toothpaste using a scoop of your crushed eggshell powder and very few other ingredients. The best part about DIY toothpaste is that the recipes can be tweaked to include ingredients that fit your specific needs and taste.

Here is a quick video that tells you how to make a super simple eggshell toothpaste using coconut oil and eggshells

Baking soda and coconut oil are the most commonly used base ingredients. As long as you have those, you'll be able to make your own toothpaste right away.

Warning: Only use calcium carbonate for your toothpaste. Do not use calcium citrate -- it's too acidic for use on the enamel.

Marissa from the Becoming Kindred blog has a simple recipe for those of you who are interested in making your own eggshell-based toothpaste.

Note: Always remember that your body needs all its  important nutrients, vitamins, and minerals in order to properly utilize them, and calcium is no exception. It works with other vital nutrients and minerals. In other words, calcium can't do much for you if you're deficient somewhere else

Vitamin D3, Vitamin K, and Magnesium are some of the critical ones needed for calcium to be useful.

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