November 17, 2009

Causes, Treatments and Diet For Controlling High Calcium In Urine

Posted in Category : Common Ailments

A common misconception among most people is that calcium is necessary only to maintain healthy bones and teeth. But this is not all that calcium does. Calcium is one of the most important minerals in the human body. While 99% of calcium is stored in the human skeleton, calcium is also necessary for the proper functioning of the nervous system, circulation and muscles. There are tiny amounts of calcium in each and every cell of the body. The balance of calcium levels in these cells is so precarious that even a little too much or too little can affect the smooth working of the body.

High Levels of Calcium in Urine

Your kidneys play a major role in regulating the amount of calcium in the body. By monitoring the excretion and absorption of calcium in the body, the kidneys maintain a careful balance. Too much calcium in the urine (above 300mg/day) indicates a problem with the balance of calcium levels. A high level of calcium in the urine is also referred to as hypercalciuria and can be due to reasons such as:

  • Osteoporosis
  • Kidney stones
  • Kidney disease
  • Hyperparathyroidism
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Sarcoidosis
  • Certain cancers
  • Vitamin D toxicity
  • Rickets
  • Medications such as corticosteroids or diuretics
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Genetics
  • A diet high in calcium, sodium and protein

Treatment for high levels of calcium urine depends on the cause of the condition. For example, hypercalciuria caused by kidney stones will be treated with medications to dissolve the stone. There is a mistaken belief that a low calcium diet will help prevent recurring kidney stones. In fact, according to studies by the Harvard Medical School, dietary calcium is shown to reduce the formation of stones. Researchers encourage the DASH diet for people prone to kidney stones. The DASH diet or the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension is a balanced meal plan devised to help lower blood pressure. It includes a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol and high in fresh fruits, vegetable and low-fat milk products. In addition to a change in diet, high calcium levels can also be kept in check by monitoring the amount of vitamin supplements consumed. Recent research shows that the use of calcium and vitamin D supplements may be causing more harm than good. Keeping this in mind, it is now recommended that the long-term use of supplements should be avoided and blood and urine calcium levels be monitored if used regularly. In cases where the causes of the high calcium urine levels remain idiopathic or unknown, treatment usually includes medications such as thiazide diuretics, maintenance of a sodium restricted diet and an increase in fluid intake levels. This approach is usually enough to prevent further complications as a result of hypercalciuria.

High Levels of Calcium in Blood

A high level of blood calcium is known in medical terms as hypercalcemia.  Hypercalcemia can be caused by hyperparathyroidism or an over production of the parathyroid hormone. Other conditions that may lead to high blood calcium levels include certain cancers, kidney failure, excessive levels of vitamin D and hyperthyroidism. Treatment of hypercalcemia depends on the severity of the symptoms. If the increase in calcium levels is moderate, medications and a change in diet are generally prescribed. For more severe cases of hypercalcemia, hospitalization may be required to lower calcium levels.

According to the National Institutes of Health, an ideal diet for hypercalcemia should include:

  • A reduced intake of dairy products as over consumption of products such as milk, cheese, yoghurt and other similar foods can lead to hypercalcemia.
  • A restricted intake of seafood is recommended since seafood such as shrimp, salmon and cod are rich in vitamin D and can affect the regulation of calcium levels in the body.
  • Avoid all cooked greens such as turnip greens, spinach, collard greens and others until the condition is resolved. Since cooked greens are high in calcium they could affect blood calcium levels during the course of treatment.
  • A limited intake of eggs due to their high levels of vitamin D. If the case is severe, products containing eggs may also need to be restricted or reduced.
  • Other foods to avoid include asparagus, cabbage, tuna, mackerel, herring, watercress, almonds, oats, peppers, and kelp.

The danger of reducing or restricting calcium in your diet is that over time osteoporosis may develop. This could result in serious complications such as decreased bone density and an increased risk of fractures. A low intake of dietary calcium can also affect the blood’s ability to clot naturally. This may lead to poor healing and excessive bleeding.

Following a hypercalcemia diet will not help manage high levels of blood urine caused by cancers, kidney failure, parathyroid disorders and excessive levels of vitamin D. In such cases, treatment should target the underlying condition itself to see any improvement. A reduction of dietary calcium in such cases will therefore make no difference to overall blood calcium levels.