Understanding Calcium Functionally

There is more calcium in the human body than all the other minerals combined.  More calcium supplements are sold than any other mineral, but most of them are not absorbed from the GI tract.  Once absorbed, calcium has to be ionized before it can be utilized.  Not all forms of calcium can be easily ionized by the body.  Let’s take a look at how this works from a functional standpoint. 

Calcium Functions

Calcium serves many functions.  It forms the foundation of bones. It provides fuel for muscle contraction. It is essential for blood coagulation and nerve impulse.  It is used by the immune system in “fighting” infections. In a deficiency of sodium, it is used to buffer acid and maintain normal pH in the body fluids and tissue.

Calcium does not stand alone, however, even in the formation of bone.  Calcium is balanced proportionately by magnesium (5/1) and by phosphorus (10/4).  Magnesium controls calcium absorption and provides lubrication for muscle contraction.  Phosphorus opposes calcium and holds it in solution where it is needed in liquid form.  It’s also a systemic acidifier, which is important to the absorption of calcium in the GI tract.

Bone Composition

Your body needs a lot more than calcium to manufacture bones.  Bones are made of protein, minerals and vitamins.  Minerals present in bone are: calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, manganese, silica, iron, zinc, selenium, baron, sulphur, chromium, and dozens of others.  In order for bones to absorb the minerals Vitamin D must be present.  Collagen is also part of the bone and provides a matrix for bone formation.  As you can see, if you’re concerned about your bone health, you’ll need to take a full spectrum organic mineral supplement and trace minerals.  I will cover this topic in my next blog post.

The Role of Phosphorus

Phosphorus holds calcium in solution.  If the ratio between calcium and phosphorus becomes imbalanced, problems will arise.  If there is not enough phosphorus to hold the calcium in solution, the extra calcium will start precipitating out of the body fluids.  If it precipitates into your kidneys, it forms kidney stones.  If onto your teeth, it is called tartar.  If it’s in your bones, it’s called arthritis.  If in your blood vascular system, it’s called arterial sclerosis or calcified arteries.  If in your eyes, it’s called cataracts. All of these conditions are symptoms of phosphorus deficiency.  We need to take a phosphorous supplement that does not contain calcium to raise the phosphorous level, such as Phosfood Liquid by Standard Process Labs ($17/2 fl.oz.).  If the calcium level is low, then we have conditions like dental caries, the erosion of the teeth.  Looking at it from the dentist’s standpoint, this is the systemic cause of dental caries: high phosphorous, low calcium.  This does not mean we have too much phosphorous. It just means we don’t have enough calcium to buckled the phosphorous.


Calcium requires an acid environment in the GI tract for proper absorption.  People who have an alkaline GI tract just can’t absorb and assimilate calcium well.  Standard Process Labs makes a Calcium Lactate which is comprised of five grains of calcium and one grain of magnesium citrate.  This makes the pH of the total product 5.2, which is on the acid side. Seven is neutral, which straight calcium would be.

A word of caution about iron supplements:  Too much calcium in the GI tract prevents the absorption of iron.  Therefore iron and calcium supplements should not be taken together.


Calcium has to be ionized before it can be utilized in the body. To ionize is to give an electrical charge to a molecule being ionized. This is accomplished in the blood stream by our body’s enzyme system. The ionization of minerals makes them functional in our body tissues. If calcium is not ionized, for example, it stays in the fluid. The only kind of calcium you can ionize in your body is calcium bicarbonate.  Calcium lactate changes to calcium bicarbonate in just one step.  Whereas, limestone (calcium carbonate) goes through about a dozen changes to become calcium bicarbonate.  Don’t confuse calcium bicarbonate with calcium carbonate.

Calcium bicarbonate cannot be taken in a tablet form.  It is present in spring water, but if you put that same spring water in a tea kettle and boil it, the soft organic calcium bicarbonate changes to hard inorganic calcium carbonate, which is insoluble.  It precipitates to the bottom of the tea kettle in the form of limestone.

Calcium carbonate cannot be easily ionized in the blood stream and therefore is not readily available for use in the body.  It is circulated around and eventually deposited in muscles and on bones or turned into kidney stones for elimination.  Most commercial calcium products, including TUMS and ROLLAIDS, are calcium carbonate.  Some calcium products are formulated with calcium citrate which can be ionized, although not as easily as calcium lactate.

Chelated Organic Calcium 

Inorganic calcium becomes organic when chelated by the organic acids produced by plant roots, which absorb the calcium along with other minerals in a slightly acid soil. That’s why soil pH is very important in the vegetable garden.  Humus soil is very conducive to mineral chelation and absorption.  This is one of the benefits of organic gardening.

Getting back to calcium bicarbonate, you can’t make calcium bicarbonate tablets because as soon as you start drying the bicarbonate it changes to calcium carbonate.  So the closest that we can come to calcium bicarbonate is calcium lactate.

Calcium Lactate is one of Standard Process’ most popular products.  This is not a dairy product as it contains no whey or lactose and is safe for people allergic to milk products or lactose intolerant.  It’s also very affordable at $6 for 90 tablets ($20/330T, $42/800T).  For bone calcium, Standard Process mixes calcium lactate with a parathyroid base in a product called Cal-Ma Plus, which sells for $22/90T, $74/330T.  If you order through me by email add $13 for drop-shipping.

In my next blog post, I will explain bone resorption and remodeling and how drugs like Fosamax disable this process in a futile attempt to reverse osteopenia and osteoporosis.

Here’s wishing you a Healthy and Happy New Year!

Dr. Tony Palombo

References:  John Courtney, former head of Research & Development for Standard Process, Inc. for thirty years, now deceased.  His comments on products in the Clinical Reference Guide manual are adapted for use in this blog.