Q. I am lactose intolerant and have to take calcium supplements since I don’t drink milk. I have heard that these can cause kidney stones. Someone told me I should take Tums with calcium instead of calcium carbonate. Will this make a difference?
A. An article in the Annals of Internal Medicine (April 1, 1997, p. 497) showed that foods high in calcium help protect against kidney stones while calcium supplements increase the risk of stones by about 20 percent. A more recent review of the medical literature (Journal of the American College of Nutrition, Oct. 27, 2008) concluded that “most of the studies show no increase in stone risk with high calcium intake (from either diet or supplements).”
Regardless of the risk, taking your supplement with meals may protect you from any purported problem. You can also lower your likelihood of a kidney stone by making sure your diet is rich in potassium and magnesium from fruits and green leafy vegetables. Drink lots of liquids for added protection, but stay away from grapefruit juice which may boost the danger.
The active ingredient in Tums is calcium carbonate, which is also found in many calcium supplements. We don’t think there is a substantial difference.