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Agonizing Constipation from Calcium Pills for Bones

If calcium supplements cause agonizing constipation, how can you avoid it? Also, how can you get the calcium you need to keep your bones strong?

Some medications cause constipation as a side effect. Occasionally, people report that simple supplements can trigger agonizing constipation. As a result, one reader faced a dilemma:

Trying to Take Calcium Pills:

Q. Even the smallest amount of calcium supplement causes me severe constipation. Recently my doctor told me I should take calcium for osteoporosis prevention. Although I explained that it causes constipation, she insisted. So I tried again.

After that, I thought I would have to go to the emergency room. I was so backed up that I had to use Milk of Magnesia and enemas to get myself unblocked. I threw out my bottle of calcium and will not take it again. How else can I get the calcium I need without suffering?

Preventing Osteoporosis Without Agonizing Constipation:

A. The idea that calcium supplements are effective for preventing osteoporosis and fractures is controversial.

One review of 33 controlled studies found that

“the use of supplements that included calcium, vitamin D or both compared with placebo or no treatment was not associated with a lower risk of fractures” (Zhao, Zeng & Wang, JAMA, Dec. 26, 2017).

Getting Calcium from Food:

However, it is still important to consume adequate calcium. You could get the calcium you need from food. Milk is a rich source, and so are yogurt, kefir and mozzarella cheese. If dairy products are not for you, try dark green vegetables like kale, collards, turnip greens and bok choy. Tofu, almonds, sesame seeds, beans, canned salmon and sardines are other good sources of calcium that should not cause constipation.

Taking Care of Constipation:

Our recent interview with gastroenterologist Robynne Chutkan provides a number of ideas about how to ward off agonizing constipation. It is Show 1115: How You Can Conquer Constipation.

In it, you will learn about medications that can trigger constipation, how physical activity helps reduce it, and where to find the natural fiber you need to keep things moving.

You may also be interested in our free Guide to Constipation.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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