Calcium Supplementation for Osteoporosis – A Cause of Divorce?
Caveat Emptor- Let the Consumer Beware!
Calcium supplementation causes constipation. It is one of the best kept secrets from women who are, by far, the major consumers taking this supplement en masse for many years in an attempt to reduce the degree of postmenopausal osteoporosis.
It is generally believed that women are naturally more constipated than men for reasons unknown. Though not precisely quantitated in large clinical studies constipation leads to mood and psychological changes ranging from depression, fatigue, irritability and loss of patience among others. I observed this phenomenon a number of years ago and recently decided to conduct an informal clinical survey in men- including yours truly- and women with regular bowels habits who occasionally become constipated. (Please don’t ask me about how I conducted the survey)!
The following, more or less, represent typical responses: “I feel like crap and become irritable.” “People get on my nerves.” “I become irritated, and my spouse stays away from me.” “I feel depressed.” Almost every response carried with it some type of mood negativity.
In the early 80’s the NIH published the findings of a group of medical experts who recommended calcium supplementation for the prevention of postmenopausal osteoporosis. Shortly after, the consumption of calcium increased dramatically, and its extensive consumption by women continues to this day. It is not unreasonable to assume that this has had added to this natural state of constipation
Parallel to the substantial increase in calcium consumption was a substantial increase in our divorce rate. Though there is no statistical evidence to support a direct link between the two, from a medical point of view, I believe it is not unreasonable to assume that chronic negative mood changes among men and women due to constipation from whatever cause, can lead to unsettling relationships with others including marriage partners, the latter which can eventually lead to divorce.
One may at least legitimately question my observation of calcium’s broad constipation effect, let alone the divorce rate. You may wonder why this is not generally known, if it’s so common. The reason is most likely that Americans don’t like to discuss their bowels movements with others. Yet they have no problem openly discussing other maladies such as arthritis, heart disease and cancer but bowel movement irregularities is a very private affair! This mindset of constipation-secrecy transfers to children. For example, the media amply covers the problems of autistic children and also how they negatively impact the quality of life of their families. (By the way, there may be some good news. A study in autistic children conducted at Vanderbilt University reported that melatonin decreased insomnia, a common disruptive condition of this population, resulting in a significant improvement of their condition as well as the quality of life of their families). But the media and the general public is silent about the serious problems of constipation in children. This condition results in an unhealthy loss of self-esteem and keeping to themselves isolated which often leads to some degree of family disruption. A recent front-page, NY Times article did cover the subject of childhood constipation but almost exclusively dealt with the potential dangers of the highly effective laxative, Miralax, which, I’m sure, was very unsettling news to many parents. The article, instead, should have also described the specific problems of the condition itself and how this laxative unequivocally benefits the children and families. FYI, media folks love to write about the negative aspects of therapies. It’s much easier to write about and also sells lots of newspapers.
And finally, here’s something I think you should know about and discuss with your physician. Magnesium is an essential structural component of bone, and there are several human or clinical studies that indicate it may increase bone density. In addition, it has an opposite effect on bowel movements than calcium causing loose stools and diarrhea. It may make sense to take both of them. Magnesium supplementation offers other potential health benefits particularly in diabetic patients. I’ll address these potential benefits in future posts.
We are increasingly exposed to long term impacts of many things from dietary supplements, pharmaceuticals and many other types of stimuli such as television, computers and cell phones. Unfortunately, we don’t, in most cases, have the tools to measure the benefits versus the risks.