Calcium supplements are available as different types of tablet - chewable tablets, effervescent tablets and tablets to swallow whole. Read the label carefully to check how to take your tablets.
Calcium can interfere with the way other medicines are absorbed. If you are taking any other medicines ask your pharmacist for advice.
Calcium supplements rarely cause any side-effects.
About calcium supplements
|Type of medicine||Calcium supplement|
|Used for||Calcium deficiency|
As a phosphate binder in chronic kidney disease
|Also called||Adcal®; Cacit®; Calcichew®; Calcium-500®; Phosex®; PhosLo®; Renacet®; Sandocal®|
|Available as||Tablets, chewable tablets, effervescent tablets, and oral liquid|
Calcium is a naturally occurring substance which is important for healthy, strong bones. Our bodies usually get sufficient calcium from what we eat. Good sources of calcium in food are milk, hard cheese (such as cheddar or Edam), yoghurt, bread, calcium-fortified soya milk, and some vegetables (spinach and watercress). Sometimes though, our bodies need more calcium than normal - for example in childhood and during pregnancy or whilst breast-feeding. Also, as we become older our bodies may not absorb as much calcium as they once did. When there is not enough calcium in our diet for our body's needs then a calcium supplement may be useful.
Calcium tablets are also taken by people who have kidney problems. The levels of a substance in the body called phosphate can be too high in people with chronic kidney disease. Calcium binds to the phosphate and this allows it to be removed, helping to keep the levels normal.
Calcium supplements are also taken alongside other medicines for preventing or treating 'thinning' of the bones (osteoporosis). In this case calcium is often combined with vitamin D in chewable or effervescent tablets. More information about this can be found in the separate medicine leaflet called Calcium with colecalciferol.
Calcium supplements are available on prescription, or you can buy them without a prescription at pharmacies.
Before taking calcium supplements
To make sure this is the right treatment for you, before you start taking a calcium supplement it is important that your doctor or pharmacist knows:
- If you are pregnant or breast-feeding. This is because, while you are expecting or feeding a baby, you should only take medicines on the recommendation of a doctor.
- If you have kidney problems, or if you have ever had kidney stones.
- If you have a condition called sarcoidosis which causes inflammation, particularly in your lungs and lymph system.
- If you know you have too much calcium in your blood or urine. This can happen with some cancers or with certain medicines for high blood pressure.
- If you are taking levothyroxine for an underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism). This is because calcium affects how well your body absorbs levothyroxine.
- If you are taking any other medicines. This includes any medicines you are taking which are available to buy without a prescription, as well as herbal and complementary medicines.
- If you have ever had an allergic reaction to a medicine.
How to take calcium supplements
- Before you start this treatment, read the manufacturer's printed information leaflet from the pack. The leaflet will give you more information about how to take the supplement, and also a full list of side-effects which you may experience.
- If you are prescribed calcium by a doctor, you will be told how many tablets to take each day and when to take them. If you have purchased the tablets from a pharmacy, read the label on the preparation carefully to find out how to take them.
- Some tablets should be swallowed whole without being chewed, other tablets must be chewed before being swallowed, and some need to be dissolved in water. If you are unsure how to take your tablets, ask your pharmacist for advice.
- Calcium supplements can interfere with the way your body absorbs other medicines so you may need to take these at a different time to your calcium - please ask your pharmacist for advice. Medicines that may be affected include levothyroxine (thyroid hormone) and certain antibiotics.
- If you forget to take a dose don't worry, just leave out the missed dose and take the next when it is due. Do not take two doses together to make up for a forgotten dose.
Getting the most from your treatment
- Try to eat a balanced diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables and good sources of calcium such as milk and yoghurt.
- If you are due to have an operation or any dental treatment, tell the person carrying out the treatment which medicines you are taking.
- If you buy any medicines, check with your pharmacist that they are suitable to take with a calcium supplement.
Can calcium supplements cause problems?
Along with their useful effects, most medicines can cause unwanted side-effects although not everyone experiences them. It is rare for calcium supplements to cause side-effects but the table below lists some that may occur. You will find a full list in the manufacturer's information leaflet supplied with your medicine. The unwanted effects often improve as your body adjusts to the new medicine, but speak with your doctor or pharmacist if any of the following side-effects continue or become troublesome
|Rare calcium side-effects - these affect less than 1 in 1,000 people who take this medicine||What can I do if I experience this?|
|Feeling sick, stomach upset, or loose, watery stools (diarrhoea)||Drink plenty of water and stick to simple food - avoid rich or spicy meals|
If you experience any other symptoms which you think may be due to this medicine, speak with your doctor or pharmacist.
How to store calcium supplements
- Keep all medicines out of the reach and sight of children.
- Store in a cool, dry place, away from direct heat and light.
- Keep containers tightly closed to prevent moisture affecting the tablets.
Important information about all medicines
Never take more than the prescribed dose. If you suspect that you or someone else might have taken an overdose of this medicine, go to the accident and emergency department of your local hospital. Take the container with you, even if it is empty.
This medicine is for you. Never give it to other people even if their condition appears to be the same as yours.
Do not keep out-of-date or unwanted medicines. Take them to your local pharmacy which will dispose of them for you.
If you have any questions about this medicine ask your pharmacist.
Further reading & references
- Manufacturer's PIL, Calcichew® 500 mg Chewable Tablets; Takeda UK Ltd, electronic Medicines Compendium. Dated October 2015.
- Manufacturer's PIL, Cacit® 500 mg Effervescent Tablets; Warner Chilcott UK Ltd, electronic Medicines Compendium. Dated December 2014.
- British National Formulary; 71st Edition (Mar-Sep 2016) British Medical Association and Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, London
Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. EMIS has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but makes no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other healthcare professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.
Mr Michael Stewart
Mr Michael Stewart
Dr John Cox