We all know about calcium. We hear about it endlessly when we are talking about bone health, and everyone knows that it is essential in building strong bones. We won’t go into that in this article. What we want to feature is calcium’s important role in immune function.
Multiple studies have shown that the cells of our immune system need calcium in order to communicate. As we have explained in our article, The Basics Of The Immune System, our body’s defenses are made up of a large variety of cells. Each one of these cells plays a unique function, such as recognizing threats, eating pathogens and preparing the body’s defenses.
Our body’s initial defenses are called the innate immunity. This is a general response to any threat. The second part of our immune system is called the adaptive immunity. This allows us to learn and adapt to encountered diseases, creating a stronger immune system. In order for this to happen, cells need to communicate.
Our cells communicate with each other in various ways. Some methods are physical, such as bumping and pushing. Some use minute electrical signals. Chemical communication is also utilized. When immune system however relies on chemical communication to stimulate responses, and Calcium is the chemical it utilizes most frequently.
The first cells (phagocytes) to respond to a threat take information back to our white blood cells. The white blood cells are then able to communicate amongst themselves and produce a variety of cells which are better suited to fight the threat. Some cells go out and seek any pathogen remaining, others begin producing antibodies which provide us with long term immunity to disease. Still others regulate processes like inflammation.
Without calcium, none of these processes would be possible. Lymphocytes, B Cells, T Cells and antibodies all use calcium to create their communication processes. If we do not get enough calcium our adaptive immune system will not work. Even worse, our immune system may malfunction, which leads to several dangerous conditions.
We need to make sure to take enough calcium in our diets to maintain healthy immune function. While milk is regularly touted as one of the top calcium sources, the truth is that some vegetables are much higher in this nutrient. Malunggay for example, has 17 times more calcium per 100g than milk does! See the chart below for examples of calcium rich food.