A good, balanced diet with regular exercise will help to keep you fit and healthy.
On this page you will find answers to some commonly asked questions about your diet and hypopara, a list of foods containing calcium and......our very own recipe cards designed especially for you!
Is diet important in hypopara?
Very. Eating regular meals with a good calcium content is, along with taking your medication, the best thing you can do to help keep your calcium levels stable - and keep healthy. Food is a tool you can use to manage your levels better. Eating good fresh food, avoiding processed food and keeping hydrated can make a real difference to how you feel.
How much calcium do I need?
Your daily calcium intake is made up from the food you eat and the calcium supplements you take each day. The total needs to be kept at around 1200mg - 2000mg a day maximum. This is important to help prevent kidney problems. If you already have kidney problems, your medication will be addresses and you will be carefully monitored. Useful advice on diet in Chronic Kidney Disease has been produced by the Edinburgh Renal Unit here.
Alfacalcidol works by helping your body to absorb calcium from your food. If your dose is high enough you can get all the calcium you need from your diet without having to take (m)any calcium supplements. This is easier on the kidneys. Calcium output can be measured by 24 hour urine tests.
Should I take my medication with food?
Always take alfacalcidol and calcium supplements with food. Calcium will be better absorbed if taken with vitamin C and some protein. You don't have to take all your medication at breakfast time - you can split your alfacalcidol and calcium supplement doses over the day to take with meals. Many people find this helps to prevent calcium levels swinging and keeps calcium levels much more stable over the day.
Does what I eat affect my calcium level?
Yes, what you eat can affect your calcium level so if you skip meals or leave long gaps between meals your calcium levels may fall. Conversely, if you go on a massive cheese binge don't be surprised when your levels rise. You can boost your calcium level quite quickly with a glass of milk or a handful of almonds or a helping of kale. Some food and drink can deplete calcium if you have too much of them, such as spinach, tomatoes, rhubarb, wholemeal bread, alcohol, caffeine and fizzy drinks.
Drinking water every day is important to keep you hydrated and your calcium stable but if you drink bottled water check the label - the calcium content can vary considerably.
Which foods contain calcium?
Dairy foods such as milk, yoghurt and cheese are very high in calcium. The Dairy Council provides various fact packed information leaflets on all these foods. The protein content in dairy foods helps calcium to be absorbed well but too much protein is not good for your kidneys so eat dairy foods in moderation. Luckily, there are plenty of other foods that are high in calcium - have a look at this food list:
Calcium food list
This is a useful list of food containing calcium from Great Westerm Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust which also gives other excellent dietary advice.
What's in a glass of milk?
Quite a lot, surprisingly. A 200ml glass of milk contains 250mg calcium. That's over a third of a calcium tablet. Milk also contains phosphorous, potassium, iodine, B2, B12 and is 3.3% protein.
Because of the protein, calcium is absorbed much more effectively so milk can be quite useful in an emergency when you need a quick boost. 'To achieve the same amount of calcium as from a 200ml glass of milk taking into account the calcium that is actually available for the body to use, we would have to consume 4 servings of broccoli or 63 brussels sprouts!' (Here's another Dairy Council factsheet all about milk. )
The body needs a small amount of protein every day. However, because the protein in dairy foods is high in fat and because failing kidneys struggle to filter protein dairy foods are best used in moderation or when quick calcium boosts are needed. in your daily diet there are plenty of alternatives. See the chart below. Plant based milks are a good alternative. Almond milk, for example, contains just as much calcium and vitamin D as cow's milk but about 1/4 of the protein.
Do I need to be on a low phosphate diet?
In hypopara, phosphorus levels are usually high. This is part of the condition and a low phosphate diet is not thought to help. Low phosphate diets are difficult to follow.
Phosphate food list
Recent advice on diet in Chronic Kidney Disease has been produced by the Edinburgh Renal Unit here and no longer recommends the need for a low phosphate diet, and instead advises moderation. This list from Basildon & Thurrock University Hospital is intended for renal patients and gives the foods containing low, medium and high phospate. HOwever
Help! Can you give me some recipe ideas?
Yes, we can! Food blogger and hypopara patient Sarah, aka North West Nosh, has developed a range of recipes that are high in calcium, magnesium, vitamin D and potassium to support the management of her hypoparathyroidism.
Sarah will be sharing her beautiful recipe cards with us – click here to go to the recipe page. Most recipes have a dairy, gluten or meat free option, so don’t be put off by the title!
© Liz Glenister 2016