Hypercalcemia

he parathyroid glands are located on the back side of the thyroid glands, and are responsible for producing parathyroid hormone. This hormone plays an important role in the regulation of calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D. When calcium levels are low, the body responds by increasing the secretion of parathyroid hormone, which in turn increases the calcium levels in the blood. Hyperparathyroidism involves the excess production of parathyroid hormone, which in turn is due to overactivity of one or more of the parathyroid glands. From time to time I’ll have someone ask me “Is there is a natural treatment solution for hyperparathyroidism?”

In order to answer this, it’s important to look at the reasons why someone might develop hyperparathyroidism. There are two types of hyperparathyroidism.

Primary Hyperparathyroidism. This is the most common cause of hypercalcemia (1). The diagnosis of primary hyperparathyroidism is confirmed in the presence of hypercalcemia and either normal or elevated parathyroid hormone levels (1). The most common cause of this is due to an adenoma, which is a benign tumor. On rare occasions a malignant tumor is responsible for this condition. Hyperplasia (enlargement) of the parathyroid glands can be another cause of primary hyperparathyroidism.

Secondary Hyperparathyroidism. This is usually the result of another condition which lowers the calcium or vitamin D levels. Frequently it is associated with chronic kidney disease. The kidneys help with the conversion of vitamin D to its biologically active form, which is known as calcitriol (1,25-dihydroxycholecalciferol). If someone has kidney disease, then both the vitamin D and calcium levels can drop, and because of this the parathyroid glands will try to compensate for the decrease in the levels. In addition, when the glomerular filtration rate (GFR) falls, the phosphorus clearance decreases significantly, leading to hyperphosphatemia, and this is thought to be the principal cause of secondary hyperparathyroidism (2).

How Is Hyperparathyroidism Diagnosed?

Symptoms can be caused by damage to the organs from high calcium levels in the blood, or by loss of calcium from the bones, and can include bone pain, depression, feeling tired or weak, increased urine production, kidney stones, nausea and loss of appetite (3). However, in many cases hyperparathyroidism is diagnosed before any symptoms develop, and one of the main findings is a high serum calcium level on the blood test. This doesn’t mean that everyone who has a high serum calcium level has hyperparathyroidism, but when someone does have elevated calcium levels then it usually is a good idea to do a retest of the serum calcium, and in addition, to test the levels of parathyroid hormone, which are frequently increased as well in hyperparathyroidism.

What Is The Conventional Medical Treatment For Hyperparathyroidism?

Surgery is commonly recommended for those with primary hyperparathyroidism, and is advised in the presence of significant hypercalcemia, impaired renal function, osteoporosis, and in individuals younger than 50 years of age (1). However, if the calcium levels aren’t too high, renal function isn’t impaired, the bone density is normal, and the person isn’t experiencing any symptoms, then the medical doctor might take a more conservative approach. Medical management of mild disease includes using bisphosphonates, hormone replacement therapy, and calcimimetics (4). In some cases they won’t intervene and might just regularly monitor the serum calcium levels and bone density, and of course have you monitor your symptoms.

When surgery is indicated, the success rate is high, although rare complications include recurrent laryngeal nerve paralysis and hypoparathyroidism (5). At times it can be challenging to find the adenoma, and when this is the case then cervical exploratory surgery might be required (6). While in the past subtotal and total parathyroidectomies were common, these days more and more people with hyperparathyroidism undergo minimally invasive parathyroidectomy (MIP), which increases the chance of the person avoiding permanent hypoparathyroidism (7).

With secondary hyperparathyroidism, if the cause is due to a vitamin D deficiency then having the person supplement with vitamin D usually will be the recommended treatment. If the person has chronic kidney disease then this of course needs to be addressed. Just as is the case with primary hyperparathyroidism, phosphate binders and calcimimetics might be used in some cases. A parathyroidectomy is also a possibility in severe cases of secondary hyperparathyroidism (8).

Can Natural Treatment Methods Help with Hyperparathyroidism?

As for whether natural treatment methods can help with hyperparathyroidism, it depends on the cause. In cases of primary hyperparathyroidism, following a natural treatment protocol probably isn’t going to help much. However, keep in mind that this isn’t my area of expertise, as my practice focuses on thyroid and autoimmune thyroid conditions, and not parathyroid issues. If someone has hyperparathyroidism which is caused by an adenoma, and they want to give natural treatment methods a try, then they might want to look into methods such as the Gerson Therapy, which can help with many different health conditions, and can be especially successful when dealing with adenomas and carcinomas.

If someone has secondary hyperparathyroidism then this stands a greater chance of being helped by following a natural treatment protocol. However, if someone has hyperparathyroidism due to chronic kidney failure then certain precautious need to be taken, such as eating a low protein diet. Whether or not you have primary or secondary hyperparathyroidism, if you’re interested in trying to treat it naturally then in my opinion it’s best to work with a natural healthcare professional.

In summary, hyperparathyroidism involves the excess production of parathyroid hormone, and there are two different types. Primary hyperparathyroidism is frequently caused by an adenoma, although in some cases it can be caused by a malignant tumor or hyperplasia. Secondary hyperparathyroidism can be caused by a vitamin D deficiency, and is frequently caused by chronic kidney disease. There is a greater chance of people with secondary hyperparathyroidism being helped by following a natural treatment protocol, although it still might be worth looking into natural treatment methods for those who have primary hyperparathyroidism. This is especially true for those who are asymptomatic and/or only have slightly elevated serum calcium levels.

Hypercalcemia is a state in which there is simply too much calcium in the body. Although it is most commonly a result of overactive parathyroid glands, it can also be a result of an unbalanced diet, too much vitamin D, dehydration, certain medications, a sedentary lifestyle, and some medical conditions (including cancer, tuberculosis, sarcoidosis). In some cases, hypercalcemia can also be an inherited genetic condition.
It is important to take care of this condition because it can lead to renal insufficiency, kidney stones, and other health issues.

Hypercalcemia Symptoms

Mild hypercalcemia may be hard to identify, but some common symptoms include:

A simple blood test by your physician is recommended to confirm calcium levels in your body. If it turns out that you are suffering from high calcium levels, there are some important steps you should take to get your levels back where they belong.

Hydrate

The first and perhaps most important step is to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Drinking at least 10 8-ounce glasses of pure water every day will help flush your kidneys and eliminate the excess calcium from the body.

Eat Your Grains

Eating a variety of grains and legumes will help prevent your body from absorbing too much calcium, thanks to the phytic acid in these foods. Beans and wheat germ will do the most for reducing calcium, so try incorporating a variety of these into your diet.

Reduce Phosphate

Because hypercalcemia is often caused by overactive parathyroid glands, decreasing the amount of phosphate in your body is especially crucial to restore a proper level of calcium. Foods that are high in phosphate, and thus important to avoid or reduce, include:

  • Most dairy products (milk, cheese, butter, yogurt)
  • Chocolate
  • Cereals
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Eggs
  • Chicken
  • Lentils
  • Carbonated beverages
  • Soy products
  • Whole grains

Because this is a pretty extensive list, you don’t need to necessarily eliminate all of these items from your diet forever, just reduce overall how many high-phosphate foods you consume.

Reduce Vitamin D Intake

If you have high calcium levels, taking a vitamin D supplement or consuming too much vitamin D in your diet will only exacerbate the issue. If you know for sure that you have hypercalcemia, it is recommended that you keep your vitamin D intake in check.

Chaste Tree

This herb, with a botanical name of vitex agnus castus, is crucial for treating high calcium levels because it helps regulate the parathyroid gland. Recommended dosage is 500-1000 mg every day.

Get Your Normal Amount of Calcium

This may seem absurd, but a diet low in calcium generally contributes to hypercalcemia. If there isn’t enough in the diet, your body will trigger your bones to release calcium into the blood. It wil also tell your digestive tract to absorb more calcium and your kidneys to excrete less calcium. It is vital, therefore, that you get your normal amount of calcium. There are many non-dairy options to help you get the right amount of calcium.

Lifestyle Changes to Reduce High Calcium Levels

As with most things, hypercalcemia is intricately linked to your lifestyle. It is important to quit smoking and to incorporate exercise into your routine; strength-training and weight-bearing exercises are the best for keeping your body healthy overall. Don’t forget to drink plenty of fluids!

Although it is not extremely common, hypercalcemia should be taken seriously and treated right away. Once you’ve determined that you have high calcium levels in your body, utilize these natural recommendations as quickly as possible to avoid any (further) damage or detrimental side effects in the body.

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