Your Parathyroid Glands: Defenders of Calcium


Our parathyroid glands are part of our endocrine system, the overly complicated, under appreciated system that controls all of our health. Chances are you’ve never heard of these glands; who hears about well-behaved glands?

But the parathyroid glands aren’t perfect. And they can be in trouble a long time before anybody notices. Well, you know something’s wrong, but everybody else seems to think you’re imagining things.

So let’s talk parathyroid!

Close by the thyroid lies four similarly named, but pretty much unrelated, endocrine glands, the parathyroids. These tiny glands, each the size of a grain of rice, control our calcium balance.

Calcium keeps our bones strong and provides electrical energy to our muscles and nerves.

When calcium runs low, the parathyroid hormones release calcium from our bones, prevent its loss in our urine and enhance calcium absorption in our intestines. We probably won’t even know when this normal process happens.

When calcium runs high, the body starts dumping the excess. Not too high, not too low, that’s the goal. High calcium means trouble, and our bodies go into protect mode.

But sometimes our bodies dump calcium when it’s not in our best interest, but because things are out of balance.

Calcium hits the skids when magnesium is scarce–as it usually is in today’s world. Our bodies balance calcium and magnesium 24/7; if magnesium levels are low, we dump calcium until it reaches magnesium’s level–and end up without enough of either. We’re in the ditch, but we
sure are balanced!

Worse, calcium goes rogue when there’s too much to dump. Instead of leaving via urine, it goes into arteries, which causes plaque deposits, or into heart valves, which means they don’t work well, if at all. Etc.

When our parathyroid glands falter, we’re more likely to have high calcium levels than low. High calcium levels cause fatigue, osteoporosis, kidney stones, heartburn, bone pain, heart palpitations, depression, headaches, an increased risk of breast or prostate cancer, sleep difficulties and general grumpiness. Or you may be symptom-free and discover the problem coincidentally.

What causes high calcium levels?

Well, taking too much calcium. We’re told to take a bunch every day, but we can get all the calcium we need from a reasonably healthy diet. And even when our bodies are dumping calcium as fast as they can, we keep taking more, because that’s we’re told is the right thing to do. This is not a good plan.

Or  we may have a parathyroid tumor; typically on only one parathyroid gland. Fortunately, parathyroid tumors are rare. If one shows up at your door, research doctors a lot. Most doctors never see a parathyroid tumor in a lifetime of practice.

Parathyroid glands can get damaged when the thyroid is removed. Sometimes all four get whacked, and without the parathyroids to keep calcium in balance, you end up with the all-out attack on your bones I mentioned.

Doctors tout removal of overactive thyroid glands, but it’s not a walk in the park. In fact, it’s just trading the symptoms of high thyroid for those of low thyroid, and it guarantees health problems for the rest of your life.

You might try a natural resolution to hyperthyroidism, such as with iodine/iodide supplements, before climbing onto the operating table. Iodine tamed overactive thyroids for years and years and years until a doctor at the National Institute of Health declared, without proof, that iodine is dangerous.

How often do parathyroids get whacked? The University of Michigan created new parathyroid glands in the lab. Now they’re working to fix real life problems–providing a permanent fix to inadvertent parathyroid removal. Which means there’s a market for them.

A blood test will tell the elevated calcium story. If your calcium’s high–even a little, perhaps still in the normal range, say 10 or so, you have a problem. Your doctor may suggest waiting until it reaches the official too-high level, 12, but you don’t want to do that. Why risk more trouble?

A solid vitamin/mineral program works best, but at a minimum stop taking calcium and bump up your magnesium intake. Too much magnesium at once can act as a laxative, so spread out the dose through the day, and, as with all vitamins and minerals, take it with meals. Make sure the meals include some saturated fat because we can’t absorb nutrition without sat fat.

God is good,
Bette Dowdell

About the author: Bette Dowdell defines determination. In a really deep health ditch, with doctors who didn’t help, she got her Oh-Yeah! attitude in gear and researched her way out. She never intended to be a health expert, but sometimes a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do. Subscribe to Bette’s free e-mails about resolving health problems at

Bette Dowdell
A drunk driver pretty much destroyed my health a month before my first birthday. Doctors said I was fine--for years. Finally realizing my health was up to me, I started researching. I got out the health ditch I was in, and found my future: Giving people the information they need to understand how to take control of their own health. It's been an amazing journey, and I look forward to all that is yet to come.