You’ve certainly heard moms telling their children to drink their milk so that they have enough calcium to build strong bones. A recent study1 conducted by a research team comprised of scientists from the University of Bristol and the University of Bath in England has found that calcium also plays an essential role in the healing of any damaged tissue in the body.
In fact, the researchers discovered calcium activates the immune system, which protects wounded tissue from infection, as well as starting the mechanisms that lead to healing. You can think of this process as a flash of calcium molecules that starts a wave of healing processes.
Clues point to calcium’s role in healing
Using embryos of simple fruit flies as subjects in this study, the research team found that a burst of calcium occurs before damaged cells activate an enzyme in the cells called DUOX, which is responsible for creating hydrogen peroxide. The tissues synthesize hydrogen peroxide in order to attract white blood cells that fight against infection. At this point, the damaged tissue begins the process of clotting and forms the new cells that will repair the injury.
In order to verify their findings, the researchers then blocked the flash of calcium, which in turn resulted in the blocking of the creation of hydrogen peroxide. This meant that fewer of the infection fighting immune cells went to the point of injury, which increased the risk of sepsis at the wound site. An invasion of microbes of the unprotected tissue can result in delays in healing. Further research has the potential to find applications in the treatment of tissue injuries in diabetics, which often take a longer time to heal than those incurred in those without this disease.1
This study helps to explain earlier research that was conducted at the Imperial College School of Medicine in London, which identified calcium’s key role in healing injuries to the skin. This research lead to the inclusion of calcium in wound dressings, although it was not understood at the time how calcium played a role in the later stages of healing, no less its instrumental role in preventing infection of the wound.2
How you can use this information
As you can tell from the research, calcium plays an essential role in healing damaged tissues. Given people’s hectic daily schedules, it is difficult to make sure you and your family has a sufficient amount of calcium in your daily diet from dairy products and some dark leafy vegetables. The National Institute of Health recommends that children over the age of 8 and adults have between 1,000 and 1,300 milligrams of calcium each day.3
To speed healing from injuries and prevent infection, make sure you take a high-quality calcium supplement on a daily basis.
1Wood W. Wound Healing: Calcium Flashes Illuminate Early Events. Current Biology 2012.
2Lansdown A. Calcium:A Potential Central Regulator in Wound Healing in the Skin. Wound Repair Regeneration.
3Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Calcium. National Institute of Health. Retrieved from http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Calcium-HealthProfessional/.