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Phosphorus is the second most plentiful mineral in your body. The first is calcium. Your body needs phosphorus for many functions, such as filtering waste and repairing tissue and cells.
Most people get the amount of phosphorus that they need through their daily diets. In fact, it’s more common to have too much phosphorus in your body than too little. Kidney disease or eating too much phosphorus and not enough calcium can lead to an excess of phosphorous.
However, certain health conditions (such as diabetes and alcoholism) or medications (such as some antacids) can cause phosphorus levels in your body to drop too low.
Phosphorus levels that are too high or too low can cause medical complications, such as heart disease, joint pain, or fatigue.
You need phosphorus to keep your bones strong and healthy, to help make energy, and to move your muscles.
In addition, phosphorus helps to:
Most foods contain phosphorus. Foods that are rich in protein are also excellent sources of phosphorus. These include:
When your diet contains enough calcium and protein, you’ll likely have enough phosphorus. That’s because many of the foods that are high in calcium are also high in phosphorous.
Some non-protein food sources also contain phosphorus. For example:
Whole grain versions of bread and cereal contain more phosphorus than those made from white flour. However, humans can’t absorb phosphorus in whole grain foods.
The amount of phosphorus you need in your diet depends on your age.
Adults need less phosphorus than children between the ages of 9 to 18, but more than children under 8 years old.
The Linus Pauling Institute recommends the following daily intake:
Few people need to take phosphorus supplements. Most people can get the necessary amount of phosphorus through the foods they eat.
Too much phosphate can be toxic. An excess of the mineral can cause diarrhea, as well as a hardening of organs and soft tissue.
High levels of phosphorus can affect your body’s ability to effectively use other minerals, such as iron, calcium, magnesium, and zinc. It can combine with calcium causing mineral deposits to form in your muscles.
It’s rare to have too much phosphorus in your blood. Typically, only people with kidney problems or those who have problems regulating their calcium develop this problem.
Some medications can lower your body’s phosphorus levels. Examples include:
Symptoms of low phosphorus can include:
If you take these medications, talk to your doctor about whether you should eat foods high in phosphorus or take phosphorous supplements.
Written by: Robin Madell
Medically reviewed on: Dec 14, 2015: Debra Sullivan, PhD, MSN, RN, CNE, COI
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