Phosphorus and calcium are the two most abundant minerals in your body. Working together, these minerals help keep your bones and teeth strong. Phosphorus also plays many other roles in the body, including helping the kidneys filter out waste, reducing muscle pain and maintaining tissues and cells. Although having too little phosphorus is rarely a problem for the standardized Western diet, some medications or chronic diseases can affect phosphorus levels.
Many foods contain phosphorus, including meat, dairy, grains and carbonated beverages. Your body must maintain a balance of phosphorus and calcium to keep everything running smoothly. This means that if you are consuming more phosphorus, you must increase the amount of calcium in your diet. The recommended daily allowance for dietary phosphorus is 700 milligrams for adults. The University of Maryland states that most people get plenty of phosphorus in their diet.
Any substance that binds with phosphorus can affect absorption. Some antacids that contain magnesium or aluminum hydroxide can prevent your body from absorbing phosphorus and deplete phosphorus levels. Diuretics can also affect phosphorus levels by causing an increased loss of bicarbonate, a basic substance, in the urine. Your body requires vitamin D to absorb phosphorus, so low levels of the vitamin can affect your phosphorus levels. If your blood electrolyte levels are out of whack, such as low magnesium levels, you could have problems absorbing phosphorus.
Any condition or disease that affects your absorption of nutrients can also cause problems with phosphate levels. People with diseases such as Crohn’s disease or celiac disease may experience depletion of phosphorus. Getting too little phosphorus in your diet can certainly cause low phosphorus levels. Although this rarely happens in industrialized nations, in cases of starvation or an eating disorder, this could occur. Other conditions that can cause your phosphorus levels to fall include diabetes, thyroid conditions, alcoholism and some breathing problems.
Consult your physician if you believe you have low phosphorus levels. Your doctor will perform a blood test to assess your levels. In many cases, low phosphorus can cause problems with other electrolytes in your blood. Most people with low phosphorus do not notice any symptoms unless the levels drop severely. Symptoms may include shortness of breath, confusion or irritability. Treatment will depend on the cause of your low phosphorus levels. You may need to take a phosphate supplement.
Ireland Wolfe has been writing professionally since 2009, contributing to Toonari Post, Africana Online and Winzer Insurance. She obtained her Bachelor of Arts in psychology and Master of Arts in mental health counseling. She is also a licensed mental health counselor, registered nutritionist and yoga teacher.