Oxalate is a naturally occurring, “organic acidic salt compound” commonly found in foods of plant origin, such as berries, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. Your body also produces oxalates by the metabolism of glyoxylic acid or ascorbic acid (vitamin C). Oxalate is normally excreted out of the body via urine, and sometimes the bowels.
Consistently eating foods containing high levels of oxalates can result in excessive levels of oxalates in your body. High oxalate levels can make it difficult for your body to absorb minerals and they are excreted via urine.
Symptoms of excess oxalate
If your body is not getting rid of the oxalates, these reactive molecules can cause a lot of problems for your health. Symptoms of excess oxalates in your body may include:
• chelating (a bonding of ions and molecules) with toxic metals like mercury
• painful or inflamed joints, similar to fibromyalgia or arthritis
• painful or burning urine or bowel movements
• leaky gut or other gut problems
• kidney stones
• developmental disorders in children, such as autism
• external female genital pain or irritation (vulvodynia)
Foods that contain oxalate can combine with calcium-rich foods or supplements creating oxalate crystals. These crystals can also form in your kidneys, joints, bones, blood vessels and even your brain.
Calcium oxalate stones can also form inside the thyroid, damaging the tissue and is associated with low thyroid function. If oxalates combine with iron, iron levels will go down and you will have oxidative damage.
High Oxalate excretion exacerbates many diseases such as fibromyalgia, interstitial cystitis, vulvodynia, depression, arthritis, autism and a variety of digestive disorders (which, in turn, exacerbate hyperoxaluria by allowing even more oxalate to be absorbed).
According to LowOxalate.info, leaky gut syndrome, in which molecules are absorbed from the digestive tract at a higher than normal rate, can cause hyperoxaluria. Hyperoxaluria is an excessive excretion of oxalate and is often seen in individuals who have calcium oxalate kidney stones.
While it can be difficult to say much about hyperoxaluria and other diseases due to a lack of research, many people have reported improved health on a low-oxalate diet and given the high amount of oxalate in some plant foods,
Symptoms of oxalate excess in urine
• joint pain
• painful urination
• excessive urination/bed wetting
• burning with bowel movements
• sandy bowel movements
• white or black flecks in bowel movement
• skin rashes
• brain fog
• eye pain
If you think you may be experiencing problems caused by oxalate, here are some tips to help relieve your symptoms.
• Eat foods that are high in calcium or take a calcium supplement with meals. If you have a history of calcium-oxalate stones, take calcium citrate.
• Stay hydrated.
• Avoid putting large amounts of high-oxalate vegetables in your green smoothies.
• Do not take large amounts of vitamin C.
• Boil high-oxalate leafy greens and discard the water.
If you have a history of calcium-oxalate kidney stones or think you may have hyperoxaluria, limit oxalate as much as possible, add citrate to your diet (through orange or lemon juice, or calcium citrate), minimize added fructose and sodium, or try a probiotic supplement with Lactobacillus acidophilus, and Bifidobacterium lactis.
Betty Murray, CN, IFMCP, CHC is a Certified Nutritionist & Certified Functional Medicine Practitioner with the Institute for Functional Medicine, founder of the Dallas-based functional medicine clinic Living Well Dallas and Executive Director of the the Functional Medicine Association of North Texas. A master of the biochemistry of the body, Betty teaches her clients how to utilize nutrition for autoimmune diseases, digestive disorders, MTHFR and weight loss. You can find her book “Cleanse: Detox Your Body, Mind & Spirit” on Amazon here.
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