Oxalates – what are they and why are they bad?
Oxalic acid or oxalates are very tiny molecules that bind minerals like calcium and form crystals. It is found in a variety of seeds, nuts and many vegetables. It’s only two carbons and four oxygen molecules. It’s a highly reactive compound that is attracted to positively charged minerals.
Oxalates not only can cause kidney stones (calcium oxalate kidney stones) but also may be responsible for a wide variety of other health problems related to inflammation, auto-immunity, mitochondrial dysfunction, mineral balance, connective tissue integrity, urinary tract issues and poor gut function.
Oxalic acid can harm glandular function, connective tissue function, neurological function and the function of the tissues of excretion, particularly the kidneys and bladder
Having a damaged gut lining, or leaky gut, will increase your absorption of oxalates. An inflamed or damaged gut lining is a very common problem, thanks to frequent antibiotic use and the presence of a number of chemicals in our food supply, including glyphosate. Other plant compounds such as phytates and lectins (such as gluten) can worsen gut health and exacerbate the impact of oxalates.
Tissue destruction, fibromyalgia and autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus are all issues that can be related to oxalates.
Chances are, if you have heard of oxalates, you’ve heard of them in relation to calcium oxalate kidney stones. A vast majority of the scientific information available on oxalate refers to this. However, while it certainly contributes to kidney stones, it can also have other detrimental health effects.
Interestingly, from the 1850s through the early 1900s, oxalate poisoning was well-recognized. Back then, it was referred to as oxalic acid diathesis. It was known to be a seasonal problem that got worse in the spring and summer, when fresh greens were available, when people’s oxalate consumption would go up. Unfortunately, it has since gotten lost and left out of clinical science.
Calcium has a particular love of oxalate, and vice versa. The two of them seek each other out quite easily. We often see very abundantly the calcium oxalate form of oxalate. We see it in the plants. The plants form crystals and have the smaller individual ions and nano crystals.
Medicine is not taught that you need the substrate to make a kidney stone. You need to provide enough oxalic acid or oxalate, soluble oxalate, the potassium oxalate, the sodium oxalates and so on. You can provide enough of that to perform this calcification in the kidneys and elsewhere in the body.
The plants that we’re eating have these oxalate crystals. The big ones just cause abrasion … They’re very small, but at the cellular level they’re quite big and abrasive. They just cause mechanical damage.
The soluble oxalates are the ones that easily — because they’re so tiny — pass through in between cells. Just with passive transport, we end up absorbing oxalates. The amount we absorb depends on a lot of factors, especially the health of our digestive tract.
Those of us with any inflammation in the digestive tract are more prone to absorbing more of that soluble oxalate and even nano crystals of calcium oxalate. At least 1% of calcium oxalate from food is also absorbed, in addition to the soluble oxalate.
But you see, soluble oxalate is not content being potassium oxalate. It would much rather be calcium oxalate, iron oxalate or magnesium oxalate. Right away, it starts grabbing minerals. It starts messing with mineral metabolism. It even can create bouts of acidosis.
Conditions That Can Worsen Oxalates’ Impact
As mentioned, having a damaged gut lining will increase your absorption of oxalates. Most people, in fact, have damaged gut lining, thanks to a number of assaulting compounds and chemicals.
The presence of glyphosate in our food supply is one of these problematic compounds. If you’re not eating mostly organic food, you’re bound to be consuming glyphosate, which can wreak havoc on your gut function.
Other gut-destroying exposures include frequent antibiotic use, which can lead to various forms of microbiome imbalance, including small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO)
Some processed foods contain mucous-destroying emulsifiers. Even a number of naturally occurring plant compounds such as phytates and lectins (such as gluten) as well as the sharp oxalate microcrystals are trouble for gut health. These and other compounds found in foods can worsen gut inflammation and exacerbate the impact of oxalates by allowing oxalates easy entry into the blood stream.
Many of the foods that have become popularized in the modern diet are also high-oxalate foods, which means exposure is higher in general.
Examples of high-oxalate foods include potatoes , peanuts, nuts, spinach , beets , beet greens, chocolate, blackberries , kiwi , figs , black beans, buckwheat, quinoa and whole grains.
Nuts and seeds tend to contain high amounts of oxalates, so any seed is suspect if you’re sensitive. Pumpkin seeds , watermelon seeds, sunflower and flax are among the safest, as they contain lower amounts. Oils and fats, even when extracted from plants, are all low in oxalates.
Collards are kind of medium bad. The mixed greens that people like now those baby mixes are loaded with little beet green leaves, little Swiss chard leaves, which are high [in] oxalates.
Certain fruits are really high: kiwi fruit, clementine, Anjou pears, guava, figs, elderberries, apricots, blackberries, unripe avocados, Starfruit.
Signs and Symptoms of Oxalate overload
Tissue destruction, fibromyalgia and autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus are all issues that can be related to oxalates because oxalate in tissues trigger the inflammasome reactions of the body’s innate immune system.
Oxalates also cause inflammation and interfere with your body’s natural healing and repair mechanisms that usually happen overnight while you sleep.
Needless to say, this can worsen a wide variety of ailments, and trigger just as many.
Lectins and Oxalates Are a Problematic Mix
On a related note, lectins — another plant chemical — can also wreak havoc on your health, and Dr. Steven Gundry, author of “ The Plant Paradox : The Hidden Dangers in ‘Healthy’ Foods That Cause Disease and Weight Gain,” strongly believes lectins are at play in many autoimmune diseases. Lectins are going to create that leaky damage and make you vulnerable to infection and absorbing oxalates.
Basically, these [oxalate] nanocrystals and ions are the most toxic forms. The bigger ones that later on you can see in … kidney stones, they’re actually less toxic than the little ones.
Nano crystals are known to interfere with the charge on cells. They depolarize cell membranes and start disabling the functions of membranes, which means your mitochondria are not working. The oxalate slows down the mitochondrial ability to produce energy.
How Oxalates Contribute to Heart Failure
Oxalates can also contribute to heart arrhythmia, heart failure, endothelial disorders or generalized endothelial distress. Endothelial cells are the cells that line everything, including your vascular system. Oxalates floating around your vascular system can do considerable damage, causing irritation and injury to endothelial cells.
Dental tartar and even dental caries are other signs of excessive oxalates. When clearing out oxalates you may also experience sinus pain. Your sinuses, eyes, teeth, jaw and salivary glands are all prone to oxalate buildup, as are your fingers, toes, feet and joints in general.
Do You Need to Ditch High-Oxalate Foods From Your Diet?
If you’re eating a lot of high-oxalate foods and are struggling with any kind of chronic health issue that doesn’t seem to respond to other sensible lifestyle changes and treatments, you’d be wise to give a low- or no-oxalate diet a try.
There are simple things you can do to start lowering your oxalate. Pick the foods that you don’t need in your life and then eventually get down to the chocolate and cut that too.
The Carnivore Elimination Diet
Citric acid, for example from lemons, protects your kidneys and is a great way to dissolve kidney stones. A half a cup of lemon juice a day and a low-oxalate diet will help your kidneys release all this oxalate painlessly. You just start peeing out all your kidney problems without pain.
Recommended Supplements for Oxalate overload
Supplements recommended by Norton for those struggling with oxalate poisoning include calcium citrate, potassium citrate, magnesium citrate and potassium bicarbonate.
Again, any changes you make, whether removing food items high in oxalate or adding supplements, make sure you do it slowly and incrementally. If you have a lot of oxalate in your body, too-rapid a change can shock your already fragile system, causing you to get worse rather than better.
Over time, work your way up to 1,200 milligrams of calcium citrate, about 400 to 500 mg of magnesium and 2,500 – 4,000 mg of potassium per day. The purpose of the calcium citrate is to help release oxalates from your tissues, so when looking for calcium citrate, make sure it does not have vitamin D in it, as the vitamin D encourages absorption of oxalates.