Do you feel like you’ve tried every diet going, and all the supplements that the world has to offer, yet you’re still suffering with niggling health issues? The answer could be hiding in your seemingly healthy foods due to something called “oxalates”.
What Are Oxalates?
Oxalates are naturally occurring compounds found in plants, humans and animals. In the body they can bind to calcium, becoming calcium oxalate, crystalizing in many places such as tissues and organs like the kidneys (i.e kidney stones).
Oxalates can be formed as a by- product of our metabolism but also via excess yeast in our body. The thing is, they can be very high in certain foods, and are also a main component in air pollution (yes, that’s us London folks at risk)!
Some strains of bacteria in the gut, together with various minerals such as calcium and magnesium, are designed to break down and bind to the oxalates, preventing them from being absorbed into the bloodstream. If this doesn’t happen, they can get deposited in organs and tissues, causing possible pain, kidney stones, and even sensations similar to urinary tract infections.
Oxalates can also enter cells and affect the mitochondria, which are the cell energy powerhouses. If there are too many oxalates, fatigue can arise together with a whole host of neurological issues from mood imbalances, anxiety, pain, brain fog, vision disturbances, coordination issues, tremors, restlessness, and even hypothyroidism. Fertility can also be affected.
Interestingly, oxalates can cause the degranulation of mast cells, which then release histamine, creating pain in it’s own right. Many skin issues like eczema, hives and rosacea can be a result of this too.
High Oxalate Foods
Whilst a lot of foods fit along the medium to high spectrum of oxalates, the most problematic foods include the following:
- Spinach, swiss chard, and curly kale (yup- the green juices and kale salads need to go)
- Nuts, especially almonds, cashews and peanuts (think raw cakes and paleo recipes)
- Chia, pumpkin and sesame seeds
- A lot of the grains including buckwheat, amaranth and quinoa,
- Raspberries, blackberries, kiwi and starfruit,
- Soy and most other beans
- Sweet potatoes and regular potatoes (yes, even the sexy sweet potato)
- Chocolate (I cry every time I read this)
What’s most fascinating is that this list is essentially what health fanatics rave about, and the foods that are almost deemed to be ‘perfect’. This just shows that there is no one-set diet for everyone.
We do have to remember that we’re all individual and this doesn’t mean that everyone will have trouble with oxalates.
The health of your gut is a major determinant as to whether this could be problematic, for example, we need certain species of bacteria such as lactobacilli acidophilus and bifidobacterium longum to help break the oxalates down. If there is an imbalance in gut bacteria, this can no longer occur, plus, as mentioned above, any yeast or candida in the gut can encourage the formation of oxalates.
Leaky gut will also allow oxalates to pass more readily into the blood stream.
Nutritional status is vital too, as zinc, magnesium, calcium, vitamin B1 and vitamin B6 can all effect how oxalates are removed from the body.
Controversially, as vitamin C is a precursor to making the oxalates, high doses of this nutrient can actually create more problems in sensitive individuals. It can happen a lot when women feel a UTI coming on, so they increase vitamin C and end up feeling even worse.
Can You Test For This?
Yes, you can! Nutritional therapists can recommend something called an Organic Acids Test that not only assesses markers for oxalates but also highlights your nutrient status and presence of yeast.
This is something I do offer my clients, so feel free to drop me an email / call if you’d like more information!
How Can This Be Supported?
First off, reducing oxalates in the diet is really important BUT going cold turkey can actually create more problems as the body starts releasing crystals into the blood and other organs, creating a lot of pain. Just ensure that you go very slowly!
Secondly, you’ll want to focus on your gut and heal digestion. Whether this is removing any bad bacteria, yeast or parasites, or healing leaky gut, this could make the world of difference.
Thirdly, it’s important to correct nutrient deficiencies, adding minerals and B vitamins back into the body.