My wife and I lead an interesting life. Before our modern education system, most discoveries and scientific advancements came from everyday folks like bakers and painters. There were the occasional mathematicians, but most advances were just observations that turned into experiments that turned into facts. Sadly, in our modern world, we only seem to value “discoveries” from “institutions” rather than observations from kitchens and gardens. After all, Knowledge is Knowledge, and Wisdom is Wisdom.
At GnuPharma, we live in a world of kitchens and gardens (although I am a mathematician). In medicine and human function, have we missed some things? Do we have it all figured out? It turns out we have been taught a failed model of medicine and human function. The IG Farben/Bayer model, to be precise. A model that treats symptoms only to cause more symptoms rather than treating the underlying reasons is generally just resource-based dysregulations.
What is a “perfect function”? In our world, we all have a “perfect.” But, in our world, we are far from that “perfect,” which is excellent news. It means that as we understand the “perfect” function, we will also understand how to achieve it. It will start with diet and environment. And DIET is precisely what Cindy and I have been playing with.
Related: Our Model of Human Function
Oxalates, Inflammation, and Urination: A Real-Life Story
A consequence of our dietary change has been unexpected with Cindy. Cindy has always had issues with her bones, indicating some problems with calcium. Calcium is SUPER crucial in our bodies and a basic cofactor we need to be alive. When you eat a lot of greens or beans, you eat a lot of oxalates. Oxalate is a very stable molecule that is in a lot of plants. Our bodies like to break things down and freak out when they experience stable molecules like oxalate or gluten, a prolamin. These stable molecules will cause allergies and inflammation if we cannot eliminate them. We deal with these stable molecules by combining them with a chelator and eliminating them in urine. Calcium is the chelator we mainly use for oxalates.
Without calcium (or a few other chelators), you will have a buildup of oxalates. A buildup of oxalates will cause inflammation.
This is exactly what happened to Cindy. We started eating this super healthy diet. Then she started getting lower GI inflammation which was getting progressively worse. Finally, the inflammation was so bad she was having trouble urinating.
Were Oxalates the problem?
If you read about problems with urination and females, you will find some scary information as we did. So we decided to address this with our science, like most health issues. We have a new machine at the office which uses resonance to evaluate a person’s conditions. It was a bit “woohoo” for me, but it appears to give a good baseline and found all of Cindy’s inflammation.
We made the assumption it was oxalate related due to our dietary changes. You eliminate oxalates by several chelators. One, in particular, is calcium. Calcium and oxalates are what form kidney stones but are also the primary ways you eliminate oxalates. So we also assumed Cindy was borderline calcium deficient and that this extra stress was zapping her calcium.
It turns out we were right. Her symptoms are way better. Her inflammation is way down. So maybe we need to get out of our institutions and back to our kitchens and gardens.
God gave us the cures. The cures are in Nature. We need to acquire the Knowledge to find the treatments and the Wisdom to use them.
Digging Deeper Into Oxalates & Their Effects on Our Health
Now that we’ve explored the real-life effects that an oxalate-heavy diet can have on our health let’s discuss what oxalate is:
- Oxalic acid, an organic compound, is found in various plants, including fruits, vegetables, leafy greens, nuts, seeds, and coca.
In plants, this acid is bound to minerals to form oxalate. Oxalate and oxalic acid are two interchangeable terms in nutrition science.
There are two ways that we can get oxalates into our system:
- Our body can produce its own oxalates.
- We can obtain it from a food source.
In addition, Vitamin C can convert into oxalate when metabolized.
When consumed, oxalate can bind to different minerals, forming compounds like iron oxalate and calcium oxalate. This process occurs primarily in the colon, but it can also take place throughout the urinary tract and in the kidneys.
The majority of people eliminate oxalate in their urine or stool. However, people with high oxalate diets are at higher risk for kidney stones and other related health problems.
Related: Our Gut Health Guide
Health Concerns of Oxalates
One of the most significant health concerns of oxalates is that they can bind to minerals in our gut, preventing our body from absorbing them. For example, spinach is high in both oxalate and calcium, preventing our bodies from absorbing most of the calcium. In addition, eating oxalate and fiber together can hinder our nutrient absorption.
Still, it’s essential to understand that only some of the minerals in our food will bind to oxalate. For example, even though the calcium absorption is reduced when eating spinach, if we consume spinach together with milk, the milk’s calcium absorption is not affected.
Oxalates & Kidney Stones
Calcium and minimal amounts of oxalate are usually present in our urinary tracts at the same time; however, they remain dissolved, causing no problems.
However, they can sometimes bind, forming crystals. And in some people, those crystals can lead to the formation of kidney stones, particularly when their urine volume is low and oxalate levels are high. While small stones don’t typically cause issues, large stones can cause nausea, severe pain, and blood in the urine when they move through the urinary tract.
- 80% of kidney stones are made of calcium oxalate.
As a result, many people with a history of kidney stones tend to minimize their consumption of oxalate-rich foods. However, restricting foods high in oxalate is no longer a recommendation across-the-board; half of the oxalate found in our urine is produced by our bodies—not absorbed from food.
Typically, urologists now only prescribe low oxalate diets to those with extremely high oxalate levels in their urine.
Oxalate: Good or Bad?
It’s not a simple answer. Many proponents of low oxalate diets believe that people are better off not eating foods rich in oxalates, claiming the compound has negative health effects.
However, there’s more to it—many foods that contain oxalate are extremely healthy and contain important nutrients, fiber, and antioxidants.
For most people, it’s not the best idea to stop eating high oxalate foods completely, although it may be beneficial to restrict these foods for people with high levels of oxalate in their urine.
Oxalate Absorption & Your Gut
Some of the oxalates you consume can get broken down by your gut’s bacteria before it binds to minerals. One of these (Oxalobacter formigenes) uses oxalate as an energy source, significantly reducing the amount of the compound your body absorbs.
However, not everyone has a lot of this bacteria in their gut; antibiotics can decrease the number of Oxalobacter formigenes colonies.
In addition, some studies show that people suffering from inflammatory bowel disease have a higher risk of developing kidney stones, partially because their body cannot regulate how much oxalate it absorbs.
Similarly, researchers have found high levels of oxalate in people who have had surgeries that alter their gut function, like gastric bypass procedures.
These studies suggest that people that experience gut dysfunction or have taken antibiotics may benefit from a low oxalate diet.
Foods With High Levels of Oxalates
Almost every plant contains oxalates, but some contain much higher amounts than others. And animal foods contain only trace amounts of oxalate.
Because serving sizes can vary, high oxalate foods can be considered low oxalate with smaller portions. These are some of the foods highest in oxalate:
- Beet greens
- Cocoa powder
- Star fruit
- Sweet potatoes
- Swiss chard
- Turnip greens
High oxalate foods are classified as having more than 50 mg per serving.
How to Eat a Low Oxalate Diet
People who need to eat a low oxalate diet typically must avoid consuming more than 50 mg per day. We’ve collected the following tip to help you eat a low oxalate diet:
- Limit your oxalate intake to 50 mg per day. Choose a variety of animal and plant sources that contain plenty of nutrients but are low in oxalate, like:
- Bok choy
- Canned fish with bones
- Plain yogurt
- Boil vegetables rich in oxalate. Depending on the vegetable, boiling them can reduce their oxalate content anywhere between 30 and 90%.
- Drink more water. Especially if you have kidney stones, you want to aim for at least two liters daily or enough to produce 2.5 liters of urine.
- Consume more calcium. Because calcium binds to oxalate in our guts and reduces the amount our bodies absorb, getting between 800 and 1,200 mg of calcium daily is recommended.
Related: Fasting & Human Health
Should You Avoid Oxalates?
It depends. If you tend to form kidney stones, you might benefit from a diet low in oxalates. However, healthy people typically do not need to avoid otherwise nutrient-dense food just because they’re high in oxalates.
For most people, oxalate is not a concern. Still, it’s important to understand how oxalates affect your body so that you can determine if it’s time to alter your diet.
Need a hand reaching your health and wellness goals? Ask Chip! At GnuPharma, we’re here to help you achieve your wellness goals, from the initial consultation to supplement recommendations, follow-ups, and more.