Oxalates. I will be covering oxalates on quite a few posts, just because I see many clients with this issue and I personally think they’re really important to address. Oxalates are a significant issue as they cause damage to such a range of tissues. Some Dr’s are aware of kidney issues that oxalates cause, but it can do way more damage than this.
What are oxalates? Oxalates are tiny sharp crystal-like structures similar to little razor like blades or shards of glass that can basically make holes and shred surrounding tissues. Oxalates can cause a huge amount of stress in tissues, they can accumulate in the bladder, gut, joints, muscles, eyes, teeth, bones, breast tissue, vagina, thyroid gland etc. They can accumulate sometimes in previous sites of inflammation/ infection. They can also enter our cells, effectively shredding and destroying things like the mitochondria. This can negatively impact energy levels. Oxalates turn on the inflammatory response. They are thought to contribute to autoimmune conditions or chronic inflammation disorders. Oxalates can also increase oxidative stress. Oxalates bind to many of our nutrients, so can cause problems with calcium, magnesium, zinc, copper, iron, potassium, vitamin b6 and b1 for example. They also reduce sulfate in the body (sulfate is a critical nutrient).
Why do we get oxalates in the first place?
• High oxalate foods: tomatoes, spinach, beetroots, sweet potatoes, soy, some types of potatoes, kiwi, raspberries, chocolate, herbs, spices, nuts, many gluten free grains such as buckwheat. Please note: This is not an exhaustive list.
• Trying to eat more healthily (i.e. more oxalate fruits and veg)!
• Poor fat digestion – a very common cause.
• For some people, the body can make its own oxalates– particularly if there are vitamin B1 or B6 deficiencies.
• High levels of dysbiosis, candida (some antibiotics can increase these issues) or mould.
• High doses of vitamin C can increase oxalates.
What symptoms can oxalates cause?
- Muscle aches
- Nerve issues
- Joint discomfort
- Bladder irritation
- Frequent urination
- Painful bowel movements
- Cloudy urine/crystals in the urine, grainy or sandy stools.
- Eye pain
- Sleep issues
- Tartar build up around teeth
- Irritability/ poor mood
- Craving high oxalate foods
- Kidney issues (these are rare).
Oxalates in urine can feel like a urinary tract infection, and many people who reduce oxalates in the diet find their chronic “UTI’s” disappear.
Some do experience symptoms as soon as they eat oxalates, but not everyone does. Oxalates aren’t like a food intolerance and they can easily accumulate and store in the body, without us knowing.
Removing oxalates from the body
We do need to get rid of these toxins, it isn’t a good idea for oxalates to stay in the body due to the damage they can cause. ‘Oxalate dumping’ occurs when the body starts to release stored oxalates from tissues and excrete them out of the body. It’s not a detox process like other toxins are removed (i.e. they are not changed in any way or broken down), they are literally removed through stools, urine, mucous eyes or the skin. I will cover Oxalate dumping in more detail on another post.
How to test for oxalates
The OAT (Organic Acid Test) includes three oxalate markers. There appears to be excretion cycles of oxalate, so oxalates may not always be excreted at the time of testing, however I do often see high oxalates on the OAT. Other markers on the test also give me clues as to why oxalates have increased – e.g. yeast, mould and fatty acid/ketone markers.