Oxalates steal minerals—iron, calcium, magnesium, zinc—that your body needs. Resulting mineral deficiencies cause growth, reproductive, bone, and other problems. They also corrode digestive system linings, causing leaky gut or other gastrointestinal diseases. Needle-shaped oxalate crystals are known to perforate mucus membrane cells.
So what are they and where do they come from? Well I sort of gave it away in the title but yes, they come from plants. Plants create Oxalates from the vitamin C they produce and they make them for several reasons:
1. protecting them from excess calcium in soils,
2. harming insects that try to eat them,
3. storing calcium in seeds for germination,
4. providing structural support,
5. improving shade tolerance,
6. defending against fungal infection, and others.
The one that stands out the most to me is “harming insects that try to eat them.”
We are also trying to eat them. Since plants can’t run like animals they have to develop other ways to survive and they do it through chemical warefare.
The body cannot break down Oxalates so it tries to excrete them. Unfortunately as the body tries to excrete them, they can migrate into other tissues like joints and especially the kidneys as they try to filter them. Oxalates are the major contributor to kidney stones. Crystal accumulation can also cause more generalized problems, such as overall malaise, poor concentration, joint stiffness, swelling, muscle pain, gastritis, tendonitis, or other inflammatory conditions. There are a number of studies demonstrating that oxalate exposure can cause damage even when micro-crystals don’t develop or persist.
So what foods are highest and lowest in Oxalates?
Beans, grains, bran, seeds (sesame, poppy, and other seeds), peanuts, almonds and other nuts, Swiss chard, spinach, beets, potatoes, sweet potatoes, chocolate, rhubarb, figs, kiwi, blackberries, and seasonings including black pepper, cumin, and turmeric are all high in oxalates.
Meats, dairy, eggs, other non-plant foods, and fats and oils of all types. Yay!
Many vegetables, including arugula, avocado, bok choy, cabbage, cauliflower, cilantro, garlic, kohlrabi, lettuce, mustard greens, mushrooms and onions, are low in oxalates and also low in Lectins. Read abut Lectins below.
Why medical testing doesn’t diagnose this
There is no sure way to detect oxalate poisoning and when the testing is done it is usually invasive or inconclusive or both. Doctors just aren’t really well versed in interpreting the results. We need some better studies to develop ways of testing before a reliable screening process can be developed. These are the current methods:
Testing for oxalates may use bone, skin, or kidney samples obtained through biopsy. Bone samples are considered the most reliable source, because of oxalic acid’s high affinity for calcium and because oxalate levels normally fluctuate less in bones than in other tissues. Kidney biopsies are reserved for cases with strong clinical evidence of advanced kidney failure. Invasive bone or skin biopsies are used rarely, typically in critical cases when excessive internal production of oxalate is suspected.
Blood and Urine Tests
Long-standing technical difficulties have made reliably measuring oxalate in blood and urine unreliable, causing doctors to look elsewhere to explain disease (and even to ignore the problem of oxalates entirely). Since the 1990s, modern technical advances have made it possible to accurately measure oxalate in urine, but the ability to detect oxalates still hasn’t changed the medical habit of ignoring oxalate in the body, even for patients with oxalate kidney stones.
Accurate tests require training, skill, and use of proper protocols, not just during the testing of samples, but in collecting and handling them. On the rare occasions when urinary oxalate is measured, it’s assayed (analyzed) badly—most often due to inadequate handling and workup of the urine sample prior to actual measurement.
Very few medical offices are equipped with the knowledge, training, and skill to successfully conduct this specialized testing.
So if testing is not going to work how do we determine if they are affecting us? Easy. Remove them from your diet and see how you feel. That is pretty easy.
As always, everything I talk about is best practice. Obviously life has to happen and we are all in control of our own. If you don’t feel that Oxalates are a problem for you then please keep eating the foods containing them. If you feel you might benefit from trying to cut them out, what do you have to lose? But please, do not start yelling on the group how I am terrible because I am telling you that you cannot have almonds. It is your life and your health. You are in control. I am just here to try and help guide you.
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