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Oxalate: An Unrecognized Cause of Chronic Pain and Dis-ease

by Cindy Harrington, CNC, CHS, CINHC, CYT & Master Nutrition Response Testing® Practitioner
Center for Nutritional Healing

What is oxalate? Oxalate is a molecule created by plants to protect them from being eaten by bugs and animals. It also helps the plant regulate calcium. When these plants are eaten by humans, oxalate can take the form of glass-like crystals in the gut and may be distributed anywhere in the body including the kidneys, intestines, bladder, soft tissues, joints, even the circulatory system, heart and brain. Oxalates are very harmful and can even be lethal. In a 2016 webinar, William Shaw, PhD, of Great Plains Laboratory called it “probably the most important unrecognized medical factor that’s going on today.”

Surface of a kidney stone

Surface of a kidney stone

What conditions are caused by oxalate? Most kidney stones are made of oxalate crystals. Other conditions that may be related to oxalate include fibromyalgia, vulvodynia, autism, heart disease, any chronic pain condition, digestive problems, and more.

What plant foods contain oxalate? Common foods with the highest concentration of oxalate include spinach, beets, rhubarb, eggplant and many more vegetables, soy, most legumes, grains, many fruits, most nuts, most seeds, most teas, many spices, many fruits, some sweeteners and chocolate. But don’t dismay, foods low in oxalate are listed below!

How can I find out if oxalate is affecting me? At Center for Nutritional Healing, we test for oxalate via Nutrition Response Testing! So consider scheduling an evaluation for greater insight as to whether oxalates are a factor with your condition. You can also try the Low Oxalate Diet (details below) and see if you experience improvement. Another way is to take the Organic Acids Test from The Great Plains Laboratory, Inc. It can offer insight into whether oxalates are an issue for you. Center for Nutritional Healing offers this test.

What should I do if I suspect oxalate is contributing to my health condition? 

  • Consider a low oxalate diet. However, cutting back on oxalate must be done very slowly and methodically to avoid “dumping.” When people go “cold turkey” off high oxalate foods, the body may release (a.k.a. dump) a lot of stored oxalate all at once. This can cause tremendous pain, exacerbated symptoms, and distress and is to be avoided at all costs. So, eliminate high oxalate foods very slowly, not all at once!

  • Join the Facebook group Trying Low Oxalates at facebook.com/groups/TryingLowOxalates. They offer lots of information and support from experts.

  • Follow Monique Attinger, @LowOxCoach, on Facebook and Patreon. She offers fantastic low oxalate recipes, meal plans, information, and tips.

What plant foods are low in oxalate? The great news is all animal foods (i.e. meat, poultry, game, eggs, dairy, fish) have negligible or no amount of oxalate! Plant foods low in oxalate include romaine, arugula, asparagus, cucumber, red pepper, onion, coconut, avocado, lemon juice, peeled apple, flaxseed, pumpkin seed (2 tbsp), sunflower seed (1 tbsp), black-eyed peas, olives, all oils, ginger, peppermint, chamomile, basil, cilantro, maple syrup, honey, salt, white pepper, coffee and more. For moderate to high oxalate foods, eating less makes a difference.

Is there anything else I can do to handle oxalate and improve my condition? Yes!

  • Epsom salts baths – Dissolve 1 cup of plain Epsom salts (no fragrance) in warm bath water. Soak for at least 20 minutes. Costco has the best price.

  • Drink plenty of pure/filtered water to move oxalate out of the body.

  • Practice yoga. Aches, pain, stiffness, and the associated stress can be managed. Yoga can greatly improve how you feel in your body as well as the health of your mind and spirit.

  • Get a Nutrition Response Testing® evaluation at Center for Nutritional Healing or by an advanced trained practitioner and get yourself on a nutritional program! There are several possible factors that contribute to oxalate conditions and there is no better way to improve your overall health than maintaining a nutritional program designed just for you. My experience healing from vulvodynia is a testimony to the power of Nutrition Response Testing. Here’s my story.

References

Franceschi, V. R. & Nakata, P. A. (2005). Calcium Oxalate in Plants: Formation and Function. Annual Review of Plant Biology, (56), 41-71. https://www.annualreviews.org/doi/abs/10.1146/annurev.arplant.56.032604.144106

Lorenz, E. C., Michet, C. J., Milliner, D. S. & Lieske, J. C. (2013). Update on Oxalate Crystal Disease. Current Rheumatology Reports, (15), 340. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3710657/?fbclid=IwAR2tCn2GJ13TTHn1KajEy37b_vDPEuzSXVEoufHVl_Eo8HZFxNQh0ttJpMdig