If you follow nutrition news at all, then you’ve probably heard about a molecule present in many plant foods called oxalate (aka oxalic acid), which has been at the heart of some debate in the health world for years now, due to it’s potentially damaging effects within the human body.

Many plants produce oxalates as a natural pesticide, which helps to deter insects and other critters from eating them. Our body has the ability to eliminate oxalates through our kidney/bladder system, transporting it in our urine as with any other metabolic waste, but proper gut health and a balanced microbiome are also necessary in order for the oxalates to be broken down and excreted from the body. 

And we’re pretty much all dealing with some degree of compromised gut health these days due to factors like chronic stress and lack of quality sleep, the overuse of antibiotics in our medicine and also found in the dairy/animal proteins we eat, highly processed foods, and pollution. 

But if you have leaky gut, SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth), parasites or another inflammatory gut condition, you’re more likely to absorb and retain higher amounts of oxalate in your body. So it’s no surprise then that many people are experiencing health issues related to oxalate consumption. 

The good news? Certain strains of good (probiotic) bacteria living in our gut can break down oxalate in the food we eat, which is another reason that a healthy, balanced gut microbiome is so critical for our health. Wild fermentation of high oxalate vegetables like kimchi, sauerkraut, and pickles has been found in studies to lower the levels of oxalates significantly during the culturing process.  

Healthy Kimchi Low Oxalate

So please eat your fermented veggies every day for optimal health!

Have you experienced any of these troublesome symptoms or health issues? If so, check out the list of high oxalate foods and consider whether oxalate consumption may be an issue for you. 

Health Issues Linked to Oxalate Consumption

 

  • Kidney stones (once is enough!) or interstitial cystitis (painful urination)
  • Irritable gut symptoms such as pain, gas, bloating, constipation or diarrhea
  • Joint pain and inflammation (arthritis, polyarthritis)
  • Muscle stiffness and aches 
  • Sleep and mood disturbances
  • Itchy skin or rash
  • Autoimmune diseases (fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, psoriasis)

Oxalate molecules combine with calcium (calcium oxalate crystals) inside your body and create a build-up of sharp glass-like grains (aka kidney stones, bone spurs, and tissue calcification) that can cause mechanical damage in various organs and tissues. If you’ve ever had a kidney stone, you know that the pain is excruciating (it’s said to be more painful than childbirth), so anything we can do to avoid those is very well worth it.

Many autoimmune diseases have been linked with high oxalate consumption, but sadly most people suffering from these conditions have no idea that the reportedly ‘healthy’ foods that they’re eating may actually be exacerbating their symptoms by triggering inflammatory reactions throughout their body.

Here is a list of some of the highest oxalate-containing foods that are commonly eaten, so you’ll want to avoid these as much as possible while on a low-oxalate diet.

Highest Oxalate-Containing Foods

High Oxalate Dark Chocolate

  • Dark leafy greens like spinach and swiss chard
  • Beetroot and cassava root
  • Celery and bamboo shoots
  • Dark chocolate and cocoa powder
  • Grains such as quinoa, amaranth, wheat, brown rice (wild rice is low in oxalates)
  • Berries (especially elderberries, black berries and dried goji berries)
  • Buckwheat which comes from the rhubarb family
  • Excess consumption of black tea
  • Beans including soy, black, fava, navy beans
  • Nuts and seeds (almonds, hazelnut, brazil nut, cashews, peanuts, pecans, chia seeds, sesame seeds)
  • Spices like cardamom, cinnamon and turmeric
  • Potatoes and sweet potatoes
  • Fruits like star fruit, pomegranate, rhubarb and dates

Although all of these foods contain a lot of high quality nutrition in general, their high level of oxalate means that they may be contributing to some of your underlying health issues.

You can find a comprehensive list of oxalate levels in foods as well as build your favorite low oxalate recipes in an app called OOX (says it’s for gout and kidney stones). I highly recommend that you get the upgraded version for kidney stones, and if you suffer from gout, then this app will also be very helpful for you! 

I suggest this app regularly to my patients for it’s comprehensive oxalate level info in foods, and I also appreciate that it provides you with the nutritional values of each food, such as calories, types of fats, vitamins and minerals, etc. 

The first thing that you want to do is count up how many milligrams of oxalate you’re eating per day. 

On the app, there are two versions of oxalates listed for each food item: “Oxalates” and “Soluble Oxalates”. Count up your daily intake of “Oxalates” in milligrams (mg) for each food per serving, not the soluble oxalates.

Soluble oxalate levels are referring to the oxalates that are actually absorbed into the bloodstream, which can cause systemic issues including kidney stones and arthritis. 

Insoluble oxalates can stay in your intestines and irritate your digestive system as they’re moving down the tract for elimination, so I feel that the insoluble oxalates are just as important to limit as the soluble type. 

Please note: If you’re currently eating a very high oxalate diet (over 500mg per day) and you reduce your intake too quickly, you may experience detox-like symptoms called “oxalate dumping”, such as a candida yeast flare up, rashes/hives, painful urination, and mood disturbances. I’ll go more into this in my next blog post!

If this happens, you can simply back off of the reduction plan for a bit and then resume once you feel ready, but I work closely with my patients to help ensure that this doesn’t happen, or if it does, the detox symptoms are minimal.

Lab Testing Available for Oxalate Levels

 

I use the Great Plains Laboratory Organic Acids Test (OAT) for my patients to provide the exact level of oxalates excreted in their urine, and as a bonus, it also gives us an indirect read of my patients’ candida levels. 

This is helpful because candida actually produces small amounts of oxalate, so if you have a candida overgrowth, you can still have symptoms even if you’re keeping your dietary oxalate levels extremely low.

If you think you may benefit from a low oxalate diet and need help with testing or support in implementing a low oxalate diet, contact my office at help@drsusanne.com or (310) 315-1514 to set up a consultation with me.

And stay tuned for my next blog post, where I’ll go into a lot more detail on the potential dangers of eating a high oxalate diet and how to best taper down without detox symptoms, including an oxalate cleanse challenge that we can do together!

To your most vibrant life,

Dr. Susanne

 

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Christine Horner, MD, FACS, is a nationally known surgeon, author and professional speaker and holds two board certifications: the National Board of Surgery and the National Board of Plastic Surgery.

Horner was recognized as a leader in her field shortly after starting her plastic and reconstructive surgery practice because she successfully ran a national campaign to pass laws requiring insurance companies to pay for breast reconstruction following mastectomy. Her five-year crusade with the Breast Reconstruction Advocacy Project (BRA Project) led to the passage of a federal law that was signed by President Bill Clinton on Oct. 21, 1998. The law was unprecedented because it was the first law Congress passed requiring insurance companies to pay for a specific surgical procedure.

Horner is the award-winning author of, “Waking The Warrior Goddess: Dr. Christine Horner’s Program to Protect Against and Fight Breast Cancer,” (3rd Edition/2013/Basic Health) and is one of the country’s leading authorities on breast cancer prevention. Her most recent book, “Radiant Health, Ageless Beauty” (Elgea Publishing, 2016), won the 2017 Elit Award for Best Book in Health, Medicine and Nutrition and is a 30-day program to discover your own extraordinary health, beauty and longevity.

https://drchristinehorner.com/

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Denise is a national diabetes reversal and holistic lifestyle coach, speaker, and author of The Virgin Diabetic: Reverse the Effects of Type 2 Diabetes, Reduce Medication, and Improve Your Glucose Levels, Second Edition. Like millions of Americans, she was burdened with type 2 diabetes, prescribed a handful of medications, four daily insulin shots, and endless trips to the doctors. After hearing from the medical community there was no hope to stop the insanity, Denise realized she needed a new course to regain her health naturally. Denise restored her health through holistic lifestyle changes. No more medication – no more insulin injections – no worry of drug side effects.

Denise is certified in Holistic Nutrition and Homeopathy. A Certified Six Sigma Green Belt, Denise spent a decade in the laboratory industry. After she received her diabetes diagnosis, she created her blueprint to reverse the deadly effects of diabetes paving the way for diabetics to truly learn how to reduce or eliminate medication and insulin while improving their glucose levels.

Denise’s journey started in Chicago until she and her husband, Larry, found their paradise in Naples, Florida. Denise and Larry love to walk on the beach, golf, and enjoy all that Naples has to offer.

Denise is co-Chair for Blue Zones Project® Retail Food Committee—Southwest Florida, member of the American Nutrition Association, National Association of Nutrition Professionals, and Marco Island Sunrise Rotary Club.

https://reversemydiabetes.net/

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Bruce Alan Kehr, M.D. is founder and president of Potomac Psychiatry. He specializes in helping patients with anxiety, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, PTSD, life adjustment issues, and bipolar disorder, and frequently lectures on many aspects of psychiatry and psychotherapy, including the use of genetic testing in diagnosing and treating emotional distress; medication adherence, where he is recognized as an expert; and on the neuropsychiatric aspects of traumatic brain injury. He is also the author of the recently published book, Becoming Whole: A Healing Companion to Ease Emotional Pain and Find Self-Love. Dr. Kehr received training in psychotherapy at the Boston Psychoanalytic Institute, where he also completed his training psychoanalysis; and continued his psychoanalytic training in the Washington, D.C. area. He received his BA from the University of Pennsylvania, followed by an MD from the Georgetown University School of Medicine. He is Board Certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology.

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Ilene Smith is the author of Moving Beyond Trauma: The Roadmap to Healing from Your Past and Living with Ease and Vitality. She is a certified professional coach and Somatic Experiencing practitioner who is passionate about helping others explore life with curiosity and exuberance. Her research into Somatic Experiencing and eating disorders has contributed to the importance of Somatic Experiencing and body-based therapies in recovery. Ilene has also worked extensively with patients suffering from addiction. With master’s degrees in exercise physiology and mental health counseling, Ilene blends talking, touch work, and movement to create synergy between a client’s body and mind. In addition to her private practice, Ilene has developed a series of trauma healing workshops and lectures, which she hosts worldwide. She lives in Arizona.

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Dr. Michael S. Evangel, Chiropractic Physician, is the owner of the Chiropractic Wellness Center in Ramsey, NJ. For over 30 years, his mission is to provide state of the art, high-quality care to people of all ages.

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http://www.drevangel.com/

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Raphael Kellman, MD, graduate of Albert Einstein College of Medicine, pioneered a groundbreaking new brand of medicine and healing. He seamlessly integrates holistic and functional medicine with his visionary understanding of the world and nature, the root of who we are and its connection to health and healing. Dr. Kellman was the first doctor to recognize the profound importance of the microbiome; he speaks on the topic around the world and literally coined the term “Microbiome Medicine.”

Widely respected as a groundbreaking force in holistic and functional medicine, Dr. Kellman has diagnosed countless thousands of patients around the world suffering from undiagnosed thyroid disease through his innovative testing approach which goes much deeper than conventional testing. Through his deep understanding of the importance of the microbiome, Dr. Kellman treats gastrointestinal issues, chronic fatigue syndrome, heart disease, autoimmune disorders, Lyme disease, cancer, autism spectrum disorders, and unexplained, unresolved health issues.

Informed by his background in the philosophy of science, Dr. Kellman’s treatments are administered with compassion and kindness. He draws on the latest research to address patients’ biochemistry, metabolism, hormones, genetics, environment, emotions, and life circumstances to help them achieve optimal health.

Twitter: @doctorkellman

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/drraphaelkellman

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Best-selling author, consultant, and master clinician, Dr. Joan Rosenberg is a cutting-edge psychologist who is known as an innovative thinker, acclaimed speaker and trainer. As a two-time TEDx speaker and member of the Association of Transformational Leaders, she has been recognized for her thought leadership and influence in personal development. Dr. Rosenberg has been featured in the documentaries “I Am”, “The Miracle Mindset”, “Pursuing Happiness” and “The Hidden Epidemic”. She’s been seen on CNN’s American Morning, and ABC, CBS, FOX, PBS and OWN networks, as well as appearances and radio interviews in major metropolitan markets. A California-licensed psychologist, Dr. Rosenberg speaks on how to build confidence, emotional strength, and resilience; how to achieve emotional, conversational and relationship mastery; how to integrate neuroscience and psychotherapy; and suicide prevention. An Air Force veteran, she is a professor of graduate psychology at Pepperdine University in Los Angeles, CA. Her latest book, 90 Seconds to a Life you Love: How to Master Your Difficult Feelings to Cultivate Lasting Confidence, Resilience and Authenticity, was released February 2019.

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Greg Hammer, MD is a pediatric intensive care physician, pediatric anesthesiologist, and professor at Stanford University Medical Center. A member of the Stanford WellMD initiative and the Wellness Committee for the American Society of Anesthesiologists, Dr. Hammer is currently the Chair of the Physician Wellness Task Force for the California Society of Anesthesiologists. He has been a visiting professor and lecturer on wellness at institutions worldwide and teaches GAIN to medical students, residents and fellows at Stanford.

Dr. Hammer’s clinical focus is in pediatric cardiac anesthesia and pediatric critical care medicine. His research is in developmental pharmacology and immunology, and he has an active laboratory with multiple ongoing studies in these areas. He has published widely on topics related to pharmacology and perioperative care of children undergoing cardiac and thoracic procedures as well as organ transplantation. Dr. Hammer is a health enthusiast and meditator, utilizing a non-duality and mindfulness-based approach, including the GAIN method.  Dr. Hammer is the author of GAIN without Pain: The Happiness Handbook for Health Care Professionals, which will be released May 15, 2020.

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