When it comes to getting healthy, great emphasis is put on eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. But while some foods may be healthy and nourishing for one person, they may actually make someone else ill. This is the case for those who struggle with oxalate sensitivity.
Oxalates are naturally occurring compounds that are commonly found in the human body as well as in plants. They are not digestible to humans and in a healthy digestive tract would be metabolized by good gut bacteria and excreted as a waste product in the stool.
Oxalates form into sharp edged crystals that can cause pain as they are stored throughout the body. They can also cause other health issues and chronic illnesses.
What causes oxalate sensivitivity?
There are several things that can contribute to oxalate sensitivity. One of the biggest causes is gut dysfuction and intestinal permeability, also known as leaky gut. If the gut is unhealthy, an excess of oxalates can be absorbed into the body instead of being filtered out. This can lead to high oxalate levels which affect every organ of the body. As more oxalates flood the body they can begin to build up and cause unwanted symptoms. Food intolerances, Candida, H. Pylori infections and some prescription medications can all contribute to leaky gut.
The digestive tract needs healthy gut bacteria to metabolize oxalates properly. But if the gut microbiome has been compromised by antibiotic use, even just once, it may not be able to break down oxalates properly. This is because the exact species of healthy bacteria that breaks down oxalates is often wiped out by antibiotic use. Out of balance gut bacteria is the second major cause of sensitivity to oxalates.
A third potential cause of oxalate sensitivity is a genetic disorder which causes the body to produce far too many oxalates. This rare genetic disorder, known as Primary Hyperoxaluria is an inherited condition in which the liver produces too little of a special enzyme that prevents the body from overproducing oxalates.
Doctors don’t recognize this issue
Unfortunately, the connection between common health complaints and high levels of oxalates is rarely recognized by doctors. Because of this, most people remain unaware of the root cause of their symptoms. This can lead to frustration for patients who are looking for symptom relief and cannot get proper diagnosis from their physician.
Some may decide to change their diet and lifestyle to help overcome their nagging health complaints. But this could make them feel even worse.
Plant foods tend to be rich in oxalates. And many of the most popular “healthy” foods contain high levels of them. Popular whole foods such as spinach and leafy greens, berries, chocolate, beans, coffee, tea, potatoes and nuts have abundant amounts of oxalates. As those struggling with a sensitivity to them increase the consumption of these foods, in an attempt to eat healthy, it can worsen their symptoms.
Green smoothies filled with spinach, berries and nuts may actually cause pain to increase and fatigue to worsen instead of helping the body to heal.
So what are the things you can look for that can indicate an issue with oxalates?
Signs of oxalate sensitivity
Oxalates are best known by doctors for contributing to kidney stones. Although there are several different type of kidney stones, those caused by calcium oxalate account for approximately 75-80% of all kidney stone cases. These kidney stones occur when calcium and oxalate concentrations in the urine become too high and cannot be diluted. The result is the formation of calcium oxalate crystals in the kidneys. After time, the crystals grow as and they become painful kidney stones.
If levels of oxalates in the body become high, the natural response of the body is to try to store some away in different organs. The thyroid is one where the oxalates are stored. In fact, a study of thyroid autopsies showed that oxalate crystals were found in the thyroids of 79% of adults. The older the patient, the more concentrated the crystals were in the thyroid. As the crystals grow in the thyroid they begin to cause a malfunction and ultimately lead to hypothyroidism.
Vulvodynia is a disorder that causes chronic inflammation and pain for women throughout the female genitalia. This condition can be debilitating for the women who suffer from it. But success in reducing or reversing the symptoms of Vulvodynia are possible with a low-oxalate diet.
Fibromyalgia is characterized by muscle and joint aches and pains throughout the body that don’t seem to have a physiological cause. This pain can compromise the sufferers quality of life and can be accompanied by chronic fatigue, brain fog, hormone imbalance, insomnia and headaches. Many who have struggled with the pain of fibromyalgia have actually found relief when adopting a low-oxalate diet.
While oxalates are found in plants and created in the human body, there is also one additional source. They are also produced by fungus and mold spore. Therefore it is not a surprise that chronic Candida issues and oxalates tend to go hand in hand. It is common to find that those who are diagnosed with a fungal Candida infection also have high levels of oxalates in their bodies. If a Candida sufferer is eating a diet rich in oxalates, it can cause those who are attempting to heal their Candida overgrowth with a diet free of grains and sugar and using anti fungal supplements to see little or even no results.
High oxalates in the body create systemic inflammation throughout the body. This keeps the immune system busy fighting the inflammation so that it is not functioning optimally. If the immune system is not working at it’s best, it makes conditions much better for Candida overgrowth to remain out of control.
It is important to be aware of the impact that oxalates have on people with an oxalate sensitivity. The symptoms of this sensitivity can be overcome with the proper protocol, which may include dietary changes, stress management, gut healing and proper supplementation. A practitioner who is trained in oxalates can help you to find the right protocol to help you overcome a oxalate sensitivity.