What are oxalates?
Oxalates are naturally occurring molecules found in plants and animals. They are a type of organic acid, which means they contain both oxygen and carbon. Oxalates are a component of various foods, including spinach and rhubarb, as well as certain supplements like vitamin C.
Since this chemical compound can be harmful to people with kidney stones (source), it's important to know about how they affect your body. In this interview with Sally Norton, we'll cover how oxalic-acid works in the body and what happens when you consume too much of it.
Are oxalates bad for you?
Oxalates are not bad for you in small amounts but can be harmful if you have too much.
They are natural substances in many foods, including nuts and beans. They're also produced by your body—for example, by making vitamin C or breaking down thyroid hormones.
In addition to being part of the food you eat, oxalic-acid is also produced by intestinal bacteria as well as yeast that grows on certain foods like bread with seeds or nuts that haven't been appropriately stored at low temperatures (between 35° F/1° C and 45° F/7° C).
The concentration in food is highest when these foods are eaten raw—for example, spinach salads topped with grated cheese can result in up to 300 milligrams per serving.
Here are some reasons why oxalates can be considered "bad":
- Kidney stones: Oxalates can combine with calcium in the urine to form crystals, which can contribute to the formation of kidney stones. People who are prone to kidney stones may be advised to limit their intake of high-oxalate foods.
- Nutrient absorption: High levels of oxalates in the gut can bind with certain minerals like calcium, iron, and magnesium, making them less available for absorption by the body. This can lead to deficiencies in these essential nutrients.
- Gut irritation: Oxalates can irritate the digestive tract, causing symptoms like bloating, gas, and diarrhea in some people.
- Interference with medication absorption: Oxalates can also bind with certain medications, such as antibiotics and antacids, reducing their effectiveness.
The difficult part of this is that there are no clear symptoms, and sometimes the inflammation can be asymptomatic.
However, if you feel any symptoms as described below, it might be best to follow a meat-only lifestyle to heal.
- Brain fog
- Recurring kidney stones
- Poor circulation
- Swollen joints
- Gum inflammation
High oxalate foods
If you struggle with excess oxalates, it's essential to monitor the number of foods that contain them. Here are some examples of high oxalic-acid foods:
- Swiss chard
- Soy products (such as tofu and soy milk)
- Sweet potatoes
- Wheat bran
- Concord grapes
- Tea (black and green)