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What’s the Issue with Oxalates?

Tuesday, March 5th 2024 10:00am 6 min read
Dr. Natalia Subirats Duran dr.nataliasubirats

Licensed medical doctor and naturopathic doctor specializing in fertility, endometriosis and more. Hablo español!

Oxalates are naturally occurring compounds found in many plant-based foods. They belong to a group of chemicals known as oxalic acid, and their salts and esters are referred to as oxalates. Oxalates are present in various foods, including fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and grains.

When consumed, oxalates can form crystals and bind with minerals, particularly calcium, to create insoluble compounds known as oxalate crystals. These crystals can accumulate in different parts of the body, leading to concerns, especially for individuals prone to kidney stones or those with certain medical conditions.

While oxalates are a normal part of a balanced diet and have health benefits, individuals with a history of kidney stones or certain medical conditions may need to moderate their intake of high-oxalate foods. Also people with autoimmune conditions or inflammatory diseases may need to be mindful of oxalate consumption.

Four Ways Oxalate can Negatively Affect Our Bodies:

  1. Promote kidney stones. Dietary oxalates are key drivers of calcium oxalate kidney stones and kidney disease. Differences in our individual biology explain the predisposition to this problem, but even if that’s not the case, we are not protected against the development of issues caused by oxalates in other parts of the body.
  2. Can cause cellular damage. In the hours following the consumption of oxalate-rich meals, there is a flow of ions through the bloodstream that travel through the body, damaging cellular structures, generating oxidative stress, causing inflammation in tissues, and entering cells, where they alter function and interfere with cellular energy production.
  3. Can create harmful crystals. Calcium oxalate tends to transform into nanocrystals that not only damage cellular metabolism but also have the potential to accumulate in tissues and form larger microcrystals, similar to glass, anywhere in the body. These gritty residues create complex cleansing issues for tissues and the immune system.
  4. Can Leach Minerals. Additionally, oxalate ions act as “thieves” that strip away minerals from our food. Consequently, an oxalate-rich diet is inherently deficient in minerals, especially calcium and magnesium. The excess oxalate also generates an additional demand for vitamins B6 and B1, contributing to functional deficiencies of these nutrients.

Symptoms of Oxalate Toxicity

In cases of high intake, toxic effects may occur (with symptoms such as abdominal pain, gastroenteritis in acute cases, and diarrhea, vomiting, coagulation abnormalities in more severe cases). It can be lethal at doses of 5 grams in adults.
Common symptoms that can be present:

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