Oxalate Sensitivity: Everything You Need To Know
Oxalate sensitivity is a condition where the body has become intolerant to oxalate salts. This disease is not a recent discovery. Doctors began talking about Oxalate sensitivity in the middle of the 18th century. It was associated with a wide variety of different symptoms. During the 1930’s oxalates were linked with the formation of kidney stones. Since that time this association with kidney stones has remained, and the other effects of oxalates were forgotten. In the past few years, however, holistic health practitioners and some researchers have been reexamining oxalate sensitivity and its impact on the health of people.
Read on to learn to learn about oxalates, the risk factors, plus the causes, symptoms, testing and treatment of oxalate sensitivity.
What are oxalates?
Oxalate is a term that describes oxalic acid salts. Oxalic acid is a tiny molecule made up of-of two carbon and two oxygen atoms. The oxalic acid molecule likes to combine with other minerals to make salts that are known as oxalates. Oxalic acid is particularly attracted to calcium to become calcium oxalate. Calcium oxalate is well known to build up in the kidneys to form crystals known as kidney stones. We are now rediscovering that oxalates can collect and crystalise anywhere in the body.
Risk factors for Oxalate Sensitivity
There are three distinct groups of people that have a high risk of developing oxalate sensitivity.
1. Bariatric Surgery Patients
The point of bariatric surgery is to reduce food absorption, but this allows toxins, like oxalates, to get in more easily. Furthermore, we know from research that 50% of bariatric patients will develop kidney stones and other oxalate accumulation problems.
2. People with Leaky Gut
People with leaky gut are probably going to absorb more oxalates.
Idiopathic means that some people just naturally absorb a lot of oxalates.
Concerning risk factors, it is essential to understand it is not necessary to have a personal or family medical history of kidney stones to have an oxalate sensitivity. In fact, this was demonstrated by researchers in Poland who were studying the effects of oxalates on autism in children. The researchers were able to show that very few of the autistic kids who needed a low oxalate diet had problems with kidney stones.
Symptoms of Oxalate Sensitivity
Oxalates can accumulate in virtually every part of the body and as such can affect multiple systems and manifest in a multitude of different symptoms. That said there are some common symptoms.
Nerve damage is typically the first thing to occur with oxalate accumulation. Common neurological symptoms of oxalate sensitivity may include
- Sleep Problems
- Vision problems
- Lack of coordination
- Memory loss
- Poor concentration
- Appetite changes
Oxalates also tend to accumulate in the connective tissues of the musculoskeletal system. Common musculoskeletal symptoms of oxalate sensitivity include:
- Vulva pain
- Carpal Tunnel
- Fibromyalgia type pain symptoms
Many people with an oxalate sensitivity exhibit digestive symptoms such as acid reflux, heartburn, bloating, constipation, diarrhea and gas.
These are the typical systems that oxalates may affect, but they may also harm the urinary and hormonal systems.
Diagnosis of Oxalate Sensitivity
With so many potential symptoms, diagnosing an oxalate sensitivity can be difficult. There are however a few other key flags that might point towards giving oxalates further consideration.
Firstly, oxalate-related symptoms do not improve with usual treatment. Often people have been to 5 different physical therapists and five assorted doctors.
Secondly, the symptoms tend to come and go in totally random ways.
Thirdly, there is a history of being exposed to foods that are a high source of oxalates.
Fourthly, slow healing injuries.
High Oxalate Foods and Supplements
Foods that are high in oxalates include:
- Sweet Potatoes
- Swiss Chard
- Curly Kale
- Vitamin C
On a side note, cooking or fermenting does not break down oxalates in food.
Testing for Oxalate Sensitivity
Currently, there is no readily available laboratory test for diagnosing oxalate sensitivity. The best diagnostic tool we have at the moment is the low oxalate diet.
However, there are some caveats to using this method.
- The diagnostic value of this method is limited to positives. So a negative response to doing the diet does not mean there is no oxalate problem.
- The symptoms may get worse before they get better when using the diet. This situation happens because when we stop the supply of oxalates, the body will begin the process getting rid of them. Just like when we detox heavy metals the body reacts as the toxins pass through the blood and out of the body.
Treatment of Oxalate Sensitivity
A Low Oxalate Diet
Following a low oxalate diet is similar to implementing an elimination diet. The key is to find substitutes for the high oxalate foods.
As mentioned above when starting the diet it is important to remember that your symptoms may get worse or fluctuate up and down before becoming better. With this in mind, it is not advisable to go cold turkey and remove all high oxalate overnight. This approach may cause more acute detox symptoms. A methodical step by step approach is more prudent when doing the diet. For example, begin by halving your consumption of the offending foods by half in the first week. Halve them again in the second week and so on.
Supplements and Support
The diet is foundational to treating symptoms of oxalate sensitivity. However, there are some supplements and other complementary therapeutic interventions.
- Calcium Citrate – Helps remove any oxalates from the gut. A dosage recommendation is 250mg of calcium citrate powder taken just before meals or just before the time of day when symptoms worsen.
- Potassium Citrate
- Magnesium Citrate – Helps if calcium citrate causes constipation.
- Vitamin B6
- Biotin – Helps if there is a connective tissue issue such as carpal tunnel.
Other Complementary Therapeutic Interventions
- Eat fermented cheeses and yoghurt made from raw milk. These foods are high in calcium and potassium.
- Stay hydrated
- Remove gluten
This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
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