I don’t talk about oxalates often, mostly because I don’t feel like I’m an expert in that area. But, managing my oxalate intake has become an important part of my MS management.
I discovered the oxalate connection accidentally. One morning, several years ago, there was an ad on my Gmail for a group called Trying_Low_Oxalates at Yahoogroups. The target of the ad parents whose kids were on the Autism spectrum. Both my step-son and step-daughter are on the spectrum, so I took the time to check out the group.
There was a LOT of information in the files on the Trying_Low_Oxalate group. I was impressed by the work Susan had done. Everything was backed up by recent science, and the people on the list seemed to be seeing positive results. I spent about a year on the list, reading posts, studying the files, and learning before I finally decided to give the low oxalate diet a chance. I approached it with the spirit of an experiment and I really didn’t expect to see any changes. I decided to give it three months.
I was wrong. As I slowly reduced the oxalates in my family’s diet they showed symptoms of “detox.” The oxalate detox process was well documented in the files on the group, and I was already familiar with the ideas of detox and herx reactions, so I understood that what we were seeing was proof lowering oxalates was benefiting the kids. At the end of those first three months, we decided to continue with the low oxalate eating for another 6 months to see what happened.
There were definite positive changes in the kids’ behavior, attention spans, and speech. My son, who is not on the Spectrum, developed a rash around his mouth– it was a sign that he was detoxing oxaltes as well. I also started noticing small differences in how I felt. The ever present pain in my joints and muscles started to fade. I lost the the feelings of being stabbed that often occurred in my legs. The bit of brain fog I had left started to lift, and I felt more clear-headed.
While I was able to see that the kids’ were getting improvement from the low oxalate diet, I didn’t really believe that my physical changes were caused by reducing oxalates. So, I intentionally ate several higher oxalate foods for two or three days to see what would happen.
I was miserable. The stabbing sensations came back, my joints hurt badly enough that I could barely move, I developed intestinal issues, and I had a headache that refused to quit. Once I removed the high oxalate foods from my diet again, these symptoms disappeared just as quickly an mysteriously as they had appeared.
It took me two more times of conducting this experiment before I became convinced that oxalates were a problem for me. Probably because some of my favorite foods at the time are high oxlalate and I really didn’t want to give up my chocolate addiction.
Over the years I’ve started suggesting clients try the low oxalate diet for a variety of concerns. I’ve watched list members come to the Trying_Low_Oxalate list with intense and disabling pain, or other life altering issues, and, after 6 months on the low oxalate diet they saw significant, sometimes life changing improvements in their health.
I won’t go so far as to say that “all” people are oxalate intolerant. However I do believe that “most” Americans have trouble with oxalates. I believe the reason for that comes down to gut bacteria. A year or two ago a group of scientists did a study that compared the gut bacteria of people living a modern hunter-gatherer lifestyle with the modern city dweller. Among other things, the hunter-gatherers had a bacteria called oxalabactor formigenes. The group of modern city dwellers did NOT have this bacteria, or had such small levels as to be ineffective.
Oxalabactor formigens breaks down oxalates in the intestines. Without this health promoting gut bacteria, the human body is unable to properly eliminate ingested oxalates. This becomes important when you consider that oxalates are a known toxin. They are what makes rhubarb leaves toxic to humans.
Oxalates that are not properly broken down and eliminated by the body make their way into the system. The body then tries to isolate and contain the offending toxin. In many people the oxalates are stored in the kidneys where they become one type of kidney stone. But, oxalates can be stored in any body organ or tissue. Oxalate storage can cause or contribute to a wide variety of health complaints. Things like:
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Mental illness
- Kidney stones
- Recurring kidney infections
- Gall bladder problems
- Unexplained pain
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
- Brain fog
- Joint pain
- Zellweger Syndrome
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Thyroid problems
- any autoimmune disease
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Chronic Constipation
We’ll talk about which foods are low oxalate, and how to properly go about reducing your intake of dietary oxalates another day. But, if you’d like to do further research I recommend the Trying_Low_Oxalates group on Yahoogroups and Facebook. The people there are knowledgeable and helpful. Also, here is a link to oxalate information on the Weston Price Foundation website.