They may be.
Oxalates (or oxalic acid) are naturally occurring compounds found in a wide variety of foods including certain types of fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, and grains. Like other molecules, oxalates are present in certain plants to protect them from insects and disease. This protective mechanism takes the form of
tiny glass like crystals. Although oxalates are not necessarily harmful, they can become problematic if they over-accumulate inside the body and may become especially problematic for the kidneys.
You may have heard oxalates described as an “anti-nutrient.” This is because they can bind to minerals in the GI tract, especially calcium and magnesium, reducing the absorption of these key nutrients. When they bind to calcium and magnesium they can actually form crystals that are as sharp as glass shards, which can become irritating and painful to human tissue.
Oxalates can be a hidden cause of both osteoarthritis and osteoporosis (due to the leaching effect on calcium and magnesium). They can also cause the UTI-like symptoms that plague so many women who don’t show any bacterial infection in their bladder and even chronic constipation.
Other symptoms of high oxalate load can include:
- Joint pain and stiffness
- Back or flank pain near the kidneys
- Personal or family history of oxalate kidney stones
- History of UTIs, bladder infections, or interstitial cystitis
- Chronic constipation
- Urinary frequency, urgency, or pain
- Poor exercise tolerance
The highest oxalate foods include some of the healthiest ones! Top oxalate containing foods are spinach, beets, rhubarb, almonds, sweet potatoes, miso, wheat, chocolate, beans, and nuts. The good news is that you can reduce the amount of oxalic acid you consume by boiling, blanching, or steaming these foods to force the water-soluble oxalic acids to leach out (and discarding the water). Soak grains and legumes (like nuts, beans, and seeds) in water for 12 hours before preparing them to reduce their oxalate content, or try fermentation and sprouting. Dilute your oxalate load by staying well-hydrated.
Are you wondering whether you have the tendency to accumulate oxalates? Could oxalates be the cause of your chronic constipation or arthritis? Don’t guess, test!
Our clinical nutritionists can help you decide which test is best for you. We have several versions of Organic Acids testing which can identify whether your body is experiencing a build-up of oxalates. The NutrEval, Metabolomix, and OMX tests can all investigate these oxalate markers. Genetic testing can also identify whether you have the predisposition to accumulate oxalic acid, but not whether you are having a current problem with it.
Knowing whether you have an oxalate build-up or sensitivity will allow your clinical nutritionist to fine-tune your program and help you to make wise dietary decisions to prevent future health issues. After meeting with you, our clinicians will be able to identify which test is the best fit for assessing
oxalate issues based on your individual needs.
If you are suffering from any of the above symptoms or are curious about whether you should be avoiding oxalates in your diet, contact our office to find out the next steps.