Superfoods are the focus of many juice cleanses and supposedly healthy diets. However, some people end up feeling worse when they consume certain foods – foods that are supposed to make them feel fabulous. If you’ve had this experience, then you might be sensitive to oxalates, substances found in many foods such as spinach, berries, and nuts.
What Are Oxalates?
Oxalates are a type of “antinutrient” – plant compounds that decrease the body’s ability to absorb nutrients. For most people, oxalates are not a significant concern; antinutrients in and of themselves are not necessarily problematic and can even have certain benefits. For example, dietary fiber is technically an antinutrient that’s essential for good overall health and a lower risk of numerous diseases. However, in some situations (such as periods of malnutrition or people who eat diets composed primarily of grains and legumes), oxalates can lead to detrimental health effects.
Are Oxalates Bad for You?
Oxalates, or oxalic acid, are formed in certain plant foods and are also synthesized by the human body. When you consume oxalates, they usually attach to minerals to create new compounds, such as iron oxalate and calcium oxalate. This action generally takes place in the colon or – less commonly – in the kidneys. Most people then eliminate these compounds in the urine or stool. However, sensitive individuals can suffer negative consequences from consuming diets high in oxalates, such as an increased risk of kidney stones or a significant reduction in mineral absorption.
What is Oxalate Dumping?
Just as with anything else that your system gets too much of, your body will attempt to rid itself of excessive oxalic acid as quickly as it can. This process is known as oxalate dumping or oxalate detoxification. Your body can process only so much oxalic acid at a time, so it stores away the excess in places such as the brain, the skin, and the joints. If you experience oxalate-related symptoms, it is likely because of this stored excess. When you start a low-oxalate diet and stop putting oxalates into your bloodstream, your body switches its focus to “dumping” stored oxalates. Severe dumping can cause unpleasant symptoms, so it’s essential to control the rate of dumping to minimize the side effects.
What Are the Symptoms of Sensitivity and Intolerance of Oxalates?
People can be sensitive to oxalates for various reasons. One of the most common causes is gut dysfunction and intestinal permeability (leaky gut). An unhealthy gut can allow the absorption of excess oxalates into the body rather than being filtered out and eliminated. As more oxalates flood the body, they can build up and cause unwanted side effects. How do you know if you are sensitive to or intolerant of oxalates? Some of the most common symptoms include kidney stones, thyroid conditions, fibromyalgia, vulvodynia, and yeast infections. Unfortunately, oxalate sensitivity isn’t easily recognized by doctors, who often attribute these symptoms to something else (or focus on treating the symptoms themselves rather than eliminating their underlying cause).
What Is the Relationship Between Oxalates and Joint Pain?
As discussed, oxalates can cause a wide range of unpleasant symptoms. Joint pain is one such symptom – and it’s one that can affect virtually every area of your life. When your body stores surplus oxalates, it might store them in your joints. Here, the oxalates can interfere with the routine repair and maintenance of your connective tissue, leading to unstable, weak, or painful joints. An accumulation of oxalates in vulnerable tissues can also prolong recovery from injuries and increase scarring. They may also perpetuate inflammatory conditions, such as arthritis or gout, leading to a vicious cycle of pain and inflammation.
What Foods Are High in Oxalates?
While the body synthesizes some oxalates, most are consumed via the person’s diet. Oxalates are found in many plant foods and can combine with free minerals or heavy metals in the body to form crystals that may be deposited in the joints, bones, or glands, leading to chronic pain. Some of the foods known to be high in oxalates include spinach, collard greens, zucchini, sweet potato, celery, carrots, beets, berries, figs, currants, kiwi, orange peel, tangerine, almonds, peanuts, cashews, nut butter, chocolate, beer, instant coffee, wheat bran, grits, fruitcake, pretzels, and whole wheat flour.
Can Oxalates Be Passed Through Genetics?
Everyone has some oxalates in their body, as these are naturally synthesized compounds. You can increase the number of oxalates in your system by consuming a diet rich in high-oxalate foods– this is not a genetic concern but rather an environmental one. However, sensitivity to oxalates is a condition that may indeed be passed down through the generations of your family. That’s why your oxalate sensitivity is likely to be a genetic condition. It’s also possible to inherit a condition in which your body simply produces too much oxalic acid, regardless of your diet. So, yes, oxalate sensitivity and oxalate-related health concerns certainly have a genetic component.
How Do You Flush Oxalates from the Body?
If too much oxalic acid in your body is causing your health problems, then the clear answer is to minimize the presence of oxalates. However, it isn’t as simple as just cutting out oxalate-rich foods. For one thing, many of these foods are incredibly nutritious. Also, stopping your consumption of oxalates suddenly can cause dumping, as mentioned above. Oxalate dumping can exacerbate, rather than reduce, your symptoms, so it’s essential to decrease your oxalate consumption gradually. A good rule of thumb is to reduce the high-oxalate foods in your diet by no more than ten percent per week. Should you experience worsening or new symptoms, such as painful bowel movements, rashes, a yeast flare, or irritability, then you may be reducing too quickly. In addition to lowering the number of oxalates in your diet, you can also use a good probiotic and a binding agent such as activated charcoal to help your body eliminate the oxalates it dumps.
Combined with a healthy diet, GLX3 can help you achieve the best possible overall health. Learn more about the wonders of green-lipped mussel oil and how it can help those suffering from joint-pain and inflammation.
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