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How to Eat a Low Oxalate Diet

Many People with digestive issues want to know how to eat a Low Oxalate Diet.

What are Oxalates?

Believe it or not, the reason that plants produce oxalates is because they don’t want to be eaten. These oxalates tear up the teeth of insects when they attempt to eat foods that are high in oxalates. These oxalates may cause health issues for people.

In healthy people oxalates are degraded by the bacteria called oxalobacter formingenes. This prevents these molecules from entering the large intestine and so being absorbed by body

In those who have challenges with conditions like dysbiosis, leaky gut or SIBO, oxalobacter may be diminished. This means that oxalates are able to enter the bloodstream. These oxalates interferes with nutrient absorption.

Additionally, when oxalates are linked up with calcium, it forms irritating crystals that may result in kidney stones.

When the gut is healthy, it doesn’t absorb an excess amount of oxalates found in the diet because the microbiome flora metabolize them or they are eliminated in the stool.

However, when there is inflammation in the digestive tract, a lot of the oxalates in the food is absorbed.

When do you need to be concerned about Oxalates?

Be concerned about oxalates when:

  • you have a leaky gut and food sensitivities/allergies
  • you have taken a lot of antibiotics or for long periods of time
  • you have problems digesting fats
  • you have an autoimmune problem
  • you have an inflammatory condition like fibromyalgia, asthma or arthritis
  • you are on the autism spectrum or have A.D.D., depression or dyslexia

 

Grain-Free Diets May Result in High Oxalates

Often, when you transition from meals filled with starches, you resort to almond flour and other ground nuts. Unfortunately, almonds and most other nut and seeds, are extremely high in oxalates. When it’s in flour form, you may be eating huge amounts.

For example:

  • A cup of almond flour is like eating 90 almonds.
  • A tablespoon of almond butter is the same as 6 almonds.

Common Foods with High Oxalates Content

Nuts and seeds.
This includes nut/seed butters and flours
Almonds, pecans, macadamias, pine nuts, cashews, walnuts, hazelnuts, pistachios.

Seeds: sesame seeds, flax seeds, sunflower seeds, chia seeds.

Fruit: figs, currants, dates berries, persimmons, orange zest or marmalade, lime peel,

Vegetables:
raw or steamed carrots, beets, chard, potatoes, sweet potatoes, celery, cooked broccoli, cooked brussels sprouts, cooked cabbage, chili peppers, rhubarb, spinach, peppers, processed tomatoes – canned, sauce or paste.

Grains and Legumes:
Wheat, rye, kamut, buckwheat, millet, sorghum, arrowroot, potato starch, rice flour.

Legumes and Beans:
black beans, chickpeas, navy beans, all soy products

Other: Stevia, Chocolate, Kombucha, Carob,

Common Foods with Medium Oxalates Content

Grains/Legumes:
Oats, Chickpeas, Lentils, rice,

Fruits:
Papaya, pears, bananas, mandarin oranges

Vegetables:
red potatoes, raw broccoli, boiled carrots, raw collard greens, eggplant, leeks, string beans, tomatoes

Beans and seeds:
Pumpkin seeds, lima beans,

Some folks experiment with reducing oxalate foods to see if it reduces their symptoms.
This could mean eating  local meats or grass-fed meats, eggs, some dairy like raw yogurt, and add low oxalate plant foods to make up the bulk of your meals.

Then follow up by slowly introducing medium oxalate foods in a small amount.

Coconut flour is a good choice of a low oxalate product.

Sometimes lists that provide the oxalate content in foods can be confusing.
The oxalate levels reported in foods can vary depending on the following factors:

  • when the foods are harvested
  • where they are grown
  • how their oxalate levels were tested

Here are some other tips for minimizing problems from oxalate:

  • Boil high-oxalate leafy greens and discard the water.
  • Meet the RDA for calcium. Eat high-calcium foods or take calcium with meals; calcium citrate if you have a history of calcium-oxalate stones.
  • Drink plenty of fluid.
  • Do not include large amounts of high-oxalate vegetables in your green smoothies.
  • Do not take large amounts of vitamin C.

Research

What is Hyperoxaluria?

Hyperoxaluria is an excessive urinary excretion of oxalate.

People who have hyperoxaluria often have calcium oxalate kidney stones. It is sometimes called Bird’s disease,  named after Golding Bird, the first person to describe this condition.

It has been found that people with Crohn’s Disease are more likely to have hyperoxaluria. It is more common in Crohn’s sufferers who have had part of their digestive tract removed. They are at higher risk of calcium-oxalate kidney stones and some times it results in oxalosis and may cause kidney failure.

Crohn’s Disease  patients are thought to have an increase of oxalate absorption. Other factors to consider are fat, vitamin B6, calcium, magnesium, and citrate malabsorption.

The Role of Probiotics

Friendly bacteria may play a role in oxalate degradation in the intestines.

This includes Lactobacillus acidophilus (1), and Bifidobacterium lactis (2).

As of November 2013, there were no probiotic supplements that contained oxalobacter formigenes.

Liebman & Al-Wahsh reviewed the research on the probiotic supplements that have been tested to see if they reduce oxalate load (1).

They found that positive results were obtained by using the VSL#3 probiotics that contains:

Bifidobacterium breve
Bifidobacterium longum
Bifidobacterium infantis
Lactobacillus acidophilus
Lactobacillus plantarum
Lactobacillus paracasei
Lactobacillus bulgaricus
Streptococcus thermophilus

They found that taking VSL#3 800 billion bacteria, once a day for 4 weeks reduced urinary oxalate excretion by 33% (3).

Then there was a follow-up test that compared VSL#3 450 billion strains to a 900 billion. They found better results with the 900 billion but it wasn’t statistically significant (4).

References

1. Liebman M, Al-Wahsh IA. Probiotics and other key determinants of dietary oxalate absorption. Adv Nutr. 2011 May;2(3):254-60. | link

2. Turroni S, Bendazzoli C, Dipalo SC, Candela M, Vitali B, Gotti R, Brigidi P. Oxalate-degrading activity in Bifidobacterium animalis subsp. lactis: impact of acidic conditions on the transcriptional levels of the oxalyl coenzyme A (CoA) decarboxylase and formyl-CoA transferase genes. Appl Environ Microbiol. 2010 Aug;76(16):5609-20. doi: 10.1128/AEM.00844-10. | link

3. Okombo J, Liebman M. Probiotic-induced reduction of gastrointestinal oxalate absorption in healthy subjects. Urol Res. 2010 Jun;38(3):169-78. doi: 10.1007/s00240-010-0262-9. Epub 2010 Mar 12. | link

4. Al-Wahsh I, Wu Y, Liebman M. Acute probiotic ingestion reduces gastrointestinal oxalate absorption in healthy subjects. Urol Res. 2012 Jun;40(3):191-6. | link

 

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