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How Oxalates Affect Our Body and How to Detox Them

Updated: Jun 26

Spinach is known as a super food.  I used to eat it frequently in salads and pasta dishes and it was my favorite pizza topping.  It contains fiber; vitamins A, C, K1, B9; iron, and calcium.  So of course it's a super food, right?  Well...not exactly.  Spinach also contains extremely high levels of something called oxalic acid. 

You might be asking, what is oxalic acid? 

Oxalic acid (or oxalates) are produced by plants, animals, and even us humans.  They actually serve as a defense mechanism for plants against predators such as animals and insects.  Oxalates have sharp edges when they form into crystals, which can cause damage to the body.  They can cause joint pain, pain while urinating, frequent urination, painful bowel movements, kidney stones, interstitial cystitis, fatigue, and fibromyalgia.  They can also contribute to brain fog, depression, and anxiety by interfering with our brain's ability to produce neurotransmitters.

So what, the nutritional value outweighs the potential damage right?

Oxalates usually bind to calcium, which is why it's best to eat high oxalate foods with calcium.  However, if there is an excess they will bind to minerals and heavy metals.  For this reason, oxalates prevent mineral absorption and can cause more deficiencies.  So, in reality you're not absorbing all the nutrients that spinach contains.  Not only do they cause deficiencies, but they can also cause mitochondrial dysfunction, along with other imbalances, and when they bind to heavy metals, they prevent their detoxification.


Here's the kicker...even yeast, bacteria, parasites, and protozoa produce oxalates.  So, we may have an even higher oxalate load than we think.  Some people are also genetically prone to having higher levels of oxalates.

To put this into perspective, the recommended maximum daily intake of oxalates is less than 100 milligrams per day and for some people less than 50 milligrams.  According to WebMD half a cup of cooked spinach contains 755 milligrams of oxalates!  Most people (especially those who are on a plant-based diet) are probably getting WAY more oxalates than their body can handle.     

If you're convinced about the damaging effects of oxalates, you probably want to know what you can do about it right?

The first thing is to reduce the amount of oxalates you're consuming.  I recommend completely avoiding these extremely high oxalate foods: spinach, beets, Swiss chard, soy, rhubarb, almonds, plantains, buckwheat, amaranth, sesame seeds, cashews, peanuts, chocolate, and carob.  You want to be careful and very SLOWLY work on reducing your oxalate intake, otherwise you could cause painful oxalate dumping.

The next step to take to work on detoxifying the oxalates. It's important to work on all three phases of detox pathways. You can read more about the three phases of detox in my post titled Why Detox Cleanses Could Do More Harm Than Good. You'll want to make sure you're getting the essential vitamins, minerals, and amino acids that are essential for detoxing oxalates.

You might be wondering if there's a test that will measure oxalate levels.  The Organic Acids test does have an oxalate marker, however often times oxalate levels show up low due to the fact that the body may not be detoxifying them into the urine and therefore all the oxalates aren't showing up in the urine sample.  So, it's best to go more by symptoms than the actual test results.

I can't stress enough the importance of working with a practitioner. Before you start trying to detox oxalates from your body, you'll need to run the proper labs to see what your body needs, work on imbalances, and all three phases of your detox pathways. If you go straight to detoxing the oxalates it could be counterproductive or even cause more harm. You can read about the proper labs to run in my blog post titled 6 Functional Labs That Get to the Root Causes.

Want more info about healing from health issues?  Click here to sign up for my free video series. If you're looking for a practitioner and want to contact me or sign up for a free 20-minute health assessment, click here to visit my website.        


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