Written by: Kelley Herring
When it comes to health, we are constantly bombarded by the mainstream message to “eat more plants.” The mantra is everywhere. And whether the advice comes from doctors, government “health” agencies or that friend who purports to be an expert in everything, we are generally told a “plant-based diet” will save our arteries… boost brain function… increase our longevity…
And even help to “cool the planet”… wait, is that a good thing?
We are also often told that a “plant-based diet” is the healthiest way of eating… for everyone.
But if you’ve been reading my articles for a while, you know that is simply NOT true. Each one of us has key differences in our genetics, microbiome, hormonal and immune systems that impact how we react to food. That means, there are foods that might be healthy for you… and cause illness for me.
And when it comes to “plants” this advice is especially problematic.
Because the truth of the matter is that it is almost always some form of “plant foods” that are the root cause of autoimmune disease, inflammation, digestive distress, hormonal dysfunction, allergies, food intolerances and other debilitating conditions.
This is why broad statements like “eat more plants” can be both dangerous and irresponsible.
In my previous article, we discussed compounds known as oxalates. These compounds can cause a wide range of symptoms and they can be present in very high levels in a plant-based diet.
If you missed that article, I suggest you check it out to discover what oxalates are… the symptoms and diseases related to these compounds… how they impair detoxification pathways… the foods that are high in oxalates…
We also discuss why high levels of oxalates are often found in those with autism and other neurobiological disorders… and why a high-oxalate diet can be especially troublesome for these people.
Today, we cover why it makes sense to remove oxalates slowly… and the steps you can take to reduce these compounds in your diet and lessen their impact. So, whether you are simply seeking better health or there is someone with autism in your life who could benefit from this information, I hope this protocol is helpful
Side Effects of Reducing Oxalates in the Diet: Take It Slow!
Now that you have a better understanding of how oxalates work and where they are found (see my previous article here), it’s important to discuss what can happen when the body begins removing these compounds.
“Oxalate dumping” refers to what happens when oxalates are removed too quickly from the body. This can cause some unpleasant side effects including:
- Grainy/sandy stool
- Urinary pain
- Painful bowel movements and accidents
- Yeast flare-ups
To reduce the risk of oxalate dumping, remove oxalates slowly and be sure to stay well-hydrated to promote clearance.
How to Reduce Your Body’s Oxalate Burden
Whether your goal is to reduce oxalates for general health, to treat a specific condition or help to recover a loved one from autism, there are several things you can do to reduce these problematic compounds and lessen their impact:
- Avoid High Oxalate Foods: Eliminating the biggest offenders will go a long way to reducing your body’s exogenous oxalate burden (see my previous article for a list of high-oxalate foods).
- Cook Foods to Reduce Oxalate Content: Boiling was found to reduce oxalate content 30-87% in a study published by the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.[i] In the case of beans, soaking prior to cooking also helped reduce oxalates.[ii]
- Eat Calcium-Rich Foods: Calcium readily binds to oxalate. Getting 1,000-1,200 mg of calcium per day has been found to reduce the formation of kidney stones – a common condition linked to oxalates.[iii][iv]
- Optimize Magnesium: Like calcium, magnesium also binds to oxalate. Therefore, a magnesium deficiency can increase oxalate burden. In addition to a high-quality magnesium supplement, Epsom salt baths (magnesium sulfate) can help boost magnesium and promote detoxification, as well thanks to its vital sulfur component.[v][vi]
- Be Careful with Vitamin C: Studies show that vitamin C supplementation (ascorbic acid) increases oxalate formation within the body (endogenous formation). Take caution with vitamin C supplements and enhanced beverages and foods that may contain high levels of ascorbic acid.[vii][viii][ix]
- Avoid Antibiotics: A number of common antibiotics degrade Oxalobacter formigenes, a microbe with a unique ability to degrade oxalates. People with low levels of formigenes in their microbiome have a reduced ability to break down oxalates.[x]
- Promote Diversity with Probiotics: Certain probiotics exhibit promote oxalate breakdown in the gut including lactobacillus acidophilus, lactobacillus plantarum, bifidobacterium lactis, bacteroides and oxalobacter formigenes.[xi][xii] The best way to promote diversity and improve the profile of the microbiome is by consuming homemade lacto-fermented foods like sauerkraut.
A whole-foods diet that is low in sugar and carbohydrates, and rich in protein and healthy fats from grass-fed beef, pastured poultry and pork and eggs, and wild seafood, is a great place to start when dealing with any complex health issue. But to achieve true healing, we must look more closely at an individual’s particular sensitivities to create a personalized plan for healing.
There are myriad factors that cause each one of us to respond in a different way to various foods and lifestyle factors. But the bottom line is that we are all biologically (and genetically) unique – so you must discover what works best for YOU!
If you are interested to know your levels, oxalates and oxalic acids can also be measured via an Organic Acid Test (OAT).
Have you eliminated oxalates or specific plant foods from your diet to address autism or another health concern? If so, what was your experience?
Read more Health and Wellness articles from Kelley Herring on our Discover Blog.
Love comfort foods, but not the carbs? Check out Kelley’s FREE new book – Carb Lover’s Keto – with 100 recipes for all of your favorite comfort foods. From Chicken Parmigiana and Coconut Shrimp to Buffalo Wings and Pizza. Discover how you can indulge – 100% guilt free!
[i] Chai W, Liebman M. Effect of different cooking methods on vegetable oxalate content. J Agric Food Chem. 2005 Apr 20;53(8):3027-30. doi: 10.1021/jf048128d. PMID: 15826055.
[ii] Shi L, Arntfield SD, Nickerson M. Changes in levels of phytic acid, lectins and oxalates during soaking and cooking of Canadian pulses. Food Res Int. 2018 May;107:660-668. doi: 10.1016/j.foodres.2018.02.056. Epub 2018 Mar 5. PMID: 29580532.
[iii] Holmes RP, Knight J, Assimos DG. Lowering urinary oxalate excretion to decrease calcium oxalate stone disease. Urolithiasis. 2016 Feb;44(1):27-32. doi: 10.1007/s00240-015-0839-4. Epub 2015 Nov 27. PMID: 26614109; PMCID: PMC5114711.
[iv] Pearle MS, Goldfarb DS, Assimos DG, Curhan G, Denu-Ciocca CJ, Matlaga BR, Monga M, Penniston KL, Preminger GM, Turk TM, White JR. Medical management of kidney stones: AUA guideline. J Urol. 2014;192(2):316–324.
[v] Zimmermann DJ, Voss S, von Unruh GE, Hesse A. Importance of magnesium in absorption and excretion of oxalate. Urol Int. 2005;74(3):262-7. doi: 10.1159/000083560. PMID: 15812215.
[vi] Rudolf RD. The use of Epsom salts, historically considered. Can Med Assoc J. 1917;7(12):1069-1071.
[vii] Ferraro PM, Curhan GC, Gambaro G, Taylor EN. Total, Dietary, and Supplemental Vitamin C Intake and Risk of Incident Kidney Stones. Am J Kidney Dis. 2016 Mar;67(3):400-7. doi: 10.1053/j.ajkd.2015.09.005. Epub 2015 Oct 14. PMID: 26463139; PMCID: PMC4769668.
[viii] Jiang K, Tang K, Liu H, Xu H, Ye Z, Chen Z. Ascorbic Acid Supplements and Kidney Stones Incidence Among Men and Women: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Urol J. 2019 May 5;16(2):115-120. doi: 10.22037/uj.v0i0.4275. PMID: 30178451.
[ix] Knight J, Madduma-Liyanage K, Mobley JA, Assimos DG, Holmes RP. Ascorbic acid intake and oxalate synthesis. Urolithiasis. 2016;44(4):289-297. doi:10.1007/s00240-016-0868-7
[x] Duncan SH, Richardson AJ, Kaul P, Holmes RP, Allison MJ, Stewart CS. Oxalobacter formigenes and its potential role in human health. Appl Environ Microbiol. 2002;68(8):3841-3847. doi:10.1128/AEM.68.8.3841-3847.2002
[xi] Soliman NR, Effat BAM, Mehanna NS, Tawfik NF, Ibrahim MK. Activity of probiotics from food origin for oxalate degradation. Arch Microbiol. 2021 Oct;203(8):5017-5028. doi: 10.1007/s00203-021-02484-3. Epub 2021 Jul 20. PMID: 34282467.
[xii] Wigner P, Bijak M, Saluk-Bijak J. Probiotics in the Prevention of the Calcium Oxalate Urolithiasis. Cells. 2022 Jan 14;11(2):284. doi: 10.3390/cells11020284. PMID: 35053400; PMCID: PMC8773937.