Oxalates and Brain Health
By Elissa Michaud
Oxalates, AKA oxalic acid, is a compound found in plants. Oxalates are found in many foods in a healthy diet and eliminated as waste from the body. When consumed In moderation and with optimal elimination they are harmless. However, in excess, or when there is a lack of calcium in the diet, they can cause trouble.
Foods high in oxalates include spinach, beets, beans including lentils and soy, peanuts, berries, almonds, chocolate, and black tea. Vitamin C supplements also contain oxalates. This does not mean that these foods are unhealthy in any way, and quite the opposite. When adequate calcium is consumed it binds to the oxalates in the intestine. This makes it possible for the duo of insoluble calcium oxalate to be ushered out through elimination. Many high oxalate foods also contain calcium, while others do not.
Sharp oxalate crystals can form in the body, as in the case of iron oxalate. These tiny crystals may cause pain, inflammation, and oxidative stress to the body’s tissues.
Oxalates may be elevated when there is an increased level of Candida in the gut or Aspergillus mold infections in the body. This can happen in the case of gut dysbiosis (too many bad bugs/not enough good biotics) or fungal colonization of the lungs or sinuses. If suspect, specialized testing can confirm if this is an issue.
What potential role does oxalate play when recovering from concussion or brain injury?
Oxalate crystals can be present and accumulate in blood vessels and the brain. This can potentially lead to inflammation and microvascular insults over time. Symptoms such as dizziness, headaches and tinnitus may be exacerbated when levels are elevated.
Some general symptoms that may also indicate a high level of oxalate crystals include joint pain, kidney disease or stones, and bladder and vulvar pain. An increase in oxalates may also lead to impaired glucose utilization/regulation.
What can you do if high oxalates levels are suspected due to one or more symptoms?
- Visit a functional medicine practitioner, nutritionist or naturopath who can recommend and provide access to testing. Tests such as the organic acid test (OAT) is accurate and will also provide somewhat reliable markers for Candida and fungal overgrowth.
- Reduce the amount of oxalate foods in the diet, Gradually. Reducing too quickly can cause the body to oxalate dump. This is when the body tries to get rid of the excess in large quantities and the excess in the blood and organs of elimination may lead to dizziness, intestinal cramps, bladder pain, and other uncomfortable side effects.
- Hire a nutritionist to create a strategic nutrition plan with a gradual decrease in low oxalate food. Be sure to follow up regularly.
- Avoid or limit green smoothies and juices that contain the highest oxalate containing foods kale, spinach,and beets.
Drink Plenty of fresh water
- Avoid high doses of supplemental Vitamin C.
Vitamin C consumed in fresh whole foods is not an issue. The RDA for vitamin C is 90 mg and 75 mg for women. The amount of oxalate in the form of Vitamin C supplements that is tolerated varies between people and depends on several factors, such as current oxalate load, calcium intake and the health or functionality of the organs of elimination.
How to practise oxalate moderation
If you enjoy high oxalate foods, boil them to reduce the content (not possible with chocolate!)
- Reduce the amount of tea and chocolate consumed
Add milk to black tea
Make sure your daily calcium intake is adequate
We can help! For a customized nutrition plan or dietary consultation, or to learn more about functional nutrition tests, contact us to schedule your appointment.