Oxa Whats?

This was one of those weeks when I was caught “with my pants down”. Just when I thought I was really on top of health related subjects (which by the way is difficult and time consuming and I never really am) something else comes along and leaves me gob smacked.

“What” you might ask “could leave a person feeling gob smacked?” The information imparted in a recent blog by Janie Bowthorpe on the subject of oxalates.

Oxalate according to Dictionary.com is “any salt or ester of oxalic acid,  occurring in plants, especially spinach, rhubarb, and certain other vegetables and nuts, and capable of forming an insoluble salt with calcium and interfering with its absorption by the body.” Interfering in the absorption of calcium is only the tip of the iceberg and spinach and rhubarb are only two foods listed in a two page list of foods that are high in oxalates. When Janie listed the foods high in oxalates I was taken aback but the two pages of foods high in oxalates that the writer of Roo’s Clues listed left me astounded. You see almost every food listed by Sierra as high in oxalates was also high on my list of edible foods in the past year of being gluten free.

So what’s the problem? Foods high in oxalates, interfere with the absorption of magnesium. Oxalates can injure and kill mitochondria causing the pain and discomfort of CFS and ME. Oxalates can also keep good bacteria from being able to colonize the gut and we all know if the gut isn’t healthy your body slowly but surely becomes debilitated. If your body lacks necessary magnesium you will be more prone to heart problems, muscles cramps, restless leg syndrome and a host of other maladies often blamed on “old age” when, in fact, you could very well blame the food you are eating.

Now the real kicker is I have been suffering from leg and foot cramps since February and I even did a blog on February 7th regarding my use of the “miraculous magnesium oil“. My foot was cramping and pulling my toes in odd angles, so I sprayed magnesium oil on my foot and within minutes I could see my toes relax and fall back in to their normal position. The foot cramping went on for several months and then more recently I have had this uncontrollable need to stretch my legs muscles at night and often when this occurred in my dormant state I would suddenly be writhing in pain from a resultant leg cramp rippling through my hamstring muscle.

I have run the gamut of blame for all this distress including blaming magnesium supplements themselves because it seemed that the days I took magnesium my cramping was worse but now I am convinced this was pure and simple coincidence.  The worst thing I have been doing this past year is trying to follow a gluten free diet but not a low carbohydrate diet (Dr. Joe Mercola would not approve). Gluten free often means using lots of gluten free items as a substitute for wheat flour and all the yummy food one eats that contain wheat and grains. Almond, Buckwheat, quinoa, rice, amaranth and potato flour are all gluten free substitutions for wheat, they are all on the “must come out immediately” list.

Then there are the nuts like brazil nuts, cashews, pecans and hazelnuts and they are all listed as “high” in oxalate content. I conclude that if you eat a gluten free diet you naturally increase the foods that contain a high level of oxalic acid. If you have an oxalate processing problem those foods must be eliminated. Since eating gluten free has become a “national obsession” (or that is what some people tell me) I am left wondering how many other folks like me are suffering from leg cramps and possibly low RBC Magnesium levels (or in children like Roo, autism) and don’t know it could be their gluten free diet they are so diligently following to improve their health.

How do you find out if you have an oxalate processing problem? You need to request a 24 hour urine test to see how high your oxalate levels are. Barring a trip to the doctor for aforementioned test, you could try removing the high oxalate foods from your diet. I had already cut back on many of the high oxalate flours since exchanging wholewheat bread for gluten free bread about a  month ago and only eating that on the weekends. Since reading Janie Bowthorpe’s blog earlier this week I have tried to eliminate most but not all of the foods on the “need to come out immediately” list and the nighttime hamstring cramping has all but disappeared as well as the cramping in my feet and toes.

In the end I ask you are we left with nothing that is safe to eat? I sure hope not but a friend of mine who diligently researches health issues in hopes of solving her ongoing problems did write me an email recently. In closing she said “About half my calories are from fat, in the form of olive oil, avocado, nuts, and ghee.  A little meat, a couple eggs, a few veggies and/or roots, and I’m pretty much done for the day.” What is a self confessed “foodie” to do? I can hardly stand the thought of paring my diet down to such a limited choice but I can’t stand the thought that I would choose food over health either.

Wait! I know, I’ve got it. I need to write the next big selling cookbook. It’s title will be “Yes You Can”. Inside I could have recipes that allow a person to eat grain free, goitrogen free, oxalate free, heavy metal free, hormone free, sugar free, msg free and do it all with no microwave. Of course all the recipes would involve just making filtered water taste really, really good.

Until next week,



6 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Anonymous on 11:05 at Saturday, April 15, 2017

    Having gone through the trauma of a huge kidney stone (which was comprised of oxalate), followed by the discovery of kidney cancer, followed by a bone density test that was not good– I am about to pull my hair out. I read to get knowledge, then add foods (and supplements) that seem to address one problem, only to find out that they are detrimental to another problem. I appreciated your blog though. More than anything else it encourages me to keep trying a good balance for my body, and my unique needs.


    • I am the same. I read and read and try this and that. Currently, I am going to try Serrapeptase for some chronic pain in my neck. I had the thought that taking serrapeptase may affect something negatively. I looked at the information I can find and it doesn’t seem to have any negative effects on anything but as we know everything has an effect it’s just will it be positive or negative.
      I wish you luck on your quest for a health body.


  2. Posted by kdrbrill@yahoo.com on 17:51 at Sunday, August 18, 2013

    Kris, I can relate. I stumbled across the low oxalate diet (and yahoo group) a few months back, and tried it for a few weeks, but found that the replacement foods might also be problematic, so I tried to find a happy medium, although in hindsight, it was relatively low in oxalates — certainly no spinach, and no nuts, (although I ate nuts and other high oxalate foods for several years before I became basically housebound.

    But after a couple of months staying pretty low oxalate, I got fed up with eating the same thing every day, and decided to try going back to some of the foods I was eating for a couple years, including green beans, parsnips…a new one for me…chocolate.

    And it just dawned on me this morning…in just the last 10 days or so…my foot pain has increased dramatically, and although it was better yesterday (after restarting adrenal cortex extract), the pain level went high again this morning, a day after meals with green beans, parsnips, and then this morning, some chocolate-flavored rice cereal — not even a cupful. So back to low oxalates for me.

    But I wanted to comment about the muscle spasm/cramping issue. Oxalates bind magnesium, but as you also noted, they bind calcium as well, and strong cramps and spasms can be a sign of calcium deficiency as well. A severe calcium deficiency results in ‘tetany’ which is basically strong, strong cramps. Although 99% of the web recommends magnesium for spasms/cramps, and repeats the cliche that magnesium relaxes and calcium contracts muscles…try going without calcium in any form for a few days (especially if you’re vitamin D deficient) and you may just experience calcium deficiency cramps…which are NO fun.

    Hope this helps.


    • It is so odd/funny that you should reply to this blog posting right now because my post tomorrow is about pain, again, and the food items I have isolated as “culprits”. I really appreciate what you say about calcium because it is clear there is a fine line between too much and too little. My Vitamin D levels are always high, so that isn’t an issue and since I started taking slow release potassium the cramping has improved demonstrably. I still do take quite high doses of magnesium but what might be lacking at the moment IS calcium in supplemental form.
      I drink about 1 cup of raw milk per day mostly in hot tea. We eat cheese about 4 days out of 7, at least one meal per day. I eat vegetables high in calcium and take supplements that supply some calcium but all in all I should calculate just how much calcium I am getting per day and make sure it is enough to stave off cramping.
      At the moment my cramping is almost non-existent but that said, last night I stretched in my sleep and awoke with a start when my left calf muscle started to contract. It stopped immediately but I was reminded that cramping is an all too real possibility.
      I really appreciate your input and hope to hear from you again. My blog posting tomorrow has a catchy title (not) “Food Sensitivities” but it does discuss all the foods that can give we humans problems and the specific foods I have been able to isolate. I have several links within the post that you might find interesting as they almost all deal with food sensitivities. One even deals with testing for food sensitivities.
      I still fear that one of these days I will be like my California friend who told me (to my amazement) all she eats are some healthy fats, some meat and some root vegetables. That’s about it. The good news is she has a rockin’ body for a 50-ish woman but body issues aside that diet would drive me to distraction. LOL


      • Posted by Shari Prince on 21:07 at Monday, April 25, 2016

        Kris, have you written that book yet? I just ate too many organic pecans (yes I’ve been recently switched to gluten free low food causing inflammation diet) due to being diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. And after eating all these wonderful (too many in one sitting due to no gallbladder)pecans, my body at 6pm at night turned into one giant cramp starting with my right cramp. Screaming a writhing all alone watching TV and rubbing the calf in hopes I could get a break to drink some water. Which after 20 minutes ( felt like hours) I got that break and things started to calm down. Took a 200 MG magnesium pill and things started to calm down. But if you do come out with that book, please let me know. Because this forced gluten free diet is not the easiest thing to get a handle on. Thank you! I also took an additional standard process calsol to help with calcium absorbtion.

      • Shari, that book is elusive for sure. At the moment I have trouble posting a blog much less writing a book but it is still in my plans. As for your pain, ugh. The best thing I did in the last year is to do a food sensitivity test. They aren’t cheap but they are informative no matter which one you choose. I found the most amazing foods were contributing to my issues and cutting them out has made a big difference (that is until they sneak back in to my diet or my cosmetics).
        At the moment, I am thinking histamines are an issue for me and oxalates are not. Have you looked at histamine intolerance? I am eating gluten again but had to cut out yogurt, kefir, anything fermented in general. If you like exploring the web check out histamine intolerance, even heart palps can be down to histamine intolerance.
        Good luck Shari and next time those cramps get you down spray the area with magnesium oil, you will experience almost instant relief.

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