What Is A Low-Oxalate Diet?
A low-oxalate diet is advised for those suffering from kidney stones as lowering the amount of oxalate would reduce the risk of getting it.
Oxalate is a naturally occurring molecule that is found in good amounts in plants and humans. Excess oxalate can lead to kidney stones. In plants, oxalate plays a role in getting rid of extra calcium by binding with it.
Research shows, it is better to boost the intake of calcium-rich food when you eat foods rich in oxalate than eliminating it completely from the diet(1). As they are digested, they are more likely to bind with each other rather than making their way to the kidney, increasing the risk of kidney stones.
What Causes Oxalate Build-Up?
Foods, rich in vitamin C increase the oxalate level in the body. Vitamin C is rich in oxalate. Intake of over 1000 milligrams per day has shown to increase the oxalate levels(2).
When food with oxalate is consumed it travels to the digestive tract and is expelled out as stool or urine. When this food passes through the intestine, it binds with calcium and passes out as stool. In the case of excessive oxalate intake, it when passes through the kidney, leads to stone build-up.
Calcium oxalate stones are the most common type of stone(3).
Antibiotics or a history of digestive disease is also known to increase the oxalate level. Good bacteria present in the gut help in decreasing the oxalate level. If the level of the bacteria is low, high amounts of oxalate get absorbed by the body.
How Can You Reduce The Amount Of Oxalate In The Body?
It is known that drinking enough fluid in a day can help clear kidney stones and can even prevent them from forming. It is important to make a good selection of what you drink in the name of fluids, water being the best choice.
Excessive animal protein can also lead to stone formation, hence it should be avoided.
Increasing calcium intake can also help reduce the amount of oxalate that reaches the kidney.
Lowering salt intake can help lower the risk of kidney stones. If the salt intake increases in the diet more calcium are lost in the urine. An increase in calcium and oxalate in the kidney can increase the risk of kidney stones.
Foods High In Oxalate
If planning to start with a low-oxalate diet the following foods should be avoided:
- Fruits such as berries, kiwi, fig, and grapes
- Vegetables such as potato, rhubarb, beets, spinach, leeks, okra, and Swiss chard
- Nuts like almond, cashew, and peanuts
- Soy products
- Grains including bran flakes, quinoa, and wheat germ
Most of the foods contain oxalate. This does not mean you have to completely avoid them. A proper diet plan needs careful planning and proper portion sizes. This can help you enjoy even the food containing oxalate. It is best to consult a dietician or a nutritionist to decide what you can consume and what not to.
Benefits of Low-Oxalate Diet
Prevents Kidney Stones
A low oxalate diet reduces the risk of kidney stones.
Increased oxalate increases the excretion of oxalate through urine that may contribute to the development of kidney stones(4).
Oxalates are also associated with other health issues including autism.
A study done on children with autism found that the levels of oxalates were significantly high in their urine and blood as compared with the controlled group(5).
However, there is no research suggesting dietary oxalate to be a cause of autism.
A low-oxalate diet has also been used in the treatment of vulvodynia, a condition in which there is chronic pain in the vulva(6). Studies show dietary oxalate is not associated with increasing the risk of developing vulvodynia. A low-oxalate diet might help reduce pain(7, 8).
Downsides of Low-Oxalate Diet
Low-oxalate diet results in limiting healthy and nutritious foods from the diet.
For example, spinach is high in oxalate but also is a great source of fiber, calcium, vitamin A, and magnesium. Similarly, beets are high in oxalate and are also loaded with folate, manganese, and potassium.
Beans, nuts, and tofu are high in oxalate and are also a good source of protein for vegetarians. Limiting these foods can lead to protein deficiency.
Therefore, those planning to follow a low-oxalate diet should plan it according to the other dietary needs.
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