Could oxalate poisoning be to blame?
This page explains why oxalate poisoning is hard to spot—even though it can cause a wide variety of problems. Many of the symptoms that can be caused by excessive oxalate are listed here.
Oxalate Poisoning is Next to Impossible to Diagnose.
- Every reported case of oxalate poisoning is unique. The signs and symptoms are widely dissimilar from person to person. Thus, there is no recognized symptom pattern that is the tell-tale sign of oxalate trouble.
- Medical tests for oxalates are rarely used. When they are, they are often performed incorrectly. And, these tests can be extremely invasive, inconclusive, or both.
- Urinary oxalate, for example, is rarely measured at all. When it is measured, it’s tested badly—most often due to inadequate preparation and handling of urine samples prior to the chemical analysis.
- The same holds true for testing other tissues—blood, skin, and bone.
- Health care providers don’t order these tests because they aren’t aware that oxalates can irritate the nerves, harm connective tissues, irritate the digestive tract, and trigger inflammation. There are many other, better-known causes that can create similar symptoms, so they assume that the problems result from something else.
- For example, a gout diagnosis is usually based on symptoms and blood tests, not testing that can correctly identify the problematic material that is building up in the affected joints. Even when joint fluids are examined, the sharp, tiny oxalate crystals are often so physically similar that they’re easy to confuse with other crystals in tissue samples.
- Take uric acid crystals: When sharp, tiny uric acid crystals build up in a joint, painful gout flare-ups can result. When sharp, tiny oxalate crystals build up in a joint, it can be just as painful and might also cause bone erosions, cysts, and even fractures. Yet treatments that sometimes alleviate gout by lowering uric acid blood levels have no effect on oxalates, which are chemically different.
- Our medical tests don’t tell us much. The severity of oxalate build-up in your body does not correlate with the measured amounts of oxalate in your blood or urine at any given time. People with oxalate problems may, however, have frequent but usually brief, spikes in oxalate in their urine and perhaps in the blood also. But it is impractical to measure frequently enough to detect these patterns under normal circumstances. So this pattern is never considered.
- In severe cases, the kidney can be so full of oxalate, that oxalate gets trapped there and does not show up in the urine. Here is one case: “The patient had a tremendous amount of oxalate on kidney biopsy, but did not have any crystals in the urine.” – Dr. M.M. Samarneh (2011) “Severe Oxalosis with Systemic Manifestations”.
- Oddly enough, the timing of symptoms doesn’t necessarily coincide with the consumption of high-oxalate foods. This is because symptoms may flare up when your body releases stored oxalates—which happens when you are not eating them.
- Oxalate poisoning (like many other forms of poisoning) starts as a silent and gradually progressive disease. And it affects each person differently. When the symptoms finally surface and then interfere with your life, how would you know that oxalate is triggering your symptoms, given that oxalate awareness is nonexistent?
- Some people may seem to tolerate high-oxalate foods, while others clearly don’t.
Even full-blown oxalate trouble may not be obvious, for a number of reasons.
- Ageism. Many of the problems caused by oxalates are associated with aging and are thus dismissed as normal, inevitable, and irreversible.
- The damage they cause comes on gradually and subtly, often below the threshold of symptoms and medical tests. For example, you usually are unaware that your bones are becoming weak, until a simple fall results in a broken bone. Doctors rarely investigate the source of the weakness in the bone that could not withstand the force of the fall.
- As mentioned above, there is no standard symptom picture indicating oxalate poisoning. One key reason for this is that they tend to attach to inflamed, damaged, or deteriorating cells (the “defenseless” zones). Where this occurs differs for each of us.
- When symptoms do appear, doctors rarely suspect oxalate poisoning is the cause—even if your first symptom is oxalate kidney stones. In fact, American doctors don’t even tell patients that kidney stones are made of oxalate, much less suggesting they learn about the oxalates in foods and steer clear of the worst offenders.
- Doctors even tend to downplay dietary oxalate’s power to harm people who are clearly known to be vulnerable.
Who is vulnerable to harm from oxalate?
- Anyone making a habit of eating very high oxalate foods,
- metabolically challenged patients, including diabetics and the elderly,
- kidney stone and kidney disease patients, and
- weight-loss patients treated with drugs or bariatric surgery,
Any digestive problem may increase the amount that gets in. Urinary problems may reduce the amount that the body can excrete…
Too Much Getting In + Too Little Getting Out = Oxalate Poisoning.
What are the symptoms?
In any given situation, the symptoms below may or may not have anything to do with oxalate poisoning. But what they all have in common is that people who shifted to a low-oxalate diet have found relief from them. While we’re waiting for scientists to sort out how it all works, reducing oxalates in your diet is relatively simple to try and could very well make you feel better!
Pain and Connective Tissue Problems
Feeling unstable, weak, easily injured, slow to heal? Oxalates interfere with normal connective tissue maintenance and repair, leading to weak and unstable joints, thin or easily damaged skin or membranes, and prominent and persistent scarring. When oxalates accumulate in vulnerable tissues, they tend to increase scarring and prolong recovery from injury, and may also perpetuate inflammatory conditions. Concern for more complete healing is a good reason to eat a low-oxalate diet.
Joint problems like gout, rheumatoid arthritis-like joint pains, stiffness, soreness, swelling, instability, or tendonitis? Oxalates’ ability to accumulate in joint spaces, to harm connective tissues, and to trigger inflammation has implications for joint tissues. Inflammation due to oxalate accumulation may: 1) induce pain, or 2) tightness that doesn’t respond to stretching exercises, and 3) lead to joint degeneration.
Osteoporosis, weak or broken bones, cracked teeth, stenosis? Calcium is an oxalate magnet. As a chemically reactive metal, the calcium you need for strong bones and teeth combines readily with oxalic acid to form calcium oxalate. Oxalates can then accumulate in bones and teeth, displacing normal tissues and causing weakness, demineralization, and cysts.
Nerve Irritation and Dysfunction
Unrestful sleep, neuropathic pain, poor concentration, mental and emotional fatigue, mood problems, other brain function issues? Oxalates can affect your brain, so neurological problems may be a sign of oxalate trouble. Nerve irritation caused by oxalates can even cause hiccups.
Dropping things? Oxalate poisoning symptoms in motor nerves may include twitching, loss of coordination, unsteadiness, muscle weakness, or tremor, for example.
Light, noise, tooth, or skin sensitivity? Carpal tunnel syndrome? Sensory nerve problems that include pain, changes in eyesight and hearing, or loss of visual and hearing acuity can result from oxalate poisoning.
Cognitive or mood issues? Brain symptoms including memory problems; reduced verbal fluency; difficulty concentrating, focusing, or learning; confusion (brain fog); mood issues such as irritability, depression, excitability, restlessness, anxiety, nervousness, or loss of confidence; sleep disturbances; addiction; fatigue; loss of appetite; perhaps autism—which is a developmental problem—can be a result of toxic damage to brain neurons. Oxalate is yet another toxin that contributes to the development of dementia and Parkinson’s Disease. Wanting to maintain your mental acuity is a good reason to try the low-oxalate diet (and avoid excessive carbohydrates, toxic metals, and pesticides).
Immune System Reactions
Inflammation, autoimmune issues? Oxalates may trigger immune system reactions that get out of control in autoimmune dysfunction, leading to inflammatory “itis” diseases. This dysfunction could also contribute to a general malaise putting your whole system under siege and aggravating autoimmune conditions that affect skin, joints and other organs. Examples: rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, and perhaps celiac disease. This can make you feel “worn out.”
Thyroid problems, fatigue? Oxalates accumulate in the thyroid gland, and perhaps in other glands too. They may be an unrecognized factor in thyroid disorders. Inflammation and autoimmune issues also can cause fatigue and malaise.
Rashes and skin problems? Skin problems and related pain can resolve on a low-oxalate diet. Yet rashes are commonly reported in the early stages of transitioning to lower oxalate eating.
Digestive problems? Some oxalate micro-crystals in foods you eat have very sharp and pointy edges; needle-shaped ones can perforate mucus membrane cells. Oxalate crystals corrode your digestive system’s linings. So oxalates can trigger, aggravate, or perpetuate a wide array of digestive problems, including:
- leaky gut,
- rectal pain or bleeding, and
- irritable bowel syndrome symptoms
(constipation, diarrhea, frequent bowl movements).
Bariatric surgery and a history of digestive problems can leave you with a high absorption rate of the oxalates in your food. This is a good reason to reduce your oxalate consumption.
Oxalate excess can be a key factor in all these signs of urinary tract distress.
When oxalate loads are high enough enough to overwhelm the kidney’s capacity to handle them, real problems can develop in the kidneys and elsewhere. Even if the kidneys are successfully removing the oxalate from the blood, the rest of the urinary tract may become irritated by the high levels of sharp, corrosive oxalate crystals that pass through. This may cause frequent urination, incontinence, and pain.
Private parts hurt? Both internal and external genitalia may show signs of pain, sensitivity, tenderness, instability, thin skin, and inflammation.
Mineral deficiencies? In addition to calcium, oxalic acid in your body can combine with iron, magnesium, and other metallic nutrients your body needs, chemically locking them away into insoluble oxalate crystals. (It can also bind with lead, mercury, cadmium, and other toxic metals.)
B-vitamin deficiency? Deficiency could be due to low intake, poor absorption, birth control pills, pregnancy, or other factors. But oxalates can be a problem here too. Oxalates use up your body’s vitamin B-6. Lowered B-6 increases oxalate production inside your body. This vicious cycle can lead to deficiency.
How to tell if it’s oxalate poisoning?
Here’s one practical way to determine for sure if oxalate poisoning is the source of your troubles.
- Try the low-oxalate diet,
- Give your body time to adjust and reduce the level of deposits, and
- See the difference.
It’s healthy, tasty, and won’t harm your body. So you’ve got nothing to lose but your aches and pains.
Let me know how I can help you.