What Are Oxalates And Why You Should Be Worried About Them.
Where Do Oxalates Come From?
So you think your so healthy drinking all those smoothies and paleo snack bars right? This type of thinking may be entirely wrong and really hurting your digestive system, tissues and even mitochondria. Lets look at the sources of oxalate and see if you have any correlation to any symptoms you may have.
Although oxalate is found in most plant matter, the quantity differs greatly between each type of plant. Certain plants such as amaranth, sweet potato, buckwheat, cacao, nuts, spinach, rhubarb, beetroot, kale, kiwi, and collard greens and some beans contain extremely high levels of oxalate. On the other hand, many other plants contain negligible levels of oxalate, and as a general rule animal products contain the least amount of oxalate. Spinach has been shown to have the highest oxalate content of any food, so anyone genetically predisposed, more on that below, to have problems with oxalate metabolism or who has a calcium deficiency and eats spinach frequently is particularly at risk for oxalate buildup and the resulting complications. Check out this amazing Facebook group.
What Happens In The Body
When humans consume oxalate-containing foods, the entry route into the body begins in the gut, and the degree of absorption is believed to depend on the solubility. Water-soluble salts (potassium, sodium oxalate etc) and free oxalate can be readily absorbed into circulation, whilst insoluble forms (calcium and magnesium to a lesser degree) are bound up, unable to pass through the intestinal wall, and are therefore likely to remain within the gastrointestinal tract to later be excreted .
These spikey structures can get lodged in tissues and even puncture the mitochondrial membrane and induce mitochondrial dysfunction, but more on that later. This happens when there is;
- To many oxalates for the system to degrade
- Genetic factors
- Low beneficial bacteria
- Fluoroquinolone antibiotic use
Upset Stomach? Well This Could Be Why.
Your gut microbiome is more important than you may think. In today’s world of pesticides, fluorinated water and drugs, and overuse of antibiotics there is doubt in my mind we are destroying the harmony in our gut.
Certain gut microbes such as Eubacterium lentum, Enterococcus faecalis, Lactobacillus sp., Bifidobacterium infantis, and most notably Oxalobacter formigenes, are responsible for degrading oxalate in the intestinal tract. In this way, these microbes are paramount to the health and stability of the human body. These same species are sensitive to specific groups of antibiotics (fluorquinolones, tetracycline, nitroforatoin etc), and are therefore likely to be detrimentally affected by antibiotic exposure.
Following the absorption of the soluble oxalate into circulation, it is eventually expelled via the urine through the kidneys. The kidney will excrete this substance until a limit is reached then the body will store them in tissues, which is the bad part of this. When the oxalate level is reached these invaluable crystals get lodged in organs and tissues. What makes this worse is it can actually degrade the remaining species of bacteria in the gut microbiome due to high oxalate content. However, there is a genetic SNP that can make this way worse. And guess what, I have it.
What The Heck, Now My Gene’s Are Fighting Me!
In the image above you can see that a certain SNP in the AGXT enzyme which causes my body through glycolysis (energy production) to produce more endogenous oxalate. Really, I was shocked when I found this out.
In medical terminology, high oxalate and elevated urinary oxalate excretion is referred to as “Hyperoxaluria”. Hyperoxaluria can exist in multiple forms. Primary hyperoxaluria is characterized by inherited genetic errors involving the enzymes responsible for metabolizing oxalate precursors (AGXT, GPHPR, & HOGA1). The first step you should to is to get a 23&Me test done to find out this information and see my other blog here on how to get a report done and also an organic acid test which I believe everyone should get done.
The second step is to find out if you are genetically predisposed to have a problem with oxalate metabolism and there are three genetic conditions for this, hyperoxaluria type I, type II, and type III. The three genes that can cause an issue with oxalate are AGT (AGXT), GRH-PR, and HOGA1. AGT and GRH-PR are able to convert glyoxalate to their glycolate or glycine respectively. Disruptions in either of these enzymes can cause oxalates to buildup. Buildups or low values in glycolic acid can sometimes be used to determine if you have a SNP (mutation) in either GRH-PR or AGXT. I reinforced my determination of the diagnosis with a great plains organic acid test which I ordered from here. This website offers testing with no prescription and a doctor’s review and results.
My Organic Acid Test Results
When I say everyone should get an organic acid test, I really mean it. This test has years of clinical research showing its diagnostic effectiveness and accuracy. Also many functional medicine doctors use this as their go to test. As you can see by the image below, I have issues in the enzyme pathway via the glyceric/glycolic pathway and dietary sources via the oxalic acid. So for me, its a double whammy of pain, inflammation and feeling like there is glass in my muscles and even my eyes.
What My Body Is Doing, And Maybe Yours!
Endogenous synthesis of small amounts of oxalate occurs as a normal part of human metabolism. Oxalate can be generated in many types of cells, such as erythrocytes, although the main production site is in the liver. This process is referred to as the “glyoxalate pathway” and is here. So my genes actually make more endogenous oxalate in my body and my organic acid test proves just that. The worst part is if I’m eating almonds, spinach and sweet potatoes I am in so much pain hours later.
As can be seen in the image above, a compound called glyoxylate is the main endogenous (in the body) precursor for oxalate. However, ascorbate (vitamin C) is also another important source. Glyoxylate can come from multiple sources. It can be derived from glycolate, or can also be derived from the amino acids hydroxyproline and glycine (yes that collagen supplement you take everyday) although these pathways are thought to be minor under ordinary conditions I’ve got some disheartening news.
Glyoxal, a glyoxylate precursor, can be generated from fats, carbohydrates, and proteins. These mechanisms involve the autooxidation of carbohydrates, the degradation of glycated proteins, and the generation of lipid peroxides. The formation of glyoxal increases under oxidative stress, which indicates that any underlying chronic condition characterized by excessive oxidation may predispose one to oxalate-related problems. (1)
But this means that each time glyoxylate is needed to be converted to glycine, the liver uses a lot of B6. So what if you don’t have B6 stores? Well that means your body could be under oxidative stress and only prohibiting the conversion. Lack of B6 causes the AGT enzyme to be inhibited and glyoxylate is then shunted down to produce more oxalate, this is where the dam of the river breaks in the enzyme pathway. This results in a lot of glycine, hydroxyproline and high levels of urinary oxalates.
What Can Help This Issue?
Change The Diet
So the first thing I would suggest is verifying you have an issues with oxalate. Then going on a low oxalate diet. You can find so many resources online to help you with recipes to assist you in getting rid of oxalate in the diet.
Fix the Gut
If your organic acid test is showing a high amount of oxalic levels then try to assist your microbiome with some good bacteria strains. Studies show some strains of Lacto and Bifido strains help. I take the following below on rotation;
Also candida has an affect with oxalates. Oxalates disrupts energy metabolism in Candida, and research shows that exposure to high oxalates can result in a protective shift from a commensal form to a more pathogenic and invasive hyphal/ filamentous form responsible for building dense protective biofilm. This means that targeting the candida may be futile, since it appears to be more of a symptom – rather than the root cause (which might be oxalate). So I’m trying this great supplement to get my gut back in harmony called Biocidin. Also working on gut dysbiosis with beneficial fibers and herbs to repair the leaky gut which I assume I have.
Oxalates are just one of those plant compounds in nature trying to keep plants safe and mammals from eating them. I get it, but I had no idea how harmful these were to my health. Start by getting your gene test, organic acid test and seeing what your eating on a daily basis. These small steps can make a huge change in the way you feel and live. I love all things health and that’s why I became a health coach, to coach people on what’s the science behind their mystery pain or illness and how they have the power to fix it. I hope this article helped you and please join the conversation below by commenting.