Oxalates are sharp crystals that are very inflammatory. They are found in many plant foods: particularly spinach, nuts, beans, and many others. Oxalates bind to minerals in the diet like calcium and can create mineral deficiencies. They can perpetuate a yeast overgrowth, even if you are on a low sugar and starch-free diet like the GAPS diet. They can cause chronic pain and inflammation including in the gut. Oxalates can not only lodge in inflamed tissue causing chronic pain for years, such is the case with vulvodynia. Oxalates can also affect the cellular “works” like the mitochondria causing low energy, low thyroid, blood sugar imbalance, and I suspect mitochondrial disorders. Oxalates are high in many nutrient-rich foods such as nuts, beans, many leafy greens and berries. This means that many well-intentioned parents inadvertently add high oxalate foods that may be problematic for some children, such as almond flour on grain-free diets like SCD and GAPS and spinach juice in an attempt to increase nutrition in a child’s diet.
A recent study, “A potential pathogenic role of oxalate in autism” showed that children with autism had 2.5-3 fold increase in oxalates in urine and plasma (respectively), the first study of it’s kind. I’ve been working a lot with the low oxalate diet in my one-on-one nutrition practice, and initially I was a bit surprised by the large number of children with ASDs that have a problem with oxalates, and excited by the good response many of them have with the low oxalate diet and supplementation.
Additionally, oxalate issues are not only an issue for children with autism, I have seen positive results with adults with certain autoimmune and pain-related conditions.
Much of the information we have today about oxalates and autism comes from Susan Owens, creator of the trying_low_oxalates yahoo group, to whom we are so grateful for her work. You can donate to her Autism Oxalate Project at her website lowoxalate.info.
Listen to my interview with Karla Wiersma, a mother and active member of the oxalate yahoo group, and read the transcript. The interview is over 2 hours and full of cutting-edge information! We discuss:
Oxalate and Low Oxalate Diet Resources
Family Experience with Oxalates
Crystals: Biggest Indicator of High Oxalates
Improvements from Low Oxalate Diet
Causes/Contributors to Oxalate Issues
Common Symptoms of Oxalate Issues
Crystals in Urine, Sandy Stools, and Skin Rashes
Yeast Flare Up, Oxalates, and Biotin
GAPS/SCD Diet and High Oxalate Pitfall
Soluble Oxalate vs. Insoluble Oxalate
Oxalate Numbers and Super High Oxalate Foods
Supplement Support for Oxalate Issues and the Low Oxalate Diet
Supplements for Oxalate Dumping
Fat Malabsorption and Oxalates
Certain Vitamins and Minerals Taken Away from Meals