Remember putting up a fight against eating your spinach or broccoli as your mother nagged at you about its importance? You may actually have been in the right. Eating a diet bursting with fresh fruits and vegetables, including leafy greens, is generally essential and in fact needed for optimum health down the road in life. Nonetheless, dealing with certain health conditions, such as oxalate sensitivity, may require you to not overload on your favorite greens after all. Eating your green vegetables generally improves your physical and mental well-being in terms of digestion, prevention of various conditions, and overall functioning of various systems. However, greens may cause symptoms and pain you may have never linked to them.
It’s crucial that you keep in mind that your body and health are unique; what works for you may not be the most appropriate choice for the health of others. With that being said, you should be aware of how your body individually responds to oxalate, and how it could impact your Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS) if you have come to develop it.
What is Oxalate Sensitivity?
Green leafy vegetables are indeed extremely healthy, as they are loaded with dietary fiber, vitamin K, vitamin C, antioxidants, phytonutrients, and countless other health benefits. They can, however, bring on surprising symptoms. For this reason, they’re not always suitable for everyone, as they may cause unwanted side effects. If you begin to consume more greens and are not experiencing the normal benefits such as less inflammation, more energy overall, and a better mood, you may have an issue with oxalate.
If you have oxalate sensitivity, or several other conditions, it’s actually best for you to lower your consumption of greens like kale or spinach to reduce the aftermath.
Oxalate is a natural compound that is found in numerous green vegetables. It would normally be removed from your body in the form of waste, or absorbed by the healthy bacteria swimming around in your gut. As uncomplicated as that sounds, if you have oxalate sensitivity, then oxalate is in for a different journey through your system. Experiencing oxalate sensitivity could either mean that your body is absorbing more than a healthy amount of oxalate, or is having trouble getting rid of it in the form of waste. When that occurs, you may begin to experience some unwanted symptoms as your gut bacteria becomes imbalanced.
You could have a higher chance of oxalate sensitivity if you have low production of stomach acid (HCL), have a low number of healthy bacteria in your gut possibly due to an overload of antibiotics, or have leaky gut. More connections to oxalate sensitivity include having a history of calcium oxalate kidney stones, or a genetic predisposition against oxalate itself. Candida overgrowth — an excess of yeast in your system due to too much alcohol, processed junk food, fried food, fast food, sugar and sweeteners, or lack of healthy bacteria overall — could also be a problem.
One of the main causes of oxalate sensitivity is leaky gut syndrome, which has countless side effects that could follow. Leaky gut means you have developed damage in your small intestine, leading to an opening that allows large molecules and food to enter your bloodstream. Symptoms could include gastrointestinal health conditions, such as constipation, diarrhea, bloating, gases, indigestion or discomfort, and abdominal pain. Besides experiencing discomfort in your gut, you could also develop neurological symptoms. Those include brain fog, mood swings, constant confusion, poor memory, anxiety, aggressive behavior, or nervousness. Asthma or shortness of breath are also likely. Skin problems, such as eczema, psoriasis, or skin rashes are also side effects of leaky gut. Chronic muscle pain, hormonal imbalances, joint pain, or fatigue are also very commonly experienced when leaky gut is developed.
If your body ends up absorbing too much oxalate, due to the inability to remove it as waste as it normally should, you could have oxalate overload, also known as enteric hyperoxaluria. Astonishingly, and unfortunately, having an overload of oxalate has also been linked as a co-factor for various other health conditions, such as arthritis, vulvodynia, autism, fibromyalgia, and interstitial cystitis.
Some foods that are relatively high in oxalate include broccoli, spinach, kale, okra, parsley, celery, Brussels sprouts, okra, dark leafy greens, and a not-so-green vegetable which leaves many surprised: carrots. It’s best to reduce your intake of these foods if you suspect that you may have oxalate sensitivity, or if you have had it in the past.
Symptoms of oxalate sensitivity could include both simple conditions and more serious ones. For this reason, it’s essential that you take proper steps to check for this condition, and research what you can do to improve your health and prevent the symptoms from progressing.
Oxalate Sensitivity and AFS
Experiencing the symptoms of AFS can be draining, especially when you feel that you are unable to complete your everyday ordinary tasks. Pairing that with oxalate sensitivity may make it more difficult to manage your condition. Fortunately, though, being aware of your sensitivity to oxalate, followed by taking proper measures and changes, could facilitate your improvement with time. Since oxalate is stored in your thyroid, and AFS is also linked to the possibility of hypothyroidism, your AFS symptoms could be eased greatly through a reduction of oxalate, as well as other necessary changes. AFS is developed through chronic and prolonged stress, which could be due to emotional or physical stress leading you to serious symptoms. While stress in and of itself is not bad, chronic stress leads to hormones being continuously pumped by your adrenal glands to combat all of the stress you are facing. This leads to overworking your adrenal glands, followed by a disruption of your NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) Stress Response system. AFS can result in lethargy, chronic fatigue, headaches, unexplained hair loss, lack of sexual drive, hypothyroidism, sleep onset insomnia, inability to complete ordinary tasks, or even mild depression. Whether you’re eating deep-fried chicken or steamed broccoli, it’s important that you realize the impact the food you put into your body has on your individual needs. Your body is unique, and thus needs unique care to stay at its peak.
Reducing your symptoms
Symptoms of oxalate sensitivity are not pleasant. In fact, this condition could cause discomfort and pain, and set the foundation for other health conditions to develop. Kidney stones are a very common symptom experienced with oxalate sensitivity, due to the overload of oxalate your body is absorbing. There are many types of kidney stones you could develop in your life, but calcium oxalate kidney stones are among the most common. When your urine contains a high concentration of calcium and oxalate that cannot be diluted, calcium oxalate crystals begin to develop. As time passes, these crystals enlarge gradually, and become extremely painful.
Other common health conditions that can develop due to an overload of oxalate in your body are problems with your thyroid. It’s true that hypothyroidism could develop with progression of adrenal fatigue, but it’s not the only underlying cause. When your body is absorbing too much oxalate, it begins to look for places to store it, besides your organs. Frequently, oxalates begin to be stored in your thyroid. Just as crystals can form in your kidneys and develop into large stones, this process may also occur in your thyroid. The crystals can cause malfunctions and thus lead into developing hypothyroidism.
Another common health condition due to an overload of oxalate in your body is vulvodynia. It leads to chronic and painful inflammation in female genitalia, leading to unwanted health symptoms. Eating a diet that is low in oxalate overall may ease the pain and discomfort that comes with it, as this can become debilitating.
Candida overgrowth is along these same lines. It’s true that oxalates are found in plants and leafy vegetables, but it’s crucial to note that they can also grow from spores or mold. So if you have tried a sugar and grain free diet without seeing a reduction in your candida overgrowth, you may just have to blame your broccoli or kale.
Too much oxalate in your body will lead to internal inflammation, which could be the root cause of various health conditions. Systemic inflammation is detrimental to overall health, and may actually be a door to the development of cardiovascular health conditions, worsened AFS symptoms, cognitive health conditions, arthritis and joint pain, digestive health conditions, and much more. If your immune system is inflamed, it’ll make it much more difficult for you to progress in your battle with AFS, improve your energy levels, or fight the overgrowth of bacteria in your gut that could develop into candida or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth.
Reducing oxalate sensitivity
While progressing towards eliminating the foods that are extremely high in oxalate, there are other habits you can implement that may ease the symptoms if you do end up consuming a food high in oxalate. That includes reducing and managing your stress, decreasing your intake of foods high in oxalate, and being aware of habits that might worsen the condition. It’s also vital that you aim to decrease your intake of vitamin C, as this may transform into oxalate in your system.
If you are hoping to improve your condition and need to reduce your oxalate intake, then respect your mother, but pass on the plate of steamed broccoli at dinner. The same goes for your latest favorite kale salad, or the baked kale chips you have been obsessed with. Instead, use iceberg lettuce and other options that are lower in oxalate. If you really can’t imagine surviving without kale or other leafy greens, toss them into boiling water in order to reduce oxalate levels.
Taking a calcium supplement, or eating natural whole foods that are high in calcium, could improve your symptoms greatly. Surprisingly, consuming calcium reduces the amount of oxalate that your body absorbs. This means you will prevent an overload of oxalate, thus reducing the various detrimental health consequences that could possibly ensue.
Heal your gut
Healing your gut is undoubtedly fundamentally important if you are hoping to improve both your AFS and your oxalate sensitivity. You have to keep in mind that a healthy body is not merely about the outside, but also the inside. It’s easy to take pharmaceutical medications to put a Band-Aid on symptoms and avoid pain, but sooner or later, chronic health conditions will catch up with you. Work on healing your gut by eliminating foods that cause it to become irritated or inflamed, such as alcoholic beverages, sugar and refined sweets, processed junk food, fast food, deep fried food, chemicals, preservatives, hydrogenated oils, and bleached enriched flour.
Take proper measures to reduce oxalate in your diet if you sense symptoms of oxalate sensitivity, after consulting your health care practitioner. It’s vital that you seek advice from your health care practitioner prior to initiating the use of any new supplement, diet program, or exercise. Reduce your stress, improve your diet, and take steps towards the peak of optimum health.
© Copyright 2019 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.
Dr. Lam’s Key Question
Is consuming broccoli harmful for oxalate sensitivity?
While pressure from your mother may have had you eating your broccoli as a kid, it may just be a bad choice to reach for now. If you have oxalate sensitivity, broccoli and other green vegetables could stagnate your progression of managing your AFS and improving your wellbeing.