Oxalate danger

It's more than kidney stones

How does a super fit person get kidney stones? You eat well, live clean and exercise regularly.

Well, if you eat spinach in your smoothie every day for three years, this can totally happen.

Spinach is high in oxalates and oxalates are consistent with the formation of one type of kidney stone. The oxalates also have great binding power not only to form stones, but to bind to the other minerals in your diet like iron.

Take away is spinach is okay, but get some variety. If one week you pick up a bin of spinach to enjoy, next week get one of arugula instead. Variety.

Kidney stones, or nephrolithiasis formation are influenced by both environmental (dietary) and genetic factors.

Low oxalate diet to consider for kidney stones.

Signs of kidney stones

  • Severe pain in the side, back or below the ribs
  • Pain that spreads to the lower abdomen and groin
  • Pain that comes in waves
  • Pain on urination
  • Pink, red or brown urine
  • Cloudy or foul-smelling urine
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Persistent urge to urinate
  • Frequent urination
  • Fever and chills if an infection is present

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Microbiome and Oxalates

Beyond diet, the microbiome does play a role in the absorption and secretion of oxalates.

Humans don’t have the enzymes to break down oxalates. However, microbes in your gut do. The presence of a naturally occurring oxalate degrading bacteria, Oxalobacter formigenes (Oxf) certain strains of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium help reduce oxalate absorption[1].

It is more than just this handful of bacteria that do the job. A balanced microbiome with broad diversity of healthy species is what tends to help the most[2]

Measure your oxalates

Your level of oxalates can be measured with dried urine analysis. Beyond kidney stones, there are plenty of reasons to be concerned about your levels of oxalate:

  • Kidney disease
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Vulvar pain (vulvodynia)
  • Oxalate crystals are sharp and pointy and potential to irritate tissues all over the body. They could be one of your root causes for chronic pain.


[1] Mehta, M., Goldfarb, D. S., & Nazzal, L. (2016). The role of the microbiome in kidney stone formation. International journal of surgery (London, England)36(Pt D), 607–612. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijsu.2016.11.024

[2]Lee, J. A., & Stern, J. M. (2019). Understanding the Link Between Gut Microbiome and Urinary Stone Disease. Current urology reports20(5), 19. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11934-019-0882-8

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