Diet plays a huge role in the general well being of the body. We all know the adage that what we put inside shows on the outside. And therefore if anyone wants to lose weight or want to improve symptoms of any chronic conditions, then diet forms the first line of treatment against them.
And once such form of treatment is by following an elimination diet. What is an elimination diet you ask? An elimination diet is used by practitioners to incorporate a specific eating pattern to combat a specific chronic condition. And through this article, we are going to talk about one such type of elimination diet that may be new to the block but has claimed to have shown exceptionally good results and the diet is a low oxalate diet.
What is an oxalate diet? Is it really worth the hype? Does it provide the relief as it claims to be? If your mind is also boggled with all these questions then continue reading the article as we try to solve all your queries.
How excess oxalate formation affects our body?
Oxalate or oxalic acid is a compound which our body produces naturally and is found in our urinary tract along with calcium. Small amounts of calcium and oxalate do not produce any effect on our body but the problem starts when calcium and oxalate bind together and form hard mineral deposits in the kidney known as the calcium oxalate kidney stones.
Oxalate is not a required nutrient in the human body and therefore if we consume foods harbouring oxalate content, it travels through the digestive tract and gets passed out with stool or urine by binding with calcium. However, when excess oxalate level rises in the body and insufficient amounts of calcium are present, the surplus oxalate settles in the kidney forming kidney stones.
The rise in oxalate levels can be caused due to various factors and some of the common causes are:
- Consuming a diet which is rich in Vitamin C. For the record, consuming vitamin C more than 1000mg per day has been shown to increase the oxalate levels in the body.
- As side effects of certain medications especially antibiotics
- Having a history of kidney diseases and ailments
- Digestive disorders especially decorative gut health
The common symptoms observed in people suffering from kidney stones are
- Pain while urinating
- Blood in urine
- Sharp pain in the back and lower abdomen
- Vomiting and nausea
Most of the kidney stones undetected and that causes aggravation of the condition. Therefore, look out for the above-mentioned symptoms if you doubt having kidney stones and immediately consult your medical provider upon encountering any of the mentioned signs.
What is a low oxalate diet?
As already mentioned, a low oxalate diet is a form of elimination diet which focuses itself on ameliorating the conditions caused due to excess of oxalate levels in the body. If the diet being low on oxalate is actually beneficial or not will be discussed in the segment but before that let us discuss what you can eat and what you should avoid in this diet.
Foods that you should eat!
- Fruits- Berries like strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, cherries, banana, apple and apricots
- Vegetables like leafy green vegetables, onions, peas and zucchini
- Starches and grain-like white rice, corn, oat bran and flour
- Protein-rich foods like eggs, fish, poultry and fish
- Yoghurt, cheese, milk and butter
- Beverages like water, coffee and fruit juice.
However, make sure to limit your coffee intake though
- Condiments like cinnamon, black pepper, cilantro and cumin
Increase your calcium intake so that more calcium is available to bind to oxalate and help them in excreting out of the body.
Foods to avoid
- Fruits- raspberries, kiwis, rhubarb and citric fruits
- Vegetables- Spinach, potatoes, beets, turnips, yams, okra and carrots
- Different types of beans
- Sunflower and pumpkin seeds
- Chocolate and cocoa-rich foods and beverages
- Brown rice, couscous, millet, bulgur, cornmeal
- Soy products
Limit your oxalate intake through your diet at less than 40-50mg/day
Is a low oxalate diet helpful?
It is essential to know both the sides to grasp the working of the diet and combat against the side effects of the diet. Therefore let us look at both the benefits and side effects of consuming a low oxalate diet.
The small intestine and the first part of the colon secretes oxalate into our body, therefore, our bloodstream can easily absorb the oxalate produced and if the oxalate is not efficiently removed, it then leads to problems like kidney stones and other chronic ailments. Consuming a diet low in oxalate helps in managing the symptoms as it is more effective in managing intake than production. But according to certain reports, there have been other advantages of consuming a low oxalate diet too like
- The diet helps people affected with autism. People suffering from autism have a high level of oxalate in their body and consuming a diet rich in low oxalate will help to manage the levels.
- Helps in treating a condition known as vulvodynia which is chronic pain of the vulva.
- Consuming a low oxalate diet during periods helps in reducing inflammation and pain
Now coming to the cons of this diet, some of the most common effects are
- The diet may manage the symptoms but does not address the cause therefore if you consume a low oxalate diet, it will not help you to completely ameliorate the condition.
- Prolonged consumption of a low oxalate diet can reduce the ability to handle oxalate completely.
- Low oxalate diet poses restriction on certain food items, therefore, consuming a diet low in oxalate can lead to nutrition deficiency especially if you are vegetarian or a vegan.
It is important to weigh the pros and cons of a low oxalate diet simultaneously and choose accordingly and try to include all the essential nutrients in the diet as much as possible. The low oxalate diet is generally prescribed to people suffering from kidney stones, therefore follow some of the following tips to enhance your healing process
- Limit Vitamin C content through your diet
- Drink lots of water throughout the day. Minimum 3 litres of water is generally prescribed. And also try to consume fresh fruit juices.
- Increase your protein and calcium content
- Reduce your salt consumption
To fully solidify the effectiveness of a low oxalate diet, more research and studies are required. However, if you do want to include a low oxalate diet in your daily routine, do not forget to consult your nutritionist or dietitian for proper consultation and guidelines.