Today I’m going to give you the real deal on oxalates, calcium absorption, and the “Kidney Stone Myth.”
You see, there’s a lot of misinformation out there about high oxalate vegetables such as spinach and their supposed effects on calcium absorption and kidney stones.
We’ll break this all down and let you know how to protect yourself from kidney stones.
What are Oxalates?
Oxalates are anti-nutrients that are found in certain foods, and they’re incredibly common. They’re found in:
- Poppy seeds
- Most nuts
- Most berries
- Most beans
The Supposed Concern About These Foods
They are thought to interfere with mineral absorption, such as calcium. However, it would take a very high amount of these oxalates to cause any calcium absorption loss that would pose a significant deficiency to your body.
Plus, since these foods like spinach are highly nutritious and alkaline, their upside negates any small potential downside of these anti-nutrients.
So just to be clear, we shouldn't stop eating spinach.
These foods aren’t going to lead to an increased risk of kidney stones.
However, for argument’s sake, let’s assume this claim is true for the moment. Let’s say you’re eating a lot of foods with high oxalate levels.
If you have a healthy gut, any potential loss of calcium absorption would be completely avoided.
Why? Well remember, like all minerals, calcium absorption happens in the large intestine with the help of vitamin D3.
When you have a majority of healthy bacteria taking residence, these oxalates will be broken down by them before the oxalates have the potential to bind to any minerals, including calcium, farther down the digestive tract.
One of the most important strains, Oxalobacter formigenes (and lactobacillus acidophilus, and bifidus to a lesser degree), actually uses oxalates as an energy source and is heavily responsible for their breakdown.
It significantly reduces the amount of oxalates your body absorbs.
Here’s the KEY factor…This is WHY you ideally you want to maintain at least 85% good healthy bacteria (or more) in the gut, and no more than 15% unhealthy bacteria.
This is why we all should be supplementing with a good probiotic, as the research shows we have 1/1,000,000 (yes, that was 6 zeros) the healthy bacteria that our per-agricultural ancestors maintained.
Make sure to switch up your probiotics every 30 days to get a variety of strains, they should be acid-stable, and need to be refrigerated.
Some patients ask about that because it’s not convenient for their lifestyle, so what you need to realize is that the refrigerated brands can last out of the fridge or freezer for up to 7 days.
What’s the real problem behind oxalates?
So, this is NOT an oxalate problem, it's an acid problem!
Why? Because what destroys the healthy bacteria in the gut are acid forming foods, and other dietary, chemical, and environmental toxins.
The biggest culprits are sugar, gluten, artificial sweeteners, and the mother of all bacterial killers, antibiotics.
Did you know that one dose of antibiotics will clear out your healthy bacteria in the digestive tract like napalm for 2 years?
Gut health is directly tied to your immune system and level of susceptibility to sickness, so this is crucial. So if there are any oxalate concerns, the true concern needs to be in the gut, addressing the bacterial imbalance caused most likely by an acidic diet.
If you’re taking probiotics and you still don’t have optimal gut health, there are two courses of action that I recommend.
The first is to DETOX or CLEANSE! The terrain may be so acidic that the probiotics won’t even take or have any effect. So clean up the terrain, and then all else will follow.
I call it WEED, SEED, and then FEED.
WEED phases is to detoxify. And what better time of year than the holidays to do the Alkamind 2-Day Detox Challenge. Anyone can do 2 days, and the results you will get in terms of energy, losing a couple pounds during ‘toxic season’ will be well worth it.
Now that things are clean and less toxic, the SEED phase can be. Now, reinoculate the microbiome (gut) with a good probiotic, and you will find it will be so much more effective.
Then, FEED the digestive system with 100% healthy, organic, alkaline whole-based foods.
An additional second option is Molecular Hydrogen. If you’re not familiar with this, it’s a supplement that repairs your gut faster than even antibiotics can kill it.
Molecular hydrogen can stimulate anaerobic microflora in the gut, which can quickly reestablish the good bacteria and gut health. It’s really beneficial for people with inflammatory bowel disorders, like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Crohn’s Disease, Celiac, and diverticulitis.
The Kidney Stone Myth
If you are having challenges with kidney stones, what you need to know is that they aren’t a calcium problem or a vegetable problem. They signal an acid problem!
For people who form calcium oxalate kidney stones, dietary oxalates only account for 10-15% of the oxalate that is found in their urine. The rest, 80-85%, occur in the body metabolically (aka. ACID).
One of the largest and longest studies on kidney stones and oxalate vegetables was published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology. It studied the subject for 44 combined years and 240,681 people.
It concluded, “The relation between dietary oxalate and stone risk is unclear.” Let me translate – kidney stones are NOT caused by calcium or oxalates.
Avoiding these vegetables is worse than throwing the baby out with the bath water!
Not only are they not implicated as a major risk factor for kidney stones, these veggies have so much to offer nutritionally.
Vegetables like spinach are the antidote to the known causes of kidney stones:
- Soft drinks, due to their phosphoric acid content, reduce levels of citrate in the urine, increasing the risk of stone formation
- Processed foods, particularly high in salt
- Excess sugar consumption
- High animal protein diet
- Excess cadmium, a heavy metal, which can result from dietary sources including meat, mushrooms, shellfish, tobacco, rice, and grains
What do these foods have in common? ACID!
So the focus for preventing kidney stones needs to be on minimizing the acid in your diet and increasing the alkalinity. In fact, a Swiss research study found a diet rich in alkaline vegetables is associated with a lower risk of kidney stone formation.
How do you minimize the acid?
- Drink 3-4 liters of filtered, alkaline water each day – this is incredibly important for your kidneys.
- Consume a diet high in dark green vegetables that are rich in chlorophyll.
- Get plenty of healthy fats, including lots of Omega-3s, and fewer inflammatory Omega-6 fats that inflame the entire gut lining.
- Contrary to what most Western Docs would say, it is not too MUCH calcium, but too little! Supplement with Alkamind Daily Greens to clean up the gut, and take the Daily Minerals to give you the correct form of calcium and other mineral salts that will not only help dissolve any stones that are there, but will also help prevent any from forming in the first place.
- HYDRATE. HYDRATE and help flush the kidneys out. The body loses 2.5L of water daily, so aim to drink between 3-4 liters.
Remember to DEMAND organic, especially when it comes to those chlorophyll-rich greens. They can be very high in pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and GMOs.
If you want to err on the side of caution, doing a flash steam, sauté, or blanch boil for less than 4 minutes of your oxalate vegetables. This accomplishes 2 things: first and foremost, it preserves all the enzymes, and the spinach for example, will still be raw and highly alkaline.
Second, lightly cooking will breakdown the oxalic acid molecules by up to 90% as well as increase the amount of bio-available vitamin K1, which is indirectly important for calcium absorption.
Another way to minimize oxalates’ interference with calcium is to eat oxalates foods along with tomatoes, lemons, limes, and/or grapefruit. These foods are high in vitamin C, which blocks oxalates from binding to calcium, encouraging further absorption. Vitamin C also changes the form of iron in spinach to a much more bioavailable and absorbable form.
Last but not least, I can’t stress this enough, I am going to say it again, it’s THAT important!
Minimize acid by taking Alkamind Daily Greens each morning and Alkamind Daily Minerals 30 minutes before bed. Overnight, your kidneys will work to process out acid so the minerals will take some of the load off, and then start your day the alkaline way.