The Role of Oxalates in Autism and Chronic Disorders


FOTCM Member
A very insightful article which ties candida overgrowth, autism, heavy metal toxicity (mercury), etc.

The Role of Oxalates in Autism and Chronic Disorders

A mummy that had been preserved for a couple of thousand years in the high desert of Chile was discovered upon X-ray examination to have a very large oxalate stone in the kidney, about the size of a golf ball. The discovery of this ancient sufferer is testimony to the fact that kidney stones and oxalate toxicity have afflicted humans for a very long time.

Oxalates (the salt form of oxalic acid) are extremely painful when deposited in the body. About eighty percent of kidney stones are caused by oxalates and they are by far the most common factor in kidney stone formation. There is also a large degree of genetic variability in the ability to detoxify the chemicals that produce oxalates. Perhaps twenty percent of the population has a genetic variance that increases their likelihood of producing oxalates, even when not consuming a high-oxalate diet.

Oxalates can form all throughout the kidney and the urinary tract, and can also form in the ureter as well as in the bladder. These star-shaped crystalline stones cause pain as the pressure in the urinary filtrate builds up, and perhaps also by tearing into the walls of the urinary tract itself.

Some kidney stones acquire a stag horn shape, while some oxalate crystals resemble pieces of coral. The crystals do have a lot of calcium in them just as coral does. Oxalate crystals appear in different colors. Some are black and almost look the color of Indian arrowheads made of obsidian. On page 41 is shown a picture of a kidney with one of the oxalate crystals imbedded in it. You can see that the crystal is very pointed. Some of these have extremely sharp ends that cause severe pain.

Kidney stones are one of the most common medical ailments—ten to fifteen percent of adults will be diagnosed with a kidney stone in their lifetime. One million Americans develop kidney stones each year and most of these are oxalate related. Seventy-five to ninety percent of kidney stones are made of oxalic acid bound to another compound, usually calcium.

Once you have experienced a kidney stone attack, you have a very high chance of having another unless you change your way. The common symptoms are pain in the side and the back below the ribs. The episodes of pain last between twenty to sixty minutes, and it is common to hear women who have suffered kidney stones claim that they are more painful than childbirth.

The pain radiates from the side and the back to the lower abdomen and groin. There may be bloody, cloudy and foul-smelling urine. If there is infection, there may also be fever and chills. Pain with urination may accompany nausea and vomiting, and the sufferer may have a persistent urge to urinate.

This last symptom is a common factor in autism. It has been noted that many children with autism urinate perhaps fifty times a day, but only release a small amount of urine each time. After I did my research it became clear that the behavior arose because these children were suffering from kidney stones and high oxalate concentrations. The children would urinate only a small amount at a time since when urinating normally the pressure of the stream causes pain. Frequently releasing small amounts of urine causes much less pain to the child.

Even though oxalate crystals are most common in the kidney, they also can form in virtually any other tissue in the body, including the brain and the blood-brain barrier. Oxalate crystals resembling pieces of glass can form in the heart muscle. As the heart muscle contracts, these pieces of oxalate crystals actually tear into the tissue. If these crystals are deposited in skeletal muscle, normal movement and exercise can be very painful. I’m convinced this is also one of the factors responsible for fibromyalgia. Oxalates may also cause thyroid disease as they react in thyroid tissue.

Oxalate crystals can form in the bone. The oxalate crystals can become so dense they actually push the bone marrow cells out of the bones, leading to severe anemia. Deficiencies of red blood cells as well as white blood cells may result due to the oxalate depositions in the bones. Oxalates can likewise cause osteoporosis. The oxalates form in the bone marrow and alter the structure of the bone matrix so the bone is much weaker and prone to breakage.

Other diseases in which oxalates may play a role include arthritis, joint pain and interstitial cystitis.


The shape of the crystal will depend on which metal the oxalate combines with. Calcium is one of the most common but it can combine with virtually any metal. There are cobalt oxalates and zinc oxalates. The cobalt ones are spear shaped whereas the zinc oxalate resembles thin disks. These are extremely thin and very sharp.

Oxalates in the gastrointestinal tract have a tendency to bind essential elements. If you have a lot of oxalates, you won’t be able to utilize essential elements like calcium, magnesium and zinc because they will also form deposits with oxalates. If you have excess oxalates, you may have to increase your intake of calcium, magnesium and zinc. In addition, rather than acting as antioxidants, oxalates are prooxidants, so they encourage the oxidation of your fats, forming rancid fats in your body.

An unexpected finding is the fact that oxalate crystals are produced in very high amounts by molds and fungus. Aspergillus—a common organism that causes infection in humans and also is found in the black fungi that you see in your bathroom—produces oxalates.

I remember I was in San Juan, Puerto Rico, at the old fort that overlooks the sea. There was a lot of black mold on the walls and I could see stalactites coming down. The stalactites in this case were formed from calcium oxalate. Aspergillus produces these oxalates, and these stones will form any place that has infection by the fungus.

In the case of sinus infection, mold and fungus, not bacteria, are the most common causes of infection. A colleague of mine, who is an eye, nose and throat specialist, X-rayed a patient’s sinuses and found large oxalate crystals in her sinuses, which disappeared after anti-fungal treatment.

Large oxalate crystals have also been isolated from the lungs of people who had Aspergillus infection of the lungs. The deposits can also form in the skin where they create black areas and necrotic lesions in people with very high oxalate levels.

I first became interested in this topic because of improvements that were noted in autistic children by the researcher Susan Owens. It was Owens who collected the data showing that many autistic children had frequent urination of small volume and found that the phenomenon was associated with oxalates. She also found that these children often manifested gastro-intestinal symptoms such as diarrhea and stomach pain. They may also have pain in the urinary tract. That pain is relieved when a low oxalate diet is instituted. Owens also found that children had improved cognitive, academic and motor skills once the amount of oxalates in their diets was sharply reduced. The same dietary measures helped reduce pain in their muscles and feet, and also brought about a reduction in abnormal behavior and self-abuse as well.

Eighty percent of people with genetic diseases that cause them to produce kidney stones die before the age of twenty. These genetic diseases, which belong to a class of disorders called hyperoxaluria, are frequently fatal unless the victim receives both a liver and a kidney transplant. Sometimes even after the transplants people die because the oxalates are deposited in tissues all throughout the body. The oxalates will come out of the bones or the muscles and then form in the transplanted kidneys and still kill the person.

More than a third of children with autism have oxalate values as high as people who have these rare genetic disorders, even though these autistic children do not have the disorders. The question naturally arose: If they don’t have this genetic disorder, why are their oxalates so high?

We correlated the amount of oxalate in autistic children with other biochemical parameters and found there was a high correlation with the sugar arabinose, which is a Candida marker. It appears that the main reason for the high oxalates in children with autism is because of the Candida problem, which is prevalent in autism. Arabinose is very low in normal children and very high in those with autism. We found in my earliest research that treatment with the anti-fungal drug Nystatin markedly decreased this compound. In addition, autistic symptoms such as hyperactivity, lack of eye contact, and aggressive behavior markedly decreased as well. Because of the dramatic reduction in symptoms, anti-fungal treatment has become one of the most common therapies in autism in the world today.

Another condition associated with oxalates is vulvodynia, or pain in and outside the vagina. The oxalate crystals act like tiny pieces of glass, which are deposited in the tissue. The oxalate is extremely acidic so it is corrosive as well. The pain is often described as burning or stinging, with a feeling of rawness or irritation.

One of the published studies on the treatment of this condition states that this is due to a reaction with yeast. There is indeed a connection of vulvodynia with yeast, most often Candida. There are about a dozen different species of Candida yeast normally associated with humans, the most common of which is Candida albicans. It was found that the main way to treat volvodynia was anti-fungal treatment to get rid of Candida, along with a low-oxalate diet. These two approaches have been very effective in correcting this condition.

Children who take oral antibiotics will frequently have much higher amount of oxalates. Antibiotics severely disrupt the balance of normal flora in the gut, with a consequent exponential proliferation in the growth of Candida, which is resistant to antibiotics. Oral antibiotics first appeared in the early 1950s, and the pharmaceutical companies actually included antifungal drugs along with the antibiotics because they knew about this problem. The FDA disallowed the addition, declaring that there was no approval for the prophylactic use of anti-fungals, thereby washing their hands of the whole business. It is significant to note that if individuals are given the same amount of antibiotics intravenously, their oxalate values do not rise because there was no effect on the GI tract. In some ways the old medical treatment—a shot of penicillin—was a lot safer.

Yeast is a common factor in chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia, and antifungal therapy is very useful in treating these problems. Jacob Teitelbaum has written several books about the treatment of fibromyalgia and indicates two-thirds of individuals improved their chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia after anti-fungal therapy.

A Dr. Eaton in England found that individuals who had chronic fatigue would actually produce alcohol from their sugar intake. He describes patients who would do a baseline blood-alcohol test, then take some glucose dissolved in a flavored drink, and measure the blood alcohol one or two hours later. The blood alcohol would be substantially higher if the person had a severe Candida problem.

The OH component readily attaches to minerals like calcium, zinc and mercury, forming oxalates. Oxalates in the body come from food, can be formed in the gut by yeasts and fungi, or can result from an interruption in the glycolate pathway. Nutritional deficiencies and inborn errors of metabolism cause the formation of oxalates rather than the protein glycine.

Eaton found that by using this test he could monitor patients undergoing different treatments for chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia and found that 42 percent of patients improved just with sugar restriction alone. If he combined a low-sugar diet together with anti-fungal drugs, he had about a 78 percent success rate.

The most comprehensive study was that of a Dr. Jessop in California, who treated over one thousand people with chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia using a single anti-fungal drug, ketoconazole. Eighty-four percent of the patients improved. Of the 1,100 patients, 685 were on disability payments. After the treatment with anti-fungal treatment, only twelve remained on disability. It was an extremely effective treatment!

High amounts of oxalates have also been found in persons with a metabolic disorder called Zellweger syndrome, which causes the reduction or absence of an intracellular organelle called peroxisome, leading to mental retardation and severe metabolic problems. In one study, nineteen of twenty-three patients exhibited high amounts of oxalate, and there was a direct relationship between the degree of mental impairment in children and their levels of oxalates. The children with the highest amounts of oxalates were the ones who were the most mentally impaired.

Oxalates also come into play in cancer treatment. One of the drugs used to treat cancer, oxaliplatin, contains a combination of platinum and oxalate. In many of the people taking this drug, their cancer improved, but they also experienced severe neurotoxicity and nerve damage. While undergoing treatment, patients developed high amounts of oxalates which were coming from the drugs. Researchers found the effect was specific to the oxalates. If they gave the drug without the oxalate the toxicity did not occur; the toxicity was a result of the oxalate combined with the drug.

Research has also found that people with genetic variations called polymorphisms experienced much more neurotoxicity when exposed to this drug. Alanine-glyoxylate aminotransferase (AGXT) is the enzyme responsible for moderating the production of oxalates in the body. People with a genetic variation that leaves them deficient in AGXT are much more likely to suffer severe reactions. They suffer peripheral neuropathy, the disease of the peripheral nerves that causessuperficial and deep sensory loss; sensory ataxia, which means not feeling a sense of balance; and functional impairment.

People who are vegetarians really have to be aware of all the oxalates they take in. The biggest culprit for all vegetarians is soy protein, and the second is spinach. Virtually everybody who eats a large spinach salad every day is going to succumb to kidney stones. I’ve tested them over and over again and the people who have the highest oxalate values invariably tell me that a cornerstone of their daily diet is a large spinach salad. If they add nuts to their salad and textured soy protein, both of which are very high in oxalates, you’ve got a cocktail made to produce kidney stones. Spinach is so high I would not recommend eating it even cooked, as a main course. Lettuces, by the way, are very low in oxalates. The biggest problem vegetarians face is eating a diet high in soy protein and spinach.

Once after I gave a talk a physician came up afterwards and told me that a few months earlier he had decided to get healthy. He decided to forswear all the McDonald’s and the like. He was going to start eating healthy and eating healthy meant a very large spinach salad with lots of pecans on it every day. Within two months he had kidney stones.

Cooking does not destroy the oxalates; they are extremely stable. Cooking may reduce the oxalates in foods as they precipitate into the cooking water, and if you discard that water you are likely reducing the oxalates remaining in the food. If you drink that pot liquor, however, you will absorb the full amount.

Peppercorns are very high in oxalates, but not many people eat a pound of black pepper every day. However, if you like pepper-coated steaks, pepper may contribute to your oxalate load. The same goes for parsley, it’s very high in oxalates but you don’t eat very much of it.

Peanuts and peanut butter are problematic because some kids eat them every single day. Peanut butter is not a poison, so eating it occasionally isn’t going to bother you. The problems come when you make a few highoxalate foods the staples in your diet.

Dr. Massey at Washington State University found that textured soy protein is very high in oxalates. There are 638 milligrams of oxalate per 85-gram serving, which is about the size of one of these small soy burgers and as much as you would find in a typical serving of spinach. The recommended amount of oxalate for people who have kidney stones is less than 30 mg a day. One soy burger contains twenty times the recommended daily dose in just one single portion. This, I would say, is a major problem for the soy producers. The soy cheese does not have nearly as much. It’s the textured soy protein, the soy burgers, the soy bacon that have such high levels. Some soy companies recommend that you pour textured soy protein on your breakfast cereal. You really don’t want to do that.

How much oxalate is in the typical diet? There’s a very large range— from 97 to 930 mg a day. To reduce kidney stones you should consume less than 30 to 50 mg a day.

Even though we can avoid the worst offenders—soy foods and spinach— if you are enjoying a varied diet, it is difficult to reduce dietary oxalate levels to near zero because they occur in so many foods—grains, nuts, vegetables and fruits.

The most effective way to get rid of oxalates is the use of calcium citrate. This supplement exerts a double potency action in eliminating oxalate. The calcium part of calcium citrate binds to the oxalate and causes it to precipitate out in the stool so it will not be absorbed. But part of the oxalate escapes. The citrate is a second line of defense, which competes directly with the oxalate for absorption.

For the treatment to be effective, the calcium citrate must be taken at the same time as the oxalate-containing food. If you have problems with any of conditions caused by oxalates—kidney stones, autism or vulvodynia— then taking calcium citrate with each meal can be very effective. If there is an adequate amount of calcium in the diet—if supplementing with calcium citrate, for example—it will combine with the oxalate in the GI tract, precipitate out in the stool, and then be eliminated in the stool.

The optimum dosage is approximately 300-350 mg calcium as calcium citrate for a total of 1000 mg (one gram) of calcium a day. If you’re taking this you don’t need additional sources of calcium. An even better approach would be to use magnesium citrate. The adult dosage is about 300-400 mg a day. Some practitioners recommend up to 1000 mg but many people report problems with diarrhea if they exceed 400 mg. Again, a divided dose would be best, taking the magnesium citrate with each meal.

Some other supplements that can be very useful include probiotics and anti-fungal medication to help to control Candida. The probiotic bacteria have enzymes that break down oxalates.

The amino acid arginine helps to prevent the depositing of oxalates in the tissues. The omega-3 fatty acids and cod liver oil are also very effective in preventing oxalate deposition. The omega-6 fatty acids, mostly from commercial vegetable oils, behave in the reverse, and accelerate the deposition of oxalate.

The supplement that is most helpful is vitamin B6. This costs only pennies a day and is extremely safe. I take 100 mg every single day. I recommend just the pyridoxine form. I know the type called P5P is also used but personally I don’t think you get the additional benefit by the P5P.

There are a number of medical tests for oxalate status that we use at Great Plains Laboratory. We have a urine panel to measure oxalates and we can also test for yeast markers. We typically find that where the yeast marker is very high, the oxalate marker is also very high. We also test for vitamin B6.

With these measures, kidney stones are largely preventable. This is good news because oxalate buildup can do a lot of damage.



Oxalate refers to the salt form of oxalic acid. All acids follow the same convention of nomenclature. The salt of citric acid is citrate, for example. The salt form simply means it is missing hydrogen atoms. Instead, the salt form has a negative charge attached to it. When the acid has the hydrogen attached to it, it has the suffix –ic. When the hydrogen atoms are removed so that it is negatively charged, it has the suffix –ate. The critical thing about this, from the chemist’s point of view, is that the pH, which is a measure of the acidity of the molecule, of oxalates is the lowest of all the organic acids. (A low pH rating corresponds to a high level of acidity.) It’s the most acidic, most corrosive organic acid there is because of its very low pH value. For example, citric acid might have a pH of 5—mildly acidic in comparison, and hundreds of times less acidic than oxalate. The molecule of oxalic acid could lose two hydrogen atoms so it can become doubly negatively charged and this is the form in which oxalate is predominantly found in the blood and the urine. This form in which there are two negative charges makes it much more likely to bind to a number of metals. Calcium, zinc and mercury are examples.

What is very interesting from the chemist’s point of view is the fact that oxalate binds most tightly to toxic metals such as mercury and lead. One might think this strong chelating action is beneficial, but it is quite the opposite. Once oxalate binds with mercury or lead it immediately becomes insoluble and precipitates out of the bloodstream and forms crystals in the bones and other tissues. Rather than attaching to these toxic metals and escorting them out of the body, the oxalate traps the toxic metals within the body. This is one aspect of oxalates that I believe should be more closely examined as it may explain why oxalates are associated with so many diseases. They will trap heavy metals and enhance their toxicity.

The oxalate itself is water soluble, but once it binds with a metal ion it becomes insoluble and then precipitates out to be deposited in tissue. In a comparison of the different strengths of reaction of oxalates with various metals, the metal with the highest reactivity is mercury. When oxalate reacts with mercury, even if there is only a tiny amount present, it will preferentially bind with mercury compared to calcium or other metals. The oxalate almost seems to seek out and trap toxic metals. The reactivity of oxalate with calcium and magnesium, on the other hand, is very low, and the lowest reactivity is with magnesium. One of the treatments to help people get rid of excess oxalates is to take very high doses of magnesium, or in some cases, actually give intravenous infusions of magnesium. Because it has the least solubility with oxalates magnesium will help to dissolve them, so to speak.


About fifty percent of oxalate comes from the diet and the other fifty percent comes from what your body makes itself. Oxalic acid in the diet is first converted to glycolate, then glyoxylate, and then at this point glyoxylate can either bind to a mineral to form oxalate or it can be transferred and form glycine.

If you have a genetic deficiency in the enzyme AGXT, the glyoxylate primarily forms oxalate because reduced amounts of AGXT do not function adequately to override this process. One in five people in the population has this genetic variant in which they cannot detoxify this compound. Instead it predominantly forms oxalate.

It has been found that one third of the people with oxalate toxicity have this genetic variant, and 53 percent of them are likely to have acute, very severe neurotoxicity versus only 4 percent in those with normal genotype expression. Probably a high percentage of people who have kidney stones are in this group of 20 percent of individuals with this genetic variant.

One of the body’s energy production factories called glycolysis is inhibited by oxalates. The enzyme pyruvate kinase is involved in the last step in the body’s energy production and is strongly inhibited by oxalate. It is very interesting that the same enzyme inhibition is largely responsible for Tourette syndrome. People with Tourette syndrome, however, have strep antibodies that inhibit this enzyme. Oxalates also strongly inhibit the same enzyme.

The critical factor here is that this enzyme works much better in the presence of high amounts of vitamin B6. This is another one of the holistic treatments for people with kidney stones. In fact, vitamin B6 treatment is also used by the mainstream medical community for people with kidney stones.


What about the controversy surrounding vitamin C therapy? Vitamin C has been shown to be very helpful in kids with autism, although theoretically vitamin C can form oxalates. I say theoretically. Vitamin C can increase your risk of kidney stones if you take extremely high doses, in the range of 100 grams (100,000 mg) a day.

A double-blind study found that very high doses of vitamin C was very effective in reducing autistic symptoms. A study showed that a person taking 2000 mg (2 grams) of vitamin C a day for ninety days did not cause a significant effect or change in oxalate levels.

Another study evaluated forty-five thousand men who took vitamin C and vitamin B6 over six years and examined the effect this supplementation had on their kidneys. In the six years of follow up they found 751 cases of kidney stones out of 45,000 men. There was no association, however, of vitamin C or vitamin B6 intake with the kidney stones. In fact, men who took more vitamin C had less risk of kidney stones than men who took less than 250 mg vitamin C.

The real problem with vitamin C is the metals that the person may be taking. If one is taking high amounts of copper or iron, these can accelerate the breakdown of vitamin C to form oxalates. Someone with high copper or iron levels may be at risk for higher oxalate formation if also supplementing with vitamin C. The vitamin C may be broken down to form dehydroascorbate and then oxalate. Knowing your copper and iron status can be very important.

If, for example, you have copper pipes in your home, which is very common, and you have acidic water, that water will dissolve your copper pipes so that most of the water coming out of your faucet will contain high amounts of copper. In turn, the high copper may cause you to degrade your vitamin C. There is a problem with forming extra oxalates, but this also means that even if you take high doses of vitamin C, it may not be useful because the copper can degrade it so rapidly. It is the free copper that is so toxic.

Copper is bound to a protein in the blood called ceruloplasmin. Isolating ceruloplasmin from blood was one of the first things I did after earning my PhD. I went to the Red Cross and obtained outdated plasma and I didn’t even have to test it. All I had to do was look at the color of the plasma. Donors who had high copper had serum that was green. I could pick out the samples with high copper just by looking at them in the freezer and choosing the green color.

Almost invariably the samples were from women who were on birth control pills. The estrogen causes the body to make more of this protein. We test this copper-zinc profile in the Great Plains Laboratory and the most important value is the free copper. A person with autism can have ten times the value of free copper compared to normal individuals. In some individuals with autism this can be most significant; but this copper-zinc imbalance is important in almost every chronic disease: ADD, schizophrenia, arthritis, chronic fatigue, and many others. When you have too much copper and not enough zinc, vitamin C will not be utilized, it will be destroyed.


Spinach Lime peel Chocolate
Soy protein Rhubarb Instant coffee
Tofu Swiss chard Leeks
Peanuts Parsley Tea
Peanut butter Sweet potatoes Okra
Pecans Pokeweed Wheat germ
Lemon peel Black pepper

This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly journal of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Spring 2010.

About the Author

William Shaw, PhD, is Director of The Great Plains Laboratory for Health, Nutrition and Metabolism, a laboratory specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of metabolic disorders of adults and children along with autism, PDD, hyperactivity, inborn errors of metabolism and adult disorders such as depression, fibromyalgia, and chronic fatigue.


FOTCM Member
Fascinating article Psyche. For a time I was eating quite a bit of spinach, and although I wasn't having apparent reactions I was still feeling cautious of it, with the reason being that I remembered it was high in some type of acid not good for your body. I also was eating sweet potatoes more often, but since I'm back on the anti-Candida diet, those are now out too. It seems you really don't want oxalates to be a regular part of your diet, particularly if you may have Candida.


Thank you for a great article about a rarely mentioned problem.

I have only heard oxalates mentioned before in connection to vulvodynia, thanks to a very insightful midwife who helped me with my second pregnancy. At the time, only one resource on the internet talked about oxalates as they apply to this issue alone. The diet really works, and the candida connection is definitely true too, in my experience.

This article ties oxalates with other conditions, medicines and biochemical pathways. Very comprehensive and educational.

Thanks again!


The Living Force
FOTCM Member
Thanks for that Psyche. I originally was having really bad body aches/fatigue eating spinach, so this explain a lot!
This really does put the last piece of the puzzle together for me and my health problems.


FOTCM Member
Okay, I see that chocolate is on that list. :scared: :cry: However, he doesn't mention it in the article, that I could tell. Sooooo I am going to assume that if you don't eat 100 grams of chocolate a day, you are okay. :whistle:


The Living Force
I eat a lot of the foods mentioned, but I also supplement with everything mentioned too. :/ I'm leery of cutting out all of them, particularly lemons, sweet potato, and black pepper.

Moderation seems to remain key? :)


The Living Force
FOTCM Member
Nienna Eluch said:
Okay, I see that chocolate is on that list. :scared: :cry: However, he doesn't mention it in the article, that I could tell. Sooooo I am going to assume that if you don't eat 100 grams of chocolate a day, you are okay. :whistle:
fwiw chocolate contains B6 and magnesium, so I think it may balance out ok? ;)

Some more info....

Can you tell me what oxalates are and in which foods they can be found?

Oxalates are naturally-occurring substances found in plants, animals, and in humans. In chemical terms, oxalates belong to a group of molecules called organic acids, and are routinely made by plants, animals, and humans. Our bodies always contain oxalates, and our cells routinely convert other substances into oxalates. For example, vitamin C is one of the substances that our cells routinely convert into oxalates. In addition to the oxalates that are made inside of our body, oxalates can arrive at our body from the outside, from certain foods that contain them.

Foods that contain oxalates

The following are some examples of the most common sources of oxalates, arranged by food group. It is important to note that the leaves of a plant almost always contain higher oxalate levels than the roots, stems, and stalks.

* Fruits
o blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, currants, kiwifruit, concord (purple) grapes, figs, tangerines, and plums
* Vegetables (see Table 1 for additional information)
o spinach, Swiss chard, beet greens, collards, okra, parsley, leeks and quinoa are among the most oxalate-dense vegetables
o celery, green beans, rutabagas, and summer squash would be considered moderately dense in oxalates
* Nuts and seeds
o almonds, cashews, and peanuts
* Legumes
o soybeans, tofu and other soy products
* Grains
o wheat bran, wheat germ, quinoa (a vegetable often used like a grain)
* Other
o cocoa, chocolate, and black tea

Oxalates and health

Conditions that require strict oxalate restriction

There are a few, relatively rare health conditions that require strict oxalate restriction. These conditions include absorptive hypercalciuria type II, enteric hyperoxaluria, and primary hyperoxaluria. Dietary oxalates are usually restricted to 50 milligrams per day under these circumstances. (Please note: these relatively rare health conditions are different than a more common condition called nephrolithiasis in which kidney stones are formed, 80% from calcium and oxalate). What does 50 milligrams of oxalate look like in terms of food? One cup of raw spinach in leaf form (not chopped) weighs about one ounce, and contains about 200 milligrams of oxalate, so 50 milligrams for the day would permit a person to consume only 1/4 cup of raw spinach (and no other oxalate sources could be eaten during the day).

Oxalates and kidney stones

The formation of kidney stones containing oxalate is an area of controversy in clinical nutrition with respect to dietary restriction of oxalate. About 80% of kidney stones formed by adults in the U.S. are calcium oxalate stones. It is not clear from the research, however, that restriction of dietary oxalate helps prevent formation of calcium oxalate stones in individuals who have previously formed such stones. Since intake of dietary oxalate accounts for only 10-15% of the oxalate that is found in the urine of individuals who form calcium oxalate stones, many researchers believe that dietary restriction cannot significantly reduce risk of stone formation.

In addition to the above observation, recent research studies have shown that intake of protein, calcium, and water influence calcium oxalate affect stone formation as much as, or more than intake of oxalate. Finally, some foods that have traditionally been assumed to increase stone formation because of their oxalate content (like black tea) actually appear in more recent research to have a preventive effect. For all of the above reasons, when healthcare providers recommend restriction of dietary oxalates to prevent calcium oxalate stone formation in individuals who have previously formed stones, they often suggest "limiting" or "reducing" oxalate intake rather than setting a specific milligram amount that should not be exceeded. "Reduce as much as can be tolerated" is another way that recommendations are often stated.

The effect of cooking on oxalates

Cooking has a relatively small impact on the oxalate content of foods. Repeated food chemistry studies have shown no statistically significant lowering of oxalate content following the blanching or boiling of green leafy vegetables. A lowering of oxalate content by about 5-15% is the most you should expect when cooking a high-oxalate food. It does not make sense to overcook oxalate-containing foods in order to reduce their oxalate content. Because many vitamins and minerals are lost from overcooking more quickly than are oxalates, the overcooking of foods (particularly vegetables) will simply result in a far less nutritious diet that is minimally lower in oxalates.

Practical tips

For the vast majority of individuals who have not experienced the specific problems described above, oxalate-containing foods should not be a health concern. Under most circumstances, high oxalate foods like spinach can be eaten raw or cooked and incorporated into a weekly or daily meal plan as both baby spinach and mature, large leaf spinach can both make healthy additions to most meal plans. In short, the decision about raw versus cooked or baby versus mature leaf spinach or other oxalate-containing vegetables, for example, should be a matter of personal taste and preference for most individuals.

Table 1
Raw Vegetable Oxalate contentmilligrams per 100 gram serving
Spinach 750
Beet greens 610
Okra 146
Parsley 100
Leeks 89
Collard greens 74

Adapted from the following sources: (1) United States Department of Agriculture, Human Nutrition Information Service, Agriculture Handbook Number 8-11, "Composition of Foods: Vegetables and Vegetable Products." Revised August 1984; (2) data gathered by LithoLink Corporation, a metabolic testing and disease management service for kidney stone patients, founded by Dr. Fredric Coe, a University of Chicago Medical School Professor, and posted on its website at; (3)data presented by Holmes RP and Kennedy M. (2000). Estimation of the oxalate content of foods and daily oxalate intake. Kidney International(4):1662.


Assimos, D. G. and Holmes, R. P. Role of diet in the therapy of urolithiasis. Urol Clin North Am. 2000 May; 27(2):255-68.

Curhan, G. C. Epidemiologic evidence for the role of oxalate in idiopathic nephrolithiasis. J Endourol. 1999 Nov; 13(9):629-31.

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Prakash D, Nath P, and Pal M. (1993). Composition, variation of nutritional contents in leaves, seed protein, fat and fatty acid profile of chenopodium species. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture 62(2):203-205.

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Using my own symptoms as a guide (things like olive oil seemed to cause the same symptons) I looked up a connection....seems olive oil is very low in oxalates...however

An interesting study from Brogren and Savage (2003) showed that consuming spinach with dairy products was effective in reducing the absorption of soluble oxalates in human trials. Subjects were fed grilled spinach, with and without dairy products, and the urinary oxalate level was measured over a 6-hour and 24-hour period after consumption of the meal. The study showed that addition of dairy products to grilled spinach was effective in reducing the amount of oxalate absorbed by the subjects, with the bioavailability of the oxalate decreasing with increasing calcium content. Interestingly, when olive oil was added to the spinach prior to consumption, the oxalate absorption increased showing that fat may play have a role to play in the bioavailability of oxalates. How fat affects the soluble oxalate content of silver beet is currently being investigated at Lincoln University.
I've been taking magnesium citrate and taking caprylic acid (anti fungal) daily...and if I don't my symptoms get worse (including weight loss). Daily use of magnesium oil helps too.

Collagen in meat supplies the amino acid hydroxyproline, which is metabolized to oxalate

THE ROLE OF meat consumption in the development of kidney stones remains controversial. Most of the recent research on this topic has focused on the effect of dietary protein on acid-base metabolism, calcium excretion, and uric acid production. Stone-formation risk varies with relative saturation of calcium oxalate, which is directed related to urinary oxalate. Although dietary oxalate accounts for about one half of urinary oxalate, the other half comes from endogenous synthesis. The daily turnover of collagen in humans is a major source of the amino acid hydroxyproline, which is metabolized to oxalate via glycolate. Overall, collagen turnover may account for 5%-20% of urinary oxalate daily.

A little-studied aspect of meat consumption is the role of its hy-droxyproline content on urinary oxalate. John Knight, PhD, of Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, N.C., and his colleagues (Kidney Int. 2006;70:1929-1934) compared 24-hour urinary oxalate on the third day of 30-gram loads of gelatin versus whey protein in 10 subjects with no history of nephrolithiasis. Urinary oxalate after whey protein consumption was not different from self-selected diet (17.2 vs. 17.6 mg/g creatinine) but increased significantly to 24.4 mg/g after gelatin. As a follow-up study, they fed the same volunteers 10 grams of gelatin (a more likely intake from food), and observed the kinetics of plasma hy-droxyproline and glycolate, urinary glycolate, and oxalate for 24 hours. Plasma hydroxyproline increased, peaking at 1-7 hours after consumption, whereas plasma glycolate did not differ. Plasma oxalate peaked at 3-7 hours while urinary oxalate was increased over the entire 24-hour collection period. A comparison of gelatin load sizes from 1-10 grams demonstrated that either a 5- or 10-gram load significantly raised urinary oxalate for at least six hours.

All meat tissues contain some collagen, but various meat forms have different amounts. Samples of lean beef, bovine liver, chicken, fish, lean lamb, and sausage contained from 2.5%-4.9% collagen by weight, according to a study published in Food Chemistry (1995;53:209-210). A Canadian researcher with Agriculture Canada reported that composite meats, e.g., wieners and sausages, had collagen contents that varied from 4.1%-19.0% of weight (J Agric Food Chem. 1992;40:790-800). In another study published in the Journal of Food Science (1999;64:377-383), investigators reported that samples of ground beef had a collagen content ranging from 0.7%-7.1% of weight, depending on the cuts of beef used.

Meat that contains 7% collagen will have 7 grams per 100 gram serving (3.5 ounces) and 10 grams per 140 gram serving (5 ounces or about one third of a pound). Gelatin is a protein resulting
from cooking or processing of collagen, so it, too, has the potential to increase urinary oxalate. Knox gelatin has 7 grams per package, as does a 3-ounce box of Jello. Several dietary supplements promoted for skin, bone, and joint health contain gelatin at 10 grams per recommended dose.
Research to date hasn’t looked at whether the collagen content of meat consumed can affect the outcome of dietary studies looking at the relationship of protein to calcium oxalate kidney stone risk. In studies where subjects self-selected their diets, there could be considerable variability in collagen/
gelatin intake, even if protein in-take was constant. In addition, genetic abnormalities that lead
to variations in enzymes that metabolize hydroxyproline can contribute to stone risk. For ex-ample, polymorphisms in hepattic alanine:glyoxylate aminotransferase (AGT1) lead to primary hyperoxaluria I.

In a previously published study, researchers at University Hospital in Berne, Switzerland, noted that only seven of 20 male recurrent idiopathic stone-formers had increased urinary oxalate after increasing protein intake from 160 grams of lean meat or fish protein to 700 grams daily (Kidney Int. 2001;59:2273-2281). Interestingly, nine of 13 controls had mild metabolic hyperoxaluria on the lower “moderate” protein diet, even though all had normal oxalate levels on three days of self-selected diet. These controls, however, showed no statistically significant mean increase in urinary oxalate when they ate the very high protein diet. There was only a significant difference in mean response in the 12 stone-formers with mild metabolic hyperoxaluria (MMH). The group increase in oxalate in the eight stone-formers without MMH was not statistically significant, although three of these subjects had large increases that raised their urinary oxalate into the level defined as MMH.

Additional studies need to be done on the genetic variability of urinary oxalate response to dietary gelatin/collagen, especially with regard to polymorphisms of AGT1. Meanwhile, stone-formers should be advised of the possible risk of consuming gelatin and to avoid composite meats such as wieners and sausages, gelatin salads and desserts, and supplements containing collagen hydrolysates or gelatin.
If anyone is struggling with the recommended diet (like I did initially) this may help explain some of it.
Scanning through articles it seems that oxalate have something to do with gallstones too, however I can't find anything definitive to say it is the cause.....given the general medical consensus is that gallstones are to do with cholesterol (from eating fat) this may be why.


The Living Force
FOTCM Member
Some more...

Effect of cinnamon and turmeric on urinary oxalate excretion, plasma lipids, and plasma glucose in healthy subjects.

Tang M, Larson-Meyer DE, Liebman M.

Department of Family and Consumer Sciences, University of Wyoming, Laramie, WY 82071, USA.

BACKGROUND: High oxalate intake resulting from consuming supplemental doses of cinnamon and turmeric may increase risk of hyperoxaluria, a significant risk factor for urolithiasis.

OBJECTIVE: This study assessed urinary oxalate excretion from supplemental doses of cinnamon and turmeric as well as changes in fasting plasma glucose, cholesterol, and triacylglycerol concentrations.

DESIGN: Eleven healthy subjects, aged 21-38 y, participated in an 8-wk, randomly assigned, crossover study that involved the ingestion of supplemental doses of cinnamon and turmeric for 4-wk periods that provided 55 mg oxalate/d. Oxalate load tests, which entailed the ingestion of a 63-mg dose of oxalate from the test spices, were performed after each 4-wk experimental period and at the study onset with water only (control treatment). Fasting plasma glucose and lipid concentrations were also assessed at these time points.

RESULTS: Compared with the cinnamon and control treatments, turmeric ingestion led to a significantly higher urinary oxalate excretion during the oxalate load tests. There were no significant changes in fasting plasma glucose or lipids in conjunction with the 4-wk periods of either cinnamon or turmeric supplementation.

CONCLUSIONS: The percentage of oxalate that was water soluble differed markedly between cinnamon (6%) and turmeric (91%), which appeared to be the primary cause of the greater urinary oxalate excretion/oxalate absorption from turmeric. The consumption of supplemental doses of turmeric, but not cinnamon, can significantly increase urinary oxalate levels, thereby increasing risk of kidney stone formation in susceptible individuals.
From what I've read its suggested that cinnamon and turmeric are high in oxalate.....however I cannot find anything to back this up. Not being able to read the full article above I don't know if they are high in oxalate or if the turmeric just helps you excrete oxalate better?


FOTCM Member
RedFox said:
Not being able to read the full article above I don't know if they are high in oxalate or if the turmeric just helps you excrete oxalate better?
Here is a relevant part of the article:

"Supplemental doses of cinnamon and turmeric have been shown to be beneficial in decreasing blood lipids in patients with hyperlipidemia and in improving glycemic control in diabetic patients (15-17). Because these supplements are widely available, their very high oxalate content should be taken into consideration. The primary purpose of the current study was to determine whether ingestion of high doses could increase the risk of kidney stone formation in susceptible individuals. The cinnamon and turmeric supplements used in this study had oxalate contents of 1798 and 1969 mg/100 g, respectively. It has been recommended that kidney stone patients limit dietary oxalate intake to no more than 50 mg of oxalate per day (23), a level which would likely be exceeded with cinnamon or turmeric supplementation. For example, cinnamon supplementation at a level of 3 g/d would provide an additional 51 mg of oxalate.

[...] There was a significantly higher computed 6-h oxalate absorption rate from turmeric ingestion (8.2%) than from cinnamon ingestion (2.6%), which was most likely explained by the 91% soluble oxalate content of turmeric compared with 6% for cinnamon. This difference in oxalate solubility could likely be attributed to the higher calcium content of cinnamon than turmeric (1002 compared with 183 mg/100 g), which resulted in computed calcium/oxalate molar ratios of 1.3 and 0.2 for cinnamon and turmeric, respectively. ...

There was no significant change from baseline in urine oxalate excretion after cinnamon consumption, possibly because of the low soluble oxalate content (6%). For those predisposed to kidney stones, cinnamon can be considered a low-oxalate food in terms of absorption, and its ingestion would not be expected to increase risk for kidney stone formation. ...

In summary, the estimated 6-h oxalate absorption from turmeric (8.2%) was significantly higher than the corresponding value for cinnamon (2.6%). The difference in soluble oxalate content appeared to be the primary cause of the significantly greater urinary oxalate excretion/oxalate absorption from turmeric. Neither cinnamon nor turmeric supplementation affected fasting blood glucose or lipid concentrations."


FOTCM Member
In addition to Vitamin B6 and magnesium (preferably magnesium citrate) to dissolve oxalate kidney stones, Uva Ursi 500mg one with breakfast and two with dinner and Ginger Root 500mg 1 with each meal can be taken as a supplement for preventing the formation of kidney stones. All four of these supplements taken together are very effective against kidney stones.

There's also an herbal preparation for all types of kidney stones (not just oxolates):

1/4 cup dried Hydrangea root
1/4 cup Gravel root
1/4 cup Marshmallow root
4 bunches of fresh parsley
Goldenrod tincture (leave out if alergic)

Soak the root mixture together in 10 cups of water. After four hours, or overnight, heat to boiling and simmer for 20 minutes. Drink 1/4 cup as soon as it is cool enough. Pour the rest through a strainer into a clean pint jar and several freezable containers. Refrigerate the glass jar.

Boil the fresh parsley, after rinsing, in 1 quart of water for 3 minutes. Drink 1/4 cup when cool enough. Refrigerate a pint and freeze a pint. Throw away the parsley.

Dose: each morning, pour together 3/4 cup of the root mixture liquid and 1/2 cup parsley water. Add 20 drops of goldenrod tincture. (Could sweeten with Xylitol). Drink this mixture in divided doses throughout the day. Keep refrigerated when not drinking. DO NOT DRINK IT ALL AT ONCE or you'll get a stomach ache and feel pressure in your bladder. If your stomach is very sensitive, start on half this dose.

It takes a couple of months to get good results.

This herbal tea/concoction and also the parsley spoil easily. So heat it to boiling every fourth day if stored in the refrigerator.

If you do not tolerate any of these herbs, including the Ginger root and Uva Ursi, leave it out. It will just take longer to dissolve the kidney stones.


FOTCM Member
A caution with herbs, some people are very sensitive to some of them. I know for sure that if I take that herbal remedy, I'll be inflamed for at least 4 days. Herbs and supplements can be exc aiders, but the diet is still the priority. And testing your food intolerances is also very important.


Thank you very much for this post. I'm on an 'oxalate' diet, and I do now understand some 'events' when going to piss. I feel these crystals moving out.
Oh my ... it is depressing to see how difficult is to design a good diet with such amount of parameters out there to be analysed. Too many issues to take care of.

Edit: fix syntax
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