Does any-one know of any paleo/traditional methods to reduce the oxalate content of foods or of any other methods to offset their effects? Most of my staple vegetables- spinach, but also carrots (and also chocolate!)- are quite high. Would the paleo response to these foods have been some particular treatment, would they just have largely avoided them as staples or would being paleo mean that one doesn't have to worry about these compounds' potential downsides?
Well, I followed a hint on the Wikipedia page and googled around for Oxalobacter formigenes, a gut bacterium that is said to be able to break down (or "metabolize," whatever) oxalate. The main threat of oxalate is that it binds easily with calcium, and then this compound, calcium oxalate, can form kidney stones. (I guess the majority of kidney stones are made up of calcium oxalate.)
Some studies suggest that having higher levels of Oxalobacter formigenes in the gut can help prevent kidney stones. Here's a newer (2008), observational study, and the mainstream press response to it. And here's an older (2004) study that suggests the same thing.
So can we take supplements? I googled around on that one too, and it looks like you can't take a direct Oxalobacter formigenes supplement, but that you can take a supplement with bacteria that might have similar effects.
I expect that someone out there who has dealt with kidney stones will be able to give some more details.
As for paleo speculation, I would presume that we would have been equipped with this bacterium in the past, and that the modern world has brought conditions that can hinder it. (For example, it seems like we know that Oxalobacter formigenes is killed by some common antibiotics.) But who knows.
Oxalate is a substance found in many plants that causes burning sensations, inflammation, and pain in an organism that eats the plant. It is a self-defense mechanism that keeps many types of insects and herbivores from grazing on the plant. Most people's bodies are able to deal with a moderate amount of oxalate (what would have been found in a Paleolithic diet, although please note that most moderns following a Paleo diet have high oxalate diets because most eat a huge amount of tree nuts and spinach--more so than would ever have been consumed in the Paleolithic era).
In humans, the gut lining keeps most of the oxalate from being absorbed by the body, calcium and magnesium bind with it to take it out, and some bacteria in the gut (Oxalobacter formigenes and others!) can break it down. But some people have real trouble with oxalate. They may form kidney stones or they may have A LOT of other chronic health problems because of oxalate. Many of these problems cause burning sensations, inflammation, and pain in ANY region of the body, including the genitals, rectum, mouth, eyes, intestines, bladder, joints, and muscles. It can also cause fatigue, brain fog, irritability, and increased allergies and food sensitivities. Most people with oxalate issues can be greatly helped by a low oxalate (or medium oxalate diet) and careful supplementation.
A number of supplements will bind with oxalate and help take it out of your body. Some are more "natural" than others. Calcium citrate (without Vitamin D) is king! Magnesium citrate is also good. Any pro-biotic with help, but the best on the market for this purpose is VSL#3. Biotin and B6 do not bind with oxalate, but each is super important for people with elevated oxalate levels and can help them achieve greater health.
Some people also use oxabsorb which is marketed as an oxalate binder although there are mixed reviews on how effective it is.
If you would like more information http://www.lowoxalate.info/ is a great website for general oxalate info. I also write a blog that provides many links, recipes and resources for people concerned about oxalates in their diet or possible oxalate-related health issues.
Not sure if this question is aimed at reducing kidney stones or simply reducing oxalates for some other reason. If the former, I would speculate that 1) paleolithic oxalate consumption was fairly low to begin with, as it's mostly found in plants; and 2) neolithic kidney stone formation derives from an increase in sodium consumption, which inhibits calcium reabsorption in the kidneys. (It is my conjecture that paleolithic humans did not ingest anywhere near the sodium content that we get today and, therefore, did not get kidney stones.)
In my simple world view, sugar and grains are responsible for most diseases of civilization (cancer, diabetes, automimmune). But sodium gets the blame for kidney stones.
I've had kidney stones a half year back and I think it was because of the combination of a high fat diet, too much vitamin D and no vitamin K. I was taking 5000 IU a day then. At the moment my diet is pretty much the same, but I take 2000 IU of vitamin D now and most importantly, vitamin K2. I also eat a lot of chocolate and nuts which both have a lot of oxalates in them, but I haven't had any problems again since the last time.
Easily available over the counter products that should be taken with high-oxalate foods to help prevent kidney stone formation are listed below. These bind with oxalates in the stomach and are passed out through the GI tract instead of the urinary system.
Magnesium Oxide (not magnesium citrate, citrate is used as a laxative; Calcium Citrate (not carbonate, carbonate will cause kidney stones); B6; and Lemon or lime juice.
Some bacterium eat oxalates in the gut; these are being researched for use as a probiotic targeted to prevent kidney stones. I was told that the probiotic was expected to be out this autumn, but I have neither read nor heard any updates as to when it will become available on the market.
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