By: Dr. Keith Kantor
Oxalic acid is an organic acid found in many plants. Oxalate is the conjugate base of oxalic acid. Many people use the terms interchangeably. This is understandable yet inaccurate. The reason is because in an aqueous solution (aka water) oxalic acid will dissociate completely. This means that two hydrogen protons release and the oxalate ion remains. Research has shown that oxalates have a negative influence over celiac disease, anxiety, depression, trauma, and pain tolerance.
The body can produce oxalate as part of its metabolism or can obtain it from food. Vitamin C can be converted into oxalate when it’s metabolized upon consumption. The oxalate can then bind to minerals to form compounds, including calcium oxalate and iron oxalate. This mostly occurs in the colon but can also take place in the kidneys and other parts of the urinary tract. For most people, these compounds are then eliminated in the stool or urine. However, for sensitive individuals, high oxalate diets have been linked to an increased risk of kidney stones and other health problems due to its ability to bind to minerals. The plants that contain oxalic acid and therefore oxalates include leafy greens, vegetables, fruits, cocoa, nuts, and seeds.
One of the main health concerns about oxalate is that it can bind to minerals in the gut and prevent the body from absorbing them. Spinach for instance is a healthy food option that is rich in fiber, low in calories and high in nutrients specifically calcium, yet it is also high in oxalates reducing the body’s ability to absorb the calcium due to the presence of oxalates. Fiber in general when consumed with oxalates hinders nutrient absorption.
Oxalates do not completely block all nutrient absorption, they reduce the amount of nutrients absorbed because some of the minerals will bind to oxalates.
Oxalate May Contribute to Kidney Stones
Normally, calcium and small amounts of oxalate are present in the urinary tract at the same time, but they remain dissolved and cause no problems.
However, sometimes they bind to form crystals. In some people, these crystals can lead to the formation of stones, especially when oxalate is high and urine volume is low.
Small stones often don’t cause any problems, but large stones can cause severe pain, nausea and blood in the urine as they move through the urinary tract.
Oxalate may be present as the free oxalic acid, as soluble sodium and potassium salts or as insoluble calcium oxalate crystals. Unlike plants, calcium oxalate crystal formation in animals is generally considered to be pathological. In a related context, most analytical studies that have dealt with the occurrence and distribution of oxalates in plants have focused on their possible antinutritive calcium-sequestering influence in the human diet. High oxalate contents of rhubarb and spinach are of particular interest, and in extreme cases, oxalate-rich rhubarb leaves are acutely toxic for humans just as high-oxalate pasture grasses are acutely toxic for grazing cattle The pathological role of oxalic acid in the formation of urinary stones in animals and humans has been known since the early 18th century. For example, excess consumption of oxalate-rich foods leads to hyperoxaluria which is recognized as a key risk factor for calcium oxalate stone formation. Furthermore, there is evidence that high ascorbic acid intake increases urinary oxalate levels which could lead to the formation of calcium oxalate stones in the kidneys and other regions of the urinary system. Oxalic acid is regarded as an undesirable component of our food, not only because it raises the risk of urinary stones but also because it sequesters calcium, which is one of the essential ions, as insoluble calcium oxalate. The toxicology of oxalic acid in humans has been reviewed by several researchers. In medicine, the knowledge of the oxalate concentration in blood and other body fluids can be very important in certain clinical situations such as primary hyperoxaluria
Although there are other types of kidney stones, about 80% are made up of calcium oxalate.
For this reason, people who have had one episode of kidney stones may be advised to minimize their consumption of foods high in oxalate.
High Oxalate Food List:
- Bran flakes
- Potato chips
- French fries
- Nuts and nut butters
*Note it is important to recognize that it is impossible to remove all oxalates from your diet, above are the highest containing oxalate foods, which should be avoided.
However, across-the-board oxalate restriction is no longer recommended to every person with kidney stones. This is because most of the oxalate found in urine is produced by the body, rather than absorbed from food.
Most urologists now only prescribe a strict low-oxalate diet (less than 50 milligrams per day) for patients who have high levels of oxalate in their urine. This emphasizes the importance of undergoing testing from time to time to figure out how much restriction is necessary.
Oxalates and Celiac Disease, Autoimmune Disorders, and PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)
Research has shown that those who have high levels of oxalates in their blood and urine also have increased symptoms related to celiac disease, gluten intolerance, certain cancers, leaky gut syndrome and other autoimmune disorders. The research is ongoing in regards to the correlation of oxalates and autoimmune diseases, the studies are not funded by large pharmaceutical companies therefore research is a slower process, yet more reliable.
In the oxalate field, molecular scientists have now discovered oxalate shares transport with sulfate and bicarbonate, which means oxalate has a major influence over the pH. Oxalates move water across the cell membranes and when the integrity of the gut is compromised it will manifest into leaky gut syndrome, which over 70% of Americans suffer, with most of them unknowingly. Leaky gut is when the body is unable to absorb essential vitamins and minerals due to inflammation in the intestinal walls. The loss of these essential nutrients will influence insulin levels, hormones, libido, energy, and ability to maintain ideal weight, immune system function and even risk for chronic disease. Oxalate also in some cases shares the transport of iodine; this is related to the thyroid function. Pathologists have concluded that the older you are the more your thyroid gland will absorb oxalate eventually resulting in loss of thyroid activity.
PTSD and Mental Health
In addition to the leaky gut complications from high oxalates there are mental health issues, depression, anxiety and PTSD risk associated with the lack of absorption of essential vitamins and minerals. Over half of the population is low in vitamin D. Vitamin D levels not only help regulate insulin levels preventing or managing type 2 diabetes complications and weight management. Those who suffer from depression, anxiety or PTSD have been linked to specific nutrient deficiencies like omega 3 fatty acids, amino acids, vitamin B and magnesium. Due to malabsorption of these nutrients the serotonin and dopamine response is not the same as a healthy individual. This reduced response only makes symptoms of PTSD, anxiety and depression worse.
Since PTSD is a combination of depression, anxiety and trauma, removing oxalates which deprive the body of the above nutrients especially serotonin, it is extremely important for those who suffer from PTSD .
Oxalates and substance abuse
I am often asked if high oxalates affect substance abuse, since that is one of my specialties. The answer is yes. Since high oxalates are found in the urine of substance abuse patients we know this is true. Since we know high oxalates cause leaky gut and mineral deficiencies and cause serotonin to work poorly it is easy to see why. High oxalates affect the insulin mechanism by causing the above problems. Two things can happen when the insulin mechanism is affected. It can cause urges for sugar and simply carbohydrates or cause the cells to release the sugar they are holding. In both cases this stimulates the opiate receptors which then release chemicals to cause a dopamine response, just like drugs or alcohol. This makes it harder to stop taking the abused substance and raises the relapse rate drastically. To insure this is not the case the patient must go on a strict low oxalate diet and drink one half their body weight in hydroxide alkaline water daily. My results have lowered the relapse rate from 85% to about 48% using this method along with conventional therapy.
Almost 40% of the patients with PTSD have, or have had a substance abuse problem.
Oxalate and Influence over Skin Appearance
When oxalate is secreted and absorbed into the skin it will result in rashes, dermatitis herpetiformis and in some extreme cases lesions. The correlation between gluten intolerance and skin rashes is similar to oxalates and skin sensitivity. The high levels of oxalates can destroy the mitochondria of the cells resulting in inflammation of the skin.
Oxalates and Autism
The research between autism and high oxalate diet is growing. Most autism experts recommend cutting out gluten, dairy, sugar, dyes, etc. to ease the symptoms of autism. When all of these foods have been removed and replaced with alternatives like buckwheat, which are still high in oxalates the symptoms of autism, did not improve.
Susan Costen Owens is Head of the Oxalate Project International SciBridge, VZW, at the Autism Research Institute “Because I knew so many children with autism who had done much better than before after they eliminated gluten and casein, this to me seemed a sufﬁcient reason not to reintroduce these foods to children already off these foods as we looked into the role of oxalate in autism. That’s why, as we began our research on oxalate, I purposefully set out to test the raw ingredients being used commercially and in households for individuals on gluten and dairy-free diets. Our project discovered that there was a problem with buckwheat, amaranth, quinoa, and two late arrivals, chia seeds and hemp.
We already knew oxalate was high in seeds like sesame seeds and poppy seeds, and also high in nuts like almonds which were now being made into milks for those on dairy-free diets. Soy is also high in oxalate, meaning soy has two problems—its opioid peptides and its oxalate level. In grains, most of the oxalate is in the bran, so the more “whole grain” a product is, the higher it will be in oxalate.”
In other research by Susan Costen Owens team performed in Poland by Dr. Jerzy Konstantynowicz states “Children with ASD demonstrated 3-fold greater plasma oxalate levels [5.60 (5th-95th percentile: 3.47-7.51)] compared with reference [(1.84 (5th-95th percentile: 0.50-4.70) μmol/L (p < 0.05)] and 2.5-fold greater urinary oxalate concentrations (p < 0.05).”
In addition: “Hyperoxalemia and hyperoxaluria may be involved in the pathogenesis of ASD in children. Whether this is a result of impaired renal excretion or an extensive intestinal absorption, or both, or whether Ox may cross the blood brain barrier and disturb CNS function in the autistic children remains unclear. This appears to be the first report of plasma and urinary oxalate in childhood autism.”
Other research is beginning to show when oxalic acid was actually removed through a stricter non-oxalate diet (which takes time) and adding in calcium hydroxide alkaline water, symptoms did improve. Also, the calcium hydroxide alkaline water removes the acid quickly and symptom do improve much quicker than diet alone.
Adopting a low oxalate lifestyle.
There are two ways to reduce oxalates, one is eliminating high oxalate foods from the diet (see list provided above). Eliminating offending foods is one of the quickest ways to begin to reduce the oxalate load on the body. This will allow the body time to recover and restore balance so that it can begin to remove the oxalate overload.
The second method is promoting optimal pH balance within the body by consuming hydroxide alkaline water. This water is like no other alkaline water due to its ability to actually remove acid from the body with as little as 1 fluid ounce. It is impossible to remove oxalates completely because our body naturally produces them but reducing consumption through diet and promoting optimal pH balance through hydroxide alkaline water will reduce the complications of oxalates quickly and in many cases drastically.
How does Hydroxide Alkaline Water Eliminate Acidity?
Here is a brief synopsis of acid/base theory:
The Nature of Ions
In order to understand the acid/alkaline (acid/base) relationship we must first look at basic chemistry and the electro-magnetism involved. Atoms in their natural state exist in balance, with the number of protons which are positively charged matching the number of electrons which are negatively charged. When an imbalance in this equilibrium happens, the atom becomes an ion. If it has more protons than electrons, then it is a positively charged ion called a cation. If it has more electrons than protons, then it is a negatively charged ion called an anion. In most instances only, the word ion is used to refer to both cations and anions. The same rules apply to molecules and the same naming system. Therefore, an ion can either be an atom or a molecule that is imbalanced and has a charge.
Ions play a major role in the acid/base reaction. The first modern definition describes how acids and bases interact in an aqueous solution (water). Simply put the Arrhenius theory maintains that:
An acid is any substance that produces hydrogen ions (H+) in an aqueous solution.
A base is any substance that produces hydroxide ions (OH-) in an aqueous solution.
The hydrogen ions form through the dissociation of the acid and the hydroxide ions form by the ionizing of the base. Bases are said to ionize because they can either dissociate or dissolve whereas acids almost uniformly dissociate. In both instances, it is the action of water as a universal solvent that sets the ions free. For all practical purposes the concept of dissociation and dissolution have the same effect of freeing ions in an aqueous solution.
A hydrogen ion and a hydrogen proton are the same thing because hydrogen is the simplest atom, with one proton and one electron. When the hydrogen proton exists without its electron, it is an ion or cation to be more precise. Throughout this article, hydrogen proton or just proton will be used to designate the hydrogen ion.
The Arrhenius theory was limited in its scope because it only dealt with acids and bases in aqueous solutions and only looked at the relationship between hydrogen ions and hydroxide ions. In an attempt to solve some of the limits of the Arrhenius theory, a new theory emerged put forth separately by two different individuals and became known as the Brønsted-Lowry theory, named for both of them. The Brønsted-Lowry theory holds that:
Acids are proton donors.
Bases are proton acceptors.
The proton in question is the hydrogen proton (hydrogen ion). Acids have at least one hydrogen proton that they easily transfer to another substance through a process called deprotonation. Furthermore, since bases are proton acceptors, they are in fact acceptors of hydrogen protons and this is called protonation. This concept of hydrogen proton donation and acceptance is fundamental to understanding how alkaline waters work.
The Arrhenius theory gives us the foundation of hydrogen ions and hydroxide ions and the Brønsted-Lowry theory gives us the concept of hydrogen proton transfer. With these theories as our basis, we can now discuss the fundamental chemistry behind base aqueous solutions, aka alkaline waters, and acidic aqueous solutions as they related to oxalic acid neutralization.
The above explanation is part of a larger discussion which can be found here:
THE PROBLEM: OXALIC ACID
The chemical formula for oxalic acid is C2H2O4. For our purposes it is better to realize oxalic acid consists of two hydrogen protons (H+) and an oxalate ion (two carbon atoms and four oxygen atoms – C2O42-). In an aqueous solution (aka water), oxalic acid dissociates completely. This means the two hydrogen protons are released and the oxalate remains. A simple equation of the reaction is:
C2H2O4 + 2H2O = (2H3O+ + C2O42-)aq
This formula shows one oxalic acid molecule being added to two water molecules. The result is that two hydronium ions (H3O+) are formed and one oxalate ion (C2O42-) remains.
The fact that oxalic acid dissociates completely is called the Acid Dissociation Constant. This is of great importance when speaking of oxalic acid in the body because the body is made up mostly of water, 60% or so in the average adult. The cells of the body exist in water and are made up of water. Because oxalic acid sheds two hydrogen protons so easily, it adds to acidity in the body more quickly than most other acids. Most acids the body comes into contact with only donate one hydrogen proton. Acidity leads to inflammation which further stresses the body and adversely impacts any disease conditions.
THE SOLUTION: HYDROXIDE
Nature has provided the perfect solution to acidity – hydroxide (OH–). The formula is simple:
OH– + H+ = H2O
When a hydroxide ion is introduced to the body it seeks out a hydrogen proton (ACIDITY) to combine with it and become water.
This basic concept can be applied to oxalic acid also. In the case of oxalic acid, two hydroxide ions are added to the dissociated oxalic acid. Here is the formula of the reaction:
(2H3O+ + C2O42-)aq + 2OH– = 4H2O + C2O42-
This shows one oxalic acid molecule in water being combined with two hydroxide ions. The result is four water molecules and one oxalate ion. This reaction removes the acidity, which is the first step to restoring balance in the body. Excess hydrogen protons cause inflammation and rob the body of critical resources needed for other biological functions. Hydrogen protons do not show up in urine tests like oxalates do but their presence is a major stress on the body, inhibiting normal biological function and healing. In fact, excess acidity (hydrogen protons) robs the body of resources that might otherwise be used to process and eliminate oxalates.
The process by which the acidity is eliminated is called transformational neutralization because the fundamental nature of the acidity is changed. A normal alkaline water has the ability to buffer acidity by adding alkaline minerals which counter the positive charge of the acidity but does not eliminate the acidity. This is neutralization through buffering. In transformational neutralization, the acidity becomes water and ceases to exist as an acid.
There is one more issue to consider in the neutralization process. Once the acidity is eliminated as noted above, the oxalate remains. The question becomes what happens to it? In order to answer this question, it is necessary to remember the nature and source of oxalates themselves. The current consensus maintains that generally half of the oxalates in the body come from diet (through oxalic acid in food) and half from the metabolic processes in the body.
Because oxalates can be a natural result of the metabolic processes of the body, the body has mechanisms for dealing with and eliminating them. The problem comes when these natural mechanisms are overwhelmed by the presence of too many oxalates either through dietary intake of oxalic acid or interruptions to the normal functioning of the body and its mechanisms due to disease or some other bodily dysfunction or both. In either case, by reducing the burden of the excess acidity that comes from the presence of oxalic acid, the body begins to restore balance and can begin to process oxalates through its normal mechanisms. Not only this, but the water created in the elimination of the acidity can be used to prime the detox pathways and help the body flush out toxins like oxalates.
1) OXALIC ACID NEUTRALIZATION – hydroxide directly fights and eliminates oxalic acid. This frees up resources for other biological functions, including handling oxalates.
2) DECREASED INFLAMMATION – By eliminating acidity, the body’s inflammation responses are quieted and normal fluid levels are restored.
3) ULTRA-HYDRATION – hydroxide creates new water molecules when it eliminates acidity. This process is known as ultra-hydration. Only hydroxide allows the body to create new water.
4) INCREASED DETOXIFICATION – Although hydroxide does not directly remove oxalates from the body, it primes the detox pathways through ultra-hydration and by freeing up resources previously engaged in dealing with acidity.
5) OXALATE INTERCEPTION – if the source of the hydroxide is calcium hydroxide, then some calcium will be available which the body can use to combat oxalates in the digestive tract and keep them from being absorbed into the bloodstream.
Below is the link that shows the lab testing and the neutralization titration curve of oxalic acid.
Mustafa Kemal University, Department of Biology 31040 Hatay-TURKEY The Metabolism of Oxalic Acid*