How Oxalates In Food Devastate Your Physical and Mental Health w. Susan Owens (ep 21)

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Key Information

Oxalate can form kidney stones

Oxalate can bind with calcium and other minerals in the urine and form crystals that may grow into kidney stones.

Oxalate can interfere with mineral absorption

Oxalate can reduce the bioavailability of minerals like calcium, iron, and magnesium, which are essential for various bodily functions.

Oxalate can cause inflammation and pain

Oxalate can accumulate in tissues and organs and trigger inflammatory responses that may lead to symptoms like joint pain, muscle weakness, and fatigue.

Oxalate levels can be managed by diet

Oxalate levels can be lowered by reducing the intake of high-oxalate foods, increasing the intake of low-oxalate foods, and drinking enough water.

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If you’re ready for a masterclass in oxalate, you’ve come to the right place. 

In the following podcast, I interviewed Susan Owens, who is one of the leading researchers into oxalate and their deleterious influence on both mental and physical health.

Oxalate is found in many “healthy” foods like leafy greens, nuts, and beets. 

The body makes them naturally and can function fine with a low balance.

However, many people are told to eat these healthy foods that are high in oxalate as a part of a healthy diet and are experiencing many negative side effects.

In this discussion, Susan explains everything you need to know about oxalates, why they matter, and what they are doing to your body and brain.

Be sure to check out Susan’s Facebook group “Trying Low Oxalate” for the most comprehensive, researched-based oxalate education online.

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Susan Owens Interview Clips

Who Is Susan Owens

Susan Costen Owens is a graduate of Vanderbilt University who examined the role of sulfate in neurodevelopment in her graduate work at UTDallas. After scientists discovered that the transport of oxalate and sulfate are linked biologically, she began in 2005 to study the role of oxalate in autism, founding and running the Autism Oxalate Project at the Autism Research Institute.

Soon after that she began to explore oxalate levels in dozens of other chronic illnesses where oxalate had never been measured. She started many internet groups that now help more than 45,000 people, especially helping them learn how to reduce dietary and endogenous oxalate. In those groups, members find out how to reduce oxalate levels to improve their health as it lowers their urinary and body burden of oxalate.

Since the 1990’s, she has evaluated and studied organic acid testing in more than twelve hundred people.

In 2011, she worked with a team in Poland that found elevations of oxalate in autism in blood and urine, but these children had no kidney involvement. That study, which was published in the European Journal of Paediatric Neurology, has opened the door to studying oxalate in other conditions where oxalate is elevated without kidney disease.

Branching from autism, her work has focused particularly on pain syndromes, celiac disease, Down syndrome, cystic fibrosis, autoimmune diseases and helping people who are chronically ill but not effectively diagnosed.

Because of genetic risks being found in these populations, she is very interested in exploring what consumer genetics may offer to those with genetic differences that don’t appear to be caused by single gene defects.

She has spoken both nationally and internationally at more than fifty conferences. For several years, she has also served as a patient advocate within the Mountain States Regional Genetics Network.

READ MORE: Leaky Brain- The Real Mind/Body Connection

Topics Discussed

  • Oxalate research

  • Oxalic acid on Organic Acids Test

  • Susan was a caregiver for her family

  • Dr. Rosemary Waring 

  • Sulfates role in neurodevelopment

  • SLC26A Family of transporters.  Move sulfate across membranes.

  • Is oxalate elevated in autism and how does that affect sulfate?

  • Sulfate transports oxalate

  • Oxalates get into mitochondria and cause oxidative stress in the cell

  • Transporter that brings sulfate into the cell takes oxalate into the cell

  • Liver makes oxalate

  • Primary hyperoxaluria.. can be a fatal disease where the liver makes too much oxalate.  Need liver transplant

  • 1/3 of the genome is transporters where molecules go from one side of the cell to the other

  • Blood is a highway

  • Lab tests may not give the full picture of what is truly happening in your cells

  • Water-soluble will not cross the lipid bilayer of the cell

  • Nutrition is important, but everything comes down to regulation

  • Most gut microbes were not known until recently

  • Microbes in the gut have 3 million genes, the human body has 22k

  • Things fall apart for many people when they took antibiotics and antifungals

  • Blue zones have diets high in oxalate

  • Oxalate degrading bacteria need the other bacteria to make them work better

  • Need symbiotic, balanced relationships between bacteria to make the good bacteria to work better
  • Oxalate is a signaling molecule between fungus and bacteria

  • Gut microbes job is to adapt

  • Fungus and bacteria form pairs to work together

  • Fungus chelates heavy metals out of the body

  • Father of the modern microbiology 500 studies says we only know about 15% of the microbes of the gut.  85% of microbes of the gut are unknown.

  • Popeye.. Journal of Nutrition studies from the 1930s.  Rat studies showed calcium from spinach and greens.  Rats who ate spinach grew to half their size, or reproduce.. bones were brittle. Bones and teeth had no minerals
  • Popeye was an attempt to defend the spinach market.  Consumption of spinach was higher during Popeye days.

  • Most people think of oxalates in relation to kidney stones

  • High oxalates found in people with mental health issues,

  • Thyroid accumulates oxalate from infancy

  • Oxalate Makes you hypothyroid

  • Iodine also crosses the membrane on the same SLC26A transporter and oxalate may be replacing iodine

  • Oxalate dumping- When the body begins to get rid of oxalates once you slow down intake.  Can be skin dumping, intestine, kidney dumping

  • Koala bears eat high oxalate eucalyptus and die of kidney failure.  May be addicted to it.  Supposed to be carnivores biologically.

  • Alcohol helps thiamin deficiencies.  Many alcoholics may actually need more thiamin.

  • Don’t go directly into a low oxalate diet.  The body can go into detox quickly.

  • Lower slowly

  • Join Trying Low Oxalate group.  Don’t reduce more than 5-10% per week.
  • Can take 10-20 weeks to get to LO diet

  • Oxalate has 2 negative charges and it binds to minerals. Take Magnesium and calcium (citrate) to lower oxalates.

  • Inflammasome

  • Be wary of oxalate info online

Studies Discussed

Contribution of the glycolytic flux and hypoxia adaptation to efficient biofilm formation by Candida albicans

Absorption of L-arabinose as a test for assessing the functional state of the intestines

The Utilization of the Calcium in Various Greens – Rat Studies from the 1930’s showing deleterious effects of oxalate in spinach

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Erik Abramowitz is a certified Nutritional Therapy Practitioner (NTP), Naturopathic Doctoral student, health coach, and father. He is the primary content creator for and the host of the Holistic Nootropics Podcast.