Oxalates: The Grain-Free Diet Trap

don't fall into this grain-free diet trap: oxalates, grain free gaps diet scd
They say ignorance is bliss. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case when trying to assemble the puzzle of healing. While the GAPS diet has drastically improved my autoimmune disease, I know there are still missing pieces in my healing journey. Stomach acid was one. Oxalates are another.

What are Oxalates?

Like phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors, plants produce oxalates because they don’t want to be eaten! While these molecules can cause health issues for humans, it actually tears up the teeth of insects which try to eat high oxalate foods.

In a non-leaky human gut, oxalates are degraded by the bacteria oxalobacter formingenes. This prevents the molecules from traveling to the large intestine and being absorbed by body tissues. This person would have low oxalate content in blood and urine samples.

In a leaky gut or when oxalobacter is diminished (by antibiotics, for example), oxalates escape into the bloodstream, damaged body tissues, glands, secretory organs and the brain. Out of place, oxalates impair enzymes, oxidize cell membranes, interferes with nutrient absorption, and can even alter DNA transcription. When oxalates link up with calcium, it forms irritating crystals (kidney stones, for example).

But does a leaky gut really make a difference with oxalate build-up? Yes:

Ordinarily, the gut won’t absorb much of the oxalate from the diet because most of [it] will be metabolized by flora or just leave the body with the stool. Under other conditions, such as when there is gut inflammation, a lot of dietary oxalate is absorbed. The difference can be as great as going from 1-2% of the dietary oxalate absorbed to 50%. (Source).

Wow! 1-2% to 50%… that is a huge difference.

Do I need to be concerned about oxalates?

Generally, if you are healthy and have a well-functioning digestive system, you can probably focus on eating a variety of nourishing foods and not worry about oxalates. But you may wish to consider reducing oxalates if you:

  • have taken antibiotics frequently or for long periods of time
  • have a leaky gut and food sensitivities/allergies
  • have any autoimmune issue
  • have any inflammatory issue like asthma, arthritis or fibromyalgia
  • have fat maldigestion
  • are on the autism spectrum or have a brain disorder like A.D.D., depression or dyslexia (Source)

From my research, I’ve discovered that many folks find a low-oxalate diet quickly makes a noticeable difference with autism and arthritis.

High oxalates on a grain free diet

So why am I calling oxalates a grain-free diet trap? When transitioning from meals filled with convenient starches, many folks to into cardiac arrest on their first day of grain-free and scream, “Just give me something bready!!” (*ahem* I may or may not have shared that experience). Then they discover the solution: almond flour and other ground nuts.

Almonds (and most other nut and seeds) are very high in oxalates. To make things worse, we can consume huge amounts of almonds/nuts/seeds when they are ground into flour and baked into a treat. As a matter of fact, a cup of almond flour contains 90 almonds! The same point applies to nut butters (a tablespoon of almond butter contains 6 almonds).

A high-oxalate diet is not inherently bad. However, it is something to be aware of it you are still struggling with digestive symptoms after transitioning to a grain free diet. I recommend following the Autoimmune Paleo Protocol, a temporary healing diet to seal a leaky gut, before trying a low oxalate diet. So many individuals experience radical shifts in digestion and symptoms after starting the Autoimmune Paleo Protocol.

With that said, here are some popular foods to keep on your oxalate radar:

Common Foods with Medium Oxalates

  • Fruits: bananas, mandarin oranges, pears, papaya
  • Vegetables: red potatoes, raw broccoli, boiled carrots, raw collard greens, eggplant, leeks, lima beans, string beans, tomatoes
  • Grains/Legumes: Lentils, rice, oats, chickpeas
  • Other: Pumpkin seeds

Common Foods with High/Very High Oxalates

  • Fruit: berries, persimmons, orange zest (marmalade), lemon zest, lime zest, figs, currants, dates
  • Vegetables: raw and steamed carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, celery, beets, chard, cooked broccoli, cooked brussels sprouts, cooked cabbage, chili peppers, rhubarb, spinach, peppers, processed tomatoes (canned, sauce or paste)
  • Grains/Legumes: Most grains and starches (wheat, rye, kamut, buckwheat, millet, sorghum, arrowroot, potato starch, rice flour). Also most beans (black beans, chickpeas, navy beans). All soy products, too (but you are generally avoiding those already… right?) .
  • Other: Most nuts and seeds, including nut/seed butters and flours (almonds, macadamias, cashews, pecans, pine nuts, walnuts, sesame seeds, hazelnuts, flax seeds, sunflower seeds, pistachios). Also: stevia, chocolate, carob, kombucha and chia seeds

(Adapted partly from this chart. You can find a more detailed list there.)

UPDATE: Many readers have told me that the most accurate and up-to-date information about the oxalate content in certain foods can be found by joining the Yahoo Trying Low Oxalates Group.

“OMG… I’m gonna starve!”

You’re probably asking me, “Is nothing sacred? Now even organic spinach is cursed!” Take a deep breath… we’re going to get through this!

grain-free diet, GAPS diet and oxalatesFirst: if you suspect that your symptoms may improve by reducing oxalates, it is not all-or-nothing. Let grassfed/pastured/local meats, eggs, dairy (like my homemade raw yogurt), and low oxalate produce make up the bulk of your meals. Then mindfully include small amounts of medium oxalate treats on occasion. Remember, a grain-free diet like the GAPS diet can reverse a leaky gut. So look forward to a high oxalate indulgence in the future, after some healing has taken place. 

If you don’t want to go on a full-blown low oxalate diet, be mindful of the high oxalate foods you are currently eating. Are your desserts made of dates and ground nuts? Do you have a green smoothie everyday? Those are places where you can make an easy change. Simply leave the spinach out of your smoothie and use raw honey instead of dates.

Also, gradually reduce oxalate consumption to prevent an overwhelming detox reaction. In a Julie Matthew’s interview, the autism/nutrition expert’s guest explained:

Calculate, as best as you can, how high‐oxalate your diet is beforehand, if it’s very high, reduce one item at a time, if you’re using almond flour, don’t pull almond flour completely outright, but maybe substitute a lower oxalate flour like chestnut, it’s also high oxalate but it’s nowhere as high as almond and just start slowly reducing. The one thing that you don’t want to do is detox faster than your body can handle. (Source)

plain coconutAlso, coconut flour is low oxalate so you can enjoy the recipes on my Recipe page and in my Indulge and Heal ecookbook!

If you consider yourself healthy with a wonderfully competent intestinal lining (I’m jealous), then you have room to relax about oxalates. Enjoy some kombucha, tamari sauce and almond butter. Just remember the cardinal rule: moderation.

Are you trying to juggle a low oxalate diet and a grain-free diet? Have you found a low oxalate lifestyle helpful in ameliorating health issues? 

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  1. says

    This is SO needed, as I see so many people eating excess nuts (in particular) on the grain-free diets and not feeling better, or feeling worse. I have an autoimmune issue that made me extremely sensitive to oxalates, so I had to take a full year to heal and now I can enjoy them – as you mentioned above in moderation with the bulk of my diet being low-ox balanced. I love that you took the time to discuss this important issue. Lots of blessings, Kelly

    • says

      Thanks, Kelly! I’m not eating nuts right now because of sensitivities, but I hope that after I heal I will be able to eat them, like you. If I wasn’t sensitive to nuts, I’m sure I would be tempted to over-do it.

      • says

        I have been sharing your article with friends dealing with this issue right now. Some due to making rapid dietary shifts as a result of this grain-free movement. So thank you again for this great article. I really enjoy the insightful articles you share here! Hoping your NTA classes are going great! I know that will be a blessing to all of us as you share what you’re learning here. Prayers for your continued healing and much gratitude for your time and efforts sharing with us! :)

        • says

          Thank you, Kelly! NTA is so amazing and I am learning a ton. I’m so grateful for the opportunity. And thank you for your prayers! I am joyfully in God’s hands and He is healing me everyday.

    • Celeste says

      There is an important distinction to make with oxalate content. High oxalate vegetables that have a hight amount of Calcium, like leafy greens, will not necessarily harm you. Because the calcium binds with the oxalate inside the intestines, the resulting calcium oxalate will not be absorbed into the blood stream. Therefore, these foods may contain high amounts of oxalate, but the oxalate stays in the lumen of the GI and gets passed through the stools…not deposited in the kidneys. Of course, cooking your greens is the best way to ensure that this reaction occurs if your body is low in digestive enzymes.

      • MoniqueLise says

        Actually, it depends on the amount of oxalate in the food. Sometimes, there is simply not enough minerals in a food to protect you from the oxalate content. Spinach would be a great example. However, where you have low or medium oxalate foods that are also high in minerals, you may find that the minerals in the food are protective.

  2. says

    Hi! Great post! People forget about this and need a reminder every now and then. Can you elaborate more on fat maldigestion? How much “fat” do you think we should be consuming on a daily basis?

    • says

      I’m not an expert on fat maldigestion (yet… I’m doing my research)–a naturopathic practitioner would be more help on that topic. And how much fat you should consume really depends on what is right for your body. I think that in many cases 30- 40% of the diet should be good fats (from grassfed butter/tallow/lard, coconut oil, pastured eggs, raw milk, cold pressed American olive oil, etc).

      • samhope28@aol.com says

        My son takes lypo gold to help with fat digestion and it is working great! He has a lot of difficulty digesting fats and this supplement has been a blessing.

  3. Sara says

    Great post! I had no idea about oxalates. Any good lists out there of low oxalate produce? I’m a little discouraged as many of the high or medium oxalate foods you mentioned are staples in my already limited autoimmune grain-free diet…..

    • says

      The chart I linked under my list of the medium/high oxalate foods is pretty comprehensive and organized in alphabetical order. It is a great resource. It is a bummer that many of these oxalate foods are staples on grain-free diets! I know I’ve had to adjust my diet to fit this new information that I’ve learned. After all, healing is an evolving journey and a learning process. Let’s not get discouraged–let’s look at this like a challenge :)

      • MoniqueLise says

        Unfortunately, most of the resources on the web are not as current as we’d hope… The best source of information for those who are interested in the issue of oxalate is the Trying_Low_Oxalate yahoo group. We keep track of current data (some of which is covered by copyright and so cannot be shared freely on the web). I’m a volunteer moderator of that group, which is run by a biomedical researcher who has been head down in the research on oxalate for almost 2 decades.

        • Joseph says

          can you show me how to find the newest list of foods with their oxalate content on the website I saw one list but am not sure if it is the newest one?



        • Joseph says

          I have seen websites that list medium as 10-25 mg of oxalate and high as 25-500 mg.

          Is this similar to the most accurate up to date list on the trying low oxalate site?
          I just want to know If I can “afford” to eat foods in the medium category like corn and which types of wheat because if wheat is closer to the 10 mg range of medium versus 300mg range I can eat some? I saw wheat just listed as high?

    • Beth says

      I believe the most up-to-date and accurate info on which foods are low, medium, high, very high can be found on the Trying Low Oxalates Yahoo group mentioned above. They have a searchable database that is periodically updated as new foods are tested. It’s worth going there rather than some other sources which may be outdated or too general. For example, they’ve tested specific varieties of vegetables like curly kale which is high ox and dinosaur/lacinato kale which is low ox. They’ve tested certain varieties of tomatoes, green beans, etc. For people wanting a quick answer regarding low ox greens, you’re safe with arugula, lettuce, bok choy, cabbage, turnip greens, watercress, cilantro and chives. Avocado and zucchini are two of my favorite low ox veggies, and pumpkin seeds are the lowest in the seed/nut category.

      This is a wonderful summary of the oxalate issue. Thanks for writing about this, Lauren. I think oxalate accumulation and overload can contribute to many health issues without people realizing it or making the connection.

      I also found this article to be a very helpful overview:
      (since links are now allowed, I’m writing it out)
      Lovingourguts dot com, article called What Are Oxalates

  4. Tammy says

    Check out the Yahoo group Trying_Low_Oxalates. They have a fantastic “accurate” list of foods that are high, medium or low ox.

  5. Tara says

    Thanks for the article. I have candida and ibs so I am aware that oxalates are a factor. I’m not always good about eating low oxalate foods though. I am taking a calcium citrate with every meal as recommended by the vulvar pain foundation and the low oxalate diet. You mentioned in your article however that when oxalates combine with calcium they form irritating crystals. I thought oxalates are themselves irritating crystals and the calcium citrate suppliment helps move them through the body with less irritation. Is this true? Is it h?elpful to take the calcium citriate in your opinion

  6. Terrie says

    Just realizing that I probably have leaking gut syndrome. How long does it take to heal? How do you know when you are healed and can add other foods in?
    Also, please add info on the GAPS diet, I cannot find any info on it.

  7. says

    I’ve recently become suspicious of lectins as I am allergic to everything that contains lectins. Any idea how oxalates are different than lectins? Great post! I shared it on FB.

    • says

      Plants also produce lectins as a defense mechanism. In the gut, lectins are “sticky” and damage the villi and contribute to a leaky gut. This article is really informative: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/lectins/#axzz2K41FCiui That’s interesting that you are allergic to lectin foods. But virtually all plant and animal products contain lectins–are you just allergic to high lectin foods like grains and legumes? Lectins levels can be cut by traditionally preparing grains and legumes by soaking them a la Nourishing Traditions. Have you found that makes a difference for you? Thanks for sharing the post!

      • Ali says

        I wonder if traditional fermentation reduces oxalates the way it does with phytates? Either with a salt brine or with kefir whey. Do you know anything about that? Carrots are such a staple veggie on the GAPS diet. I love winter squash for my soup, but we’re moving into summer and zucchini just isn’t as tasty (and I can’t do brassicas). So I use a lot of carrot.

        I know that all seeds, nuts, grains, and beans should be soaked to remove their enzyme inhibitors (phytates), and I read in the GAPS book if you struggle with almonds, to ferment them in kefir whey first (I imagine it removes the phytates as normal water soaking does). I’m moving to coconut flour anyway due to cost – $3/lb vs $6.33/lb for almond flour, and that’s in the bulk bins. But it would be nice to know if oxalates can be modified depending on processing.

        Fermentation makes vegetables and sesame seeds, according to what I’ve read (Dom’s kefir site), more bio-available. So maybe fermentation would help with oxalates. I sure would like to know.

        (Is there an option here to be notified by email if my comment gets a reply?)

    • says

      Unfortunately, although soaking/sprouting nuts is a great practice for making the other nutrients more bioavailable, it has very little effect on the oxalate content.

      • Jessica says

        Bummer. I’ve been making your seed flour waffles and I was super excited about making them more often. Oh well

  8. Heather says

    Found this very interesting as my daughter has asthma. I am looking to change her diet to help in her breathing, but she also has a severe nut allergy. Most things that I am reading is to eliminate grains/gluten and soy. Since I can’t use any nuts, we do use a GMO free soynut butter for sandwiches at school. I also use a low grain bread, just not Gluten free. Any suggestions or what I can do to improve her health without taking the risk of having to use an epi-pen?

    • says

      Hi Heather! I’m glad this had some useful info for you. I would definitely suggest the grain-free route, I think it works wonders for chronic, inflammatory and autoimmune issues. I do grain-free and I don’t do nuts so it is totally possible. I would also suggest removing soy, refined sugar and pasteurized milk from the diet. Try raw milk–many find it makes a difference with asthma. Also, I would recommend reading “Why Stomach Acid is Good for You” for info regarding how important it is to correct stomach acid in the case of asthma.

      • linda says

        I LOVE raw milk from a clean source but it’s against the law to buy & sell in Iowa. You have a very eye opening article. Don’t know what’s left to munch on though. But maybe I can eat less high oxalates.

  9. AmyJo says

    You are amazing! Thank you for this info, I honestly did NOT know this and I am so glad you pointed this out. I am super gla you pointed out that coconut flour was ok too! I WAS thinking uuughhhhh is nothing sacred!!!! Thanks again!

  10. says

    Thanks for the great post. I’m wondering what your source is for kombucha being in the high/very category? It’s not listed on the chart and the main ingredient, tea, “varies” (I’m not sure if “tea” means black tea or any tea, but green tea is listed separately). Has kombucha been tested for oxylates?

  11. yaena says

    Hi Lauren,
    Interesting article.
    Can I ask what your take is on Tigernut flour (not a nut despite the name:) for baking instead of nuts?
    Many Thanks

    • says

      Hi Yaena! I’ve never heard of Tigernuts before, so thanks for introducing me to it! From what I’ve just briefly read, it’s a sweet tuber. I think it comes down to the individual whether nuts or tubers are easier to digest. I think tigernut flour sounds like a great option, especially because it will not have the omega 6 found in nut flours.

    • says

      Oops–my mistake with with carrots. I just fixed it to say that boiled carrots are medium and raw/steamed carrots are high. It’s confusing because cooking can affect the oxalate content of some (not all) vegetables. I think I might have run into conflicting information and that’s why I listed things in both categories.

      • Christina J says

        Do you know if fermenting raw veggies (like carrots a la Nourishing Traditions) affects the oxalate content? I’ve been having the ginger carrots with just about every meal since I tend to not be much if a veggie person… Thanks!

        • MoniqueLise says

          I’m afraid that fermenting does not change the oxalate in the food… The bacteria that we use to ferment are not the ones that *can* degrade oxalate. Oxalobactor formigenes is an anaerobic bacteria (that means it lives in places where there is little oxygen) and any fermentation that we can do will generally not be with anaerobic bacteria.

  12. Fada says

    Thanks, but what about chickpeas. I started using them more often now, so I wonder which category they belong to? Should I try not to use chickpeas too often?

    • says

      Chickpeas have a medium oxalate content. I recommend soaking beans for 24 hours in an acidic medium, as described in the book Nourishing Traditions (I found a post about soaking chickpeas here if you don’t have the book). It’s going to make them much more digestible, but it won’t have much effect on the oxalate content.

  13. Kelly says

    I am not on a lose weight diet (I am actually trying to gain weight), but I get so much confusion. Just when I think I am eating better (and honestly feel good) all the good for me foods I eat are on that danger list. WTF am I am suppose to do force myself to choke down foods I don’t like. I thought Blue Berries were a super food! I have been eating a serving daily with either yogurt, cereal, Granola and what not. I have tried my best not to eat processed foods (though my husband is the man cook and he’s just stubborn sometimes) I feel so great the last month! Now you are telling me the foods I love and make me feel great are bad for me too? Seriously what is left?

    • AprilA says

      Kelly, your point is pretty great and strikes a chord with me. If YOU feel great eating certain foods, I say keep it up. I have done elimination diets and I feel fine when I add wheat back in. I have problems with other foods, but for some reason, wheat doesn’t seem to effect me like it does some other people. I could eliminate it to be ‘safe’ and stop eating Kefir (which I have come to love), but if the purpose of eliminating things is to feel better and you already feel better, then what’s the point?

  14. says

    I have just joined VGN and saw you in the Forums. I have been grain-free for a few months and very quickly realised I had to be nut free as well. Now all my food is grain, nut and refined sugar-free. I still have a few problems but isolating the causes is complex.

  15. says

    Hi everyone! I lost a couple of your comments over the weekend when I changed to the new design. I’m sorry for the inconvenience and I just wanted to let you know that I didn’t delete them on purpose!

  16. Candance says

    I am so happy I found your blog Lauren! I was recently diagnosed with leaky gut and was transitioning to a gluten and grain free diet and had to go back to my doctors because I wasn’t feeling better. Low and behold I have now also been diagnosed with oxalates. So this post is super helpfull! I was at a point asking myself what is there left to eat LOL but this has opened a door for me and I am so happy! Do you know if water kefir is okay? I love making home made soda with water kefir grains and white grape juice or cranberry juice. It’s not sweet and super yummy :)

  17. says

    So just as I am browsing your website and come across this article, I am interested — not because I have leaky gut or because I have health issues, but I am healthy, I just want to be SUPER HEALTHY. But, today I received my first thing of almond flour in the mail, and I made some almond bread (it is baking in the oven as I type). How fitting of an article to come across at just this moment!

    I need to look more into this, as I am sensitive to certain things that normal people aren’t… like theobromine (in chocolate!! Can you believe, my amazingly healthy, raw cacao powder/stevia/raw honey/homemade vanilla/coconut oil candy makes me ill? No fair, for sure! :)

  18. Ashley says

    I think it’s also extremely important to point out that so many people jump to the conclusion that they have issues with oxalates after reintroducing nuts, beans and seeds, they don’t take into account that these foods are very difficult to digest even under the best of circumstances. Having issues after reintroducing those foods doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to incorporate a low oxalate diet, it just means that you need to remove those foods again and try later.

    Citric acid (such as fresh squeezed lemon juice) breaks down oxalates in food quite well, much better than cooking or soaking. :)

    • says

      That is an excellent point, Ashley! It’s often hard to pinpoint the reason why a re-introduced food is causing an unpleasant symptom. We shouldn’t simply blame oxalates. Like you said, these are very difficult to digest foods.

      And I didn’t know that lemon juice helps break down oxalates–interesting!

  19. emily says

    Hi, I’m vegan. I don’t want to get into a debate about it, I do it for ethical and spiritual reasons and I’m not willing to change this aspect. Have you got any tips that don’t involve animal products? I’ve cut out soy, with the exception of occaisional tempeh and tamari. I am limiting nuts and seeds, but do allow myself some macadamias because they apparently have a better omega ratio, and flax and chia, because I have them in small amounts and I thought they were the healthier seed choices. For heating I use coconut oil. For salads I tend to skip the oil entirely use avocado or a few chopped macadamia nuts. For creaminess I use coconut cream. I do eat grains and psuedograins, such as quinoa, millet, Brown rice and oats, but I avoid flour products, just eat the grains whole, and I limit my intake to about 1 cup of cooked per day.
    I am consuming a variety of legumes, soaked and cooked. For sweetener I usually use stevia or dates or rice malt syrup. So I did get the “omg I’m going to starve!” reaction but was not consoled by the “eat meat, dairy, eggs and honey”… I am trying to be healthy. Hope you can give me some advice, but please don’t say “go eat a steak” :-)

    • says

      I always find it ironic when vegans say they are trying to eat healthily but refuse to consider challenging their illogical belief system that animal products are unhealthy so therefore any diet free of animal products is a healthy one. I used to beg one (ex-) friend who was constantly suffering from pollen-based allergies to PLEASE eat some local wild honey as a natural and healthy way to build up immunities. Needless to say she was unmoved, but kept on eating cheap vegan candy bars full of high fructose corn syrup, loads of vegetable oils in various dairy-substitute products, mountains of tofu, potato chips and dark chocolate, then wondered why she felt like crap all day long. I’ve known many such junk-food vegans, all of whom ate far less healthily than myself, an ethical omnivore.

      Likewise, the vegan person commenting above, had in her list of allowed foods, a whole bunch of things known to be high in oxalate: quinoa, brown rice, millet. She goes on to say that she will “only” have a cup of one of these things. But even half a cup of brown rice contains 96 mg of oxalate, twice what a person trying to avoid the stuff should eat! So she’s eating 4 times the daily allowance for oxalate in one go! She seems to believe that because a grain is not ground into flour or turned into bread but eaten whole, this makes some kind of a difference but it does not. You cannot be on a low oxalate diet and eat a cup of brown rice, or similiar, every day!

      Quinoa, while being the trendy vegan food of the moment, is also not a part of a low oxalate diet. That is quite apart from being needed as a staple for Bolivian rurals who are now facing malnutrition due to the quadrupled price of quinoa, thanks to trendy vegans in the West and their spiritual missions. Oh well, that’s just some dumb peasants suffering, right? At least nobody took an egg from a chicken!

      As for those sweetening choices: stevia, rice syrup – yuk! If you’re going to be militant in your views and abstain from honey (which an indignant vegan waitress once described to me as a “bee slavery product”), there is really no reason to eat vile substitutes: maple syrup is the most delicious sweetener in the world, and is low oxalate as well. Personally I believe that trees are sentient beings however, so vegans beware! One of you may get slapped by a tree one day.

      Thanks to the owner of this page for posting this information. I was thrilled to discover that all dairy products are allowed. I find yogurt with active cultures to instinctively feel like a very good thing to eat a lot of to help with my digestive condition. I’ve been on the diet for a week now and have seen radical changes already. Finding ways to make food that is tasty and interesting while sticking within the limits is proving a fun challenge.

  20. Paola says

    Hi! How can I determine if I need a low oxalate diet? I have no idea if I have a leaky gut or not. Is there s test for that? Thank you.

  21. says

    My son was put on a GAPS diet when he was 2 1/2 due to multiple rounds of antibiotics. We noticed and improvement but he has still struggled with constipation. Now he is 5 and we have transitioned to the Paleo diet. For breakfast, I’ve been making banana bread or almond flour pancakes and he loves them. However, now (periodically) it seems like he has to pee often. In August, we found he had passed some crystals which seemed odd to us and the pediatrician. Is it possible that the oxalates in the almond flour are irritating his kidneys and causing him to pass more urine than normal to “cleanse” himself of the oxalates? Wondering about your thoughts on this. We were just about to make an appointment with the pediatric urologist but I’m wondering if an elimination of all or most almond products would return him to normal.

    • says

      Definitely, I just read an article about a mother with a young daughter that had trouble potty training because her daughter said that peeing hurt. Also read that high oxalates can cause frequent urination. Tried to find the link to the site but can’t find it. Sorry. Definitely something to look into. Unfortunately, almonds are high oxalate!

  22. Dana says

    I’ve never heard of this. I’m wondering if this is the cause of all my stomach problems. Severe pain in the UPPER stomach, not lower. Accompanied by terrible gas. I never saw a pattern before but it happened again today and I juiced carrot, beet, celery, cucumber and lemon (It was what I had on hand and needed to be used so why not). Anyway I’ve been suffering again since. After reading this I’m thinking I need to learn more about this subject. How?

  23. Susan says

    My sister desperately needs help. She has been in and out of the hospital for over a month now from years of GERD, asthma, food allergies accumalating, CFS, HBP medications, so many antibiotics. The doctors don’t know what to do with her anymore. They are running test after test but coming up with not much. I have suggested a diet for GERD, but after reading this, it may not be the way to go. They say eat lots of greens and veggies and beans(which I wonder about those beans anyways for gerd people). There is sooo much information out there, and she needs help fast. If you can please give me a place to start, that would be helpful. Do you think the GAPS is the way to go? I read GERD doesn’t digest meat very well, it will ferment in their stomachs. It’s all so confusing. I had hoped they would have signed up for the seminar, but she is in the hospital again, so it’s hard for them to find the time to even do that.

    • Jen says

      Looks like she will need probiotics and food that is easy to digest for sure! Also look up a failsafe diet too with the asthma and food allergies.

      • Jen says

        Check out a Failsafe diet! Asthma may be from high sulfites, ADD from glutamates or salicylates, and arthritis and allergies from amines or histamine issues.

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    Please let me know if this ok with you. Many thanks!

  25. Jen says

    I’m trying to piece together what healthy means to my body so I’m looking into a combination of the three diets you speak on. A couple years back I did an elimination/detox diet to learn what I was allergic too. I came up with Dairy, Eggs, Gluten, Soy. Have you, or any readers, experienced/read/learned anything regarding healing your gut on the caveman/paleo/weston price lifestyles that speaks to dairy and egg allergies?
    Even yogurt is harsh on me, although I have luck with kefir, so I’m currently making my first batch of goat milk kefir.

  26. says

    Thank you for this post. I’m a paleo foodie and lately I’ve been leaning so much more towards coconut flour in baking than nut flours for this reason and the ones you mention in your almond flour post. It’s important to keep in mind, as Mark Sisson says, that we should be eating moderate amounts of almond/nuts/seeds because of the Omega-6, PUFA and oxalates.

  27. Sheree says

    Wow! Thanks for this info. I had no idea! I have been limiting my diet towards GAPS, but have not jumped into strictly following the GAPS diet in an effort to heal ongoing skin issues. I have been eating a lot of those Larabars as a quick go to food. Although I still think they are a good “real food”, it appears they are probably not good for me right now. Thanks so much for your blog! I learn so much.

  28. says

    Wow, I’ve been having stomach issues lately and I’ve been eating pumpkin bread made with almond flour. I was suspicious of the phytic acid, but maybe it’s this. I gave up rice flour cuz it raises my blood sugar and now almond flour is causing probs. I don’t know what to do now. Kinda sucks cuz I have a lot of recipes that use almond flour. Thanks for this post, I will pin to share with others.

  29. Summer says

    My 3.5 year old has been on GAPS for the last two years for autism and adhd symptoms. He had made amazing progress, but was still suffering from extreme hyperactivity, meltdowns, ocd, and aggression. About a month ago someone in a facebook group I am in stated he might need to be on a low oxalate/low phenol diet. We are still mostly full GAPS, but have removed the high oxalate/phenol foods from his diet, and he is a completely different child! He is almost 100% recovered. There has been a few times in the last few weeks that we have accidentally given him something he shouldn’t have, and within 30 minutes he is extremely hyper, and having meltdowns. I am so happy to see this article on your blog! I wish I had known about oxalates sooner.

    • Tosha McDugle says

      Summer, please tell me more! I was encouraged by your comment and extremely hopeful. Then I looked at the high oxalate/phenol and salicylate foods list. We are on Gaps as well. That doesn’t leave much for the little guy to eat (mine is almost 6). Did you just eliminate MOST of the very high and high foods or did you totally go cold turkey with all highish ones? That basically leaves just meat and eggs and FEW veggies. I’m trying to do this to see if it will work but it seems so hard. We’ve been on Gaps for 1 year now, so I’ve got that down pat, but I have so any questions about trying to eliminate all the high ox and phen foods while already restricted to only Gaps foods. How long did you do it before it took effect? I am SOOO past ready for the fits and meltdowns and violence to stop. Also, on Gaps we do the fermented pickles or sauerkraut every meal and now I’m not suppose to give him any cucumbers or cabbage? Raw foods are so good and now no salads because of the greens, tomatoes and cukes? AND NO AVOCADO???? We eat guacamole with tomato and jalapeno, and just scoop out avocado from it’s shell with a spoon and eat it, everyday. How will he get his healthy fats and veggies if he is soooo limited? How did you do it? Nutritionally, we are supposed to have variety to get all the different antioxidants and vitamins. I really don’t know how to do this. All of our favorite Gaps recipes have 1 or more of these ingredients. HELP!!!

      • Jen says

        Do the failsafe!! Skip the GAPS diet for a while. Your son has all the symptoms, and GAPS will be making it worse!! At least drop ALL the glutamate foods!! Perhaps leave a few moderate sals in, and amines may not be bothering your son, but watch out for soy, corn, dairy, and gluten, because these all connect with the glutamate reaction.

  30. kat says

    Great I just went on an anti inflammatory diet for my health as the Dr.’s are trying to assess whether I just have fibromyalgia or something more serious like RA and my diet is basically a vegan, gluten free, low gi diet but with some fish and eggs whites. Which means I have been eating greens and nuts like it’s going outta style. Apparently that is now bad for you too. I think we all have to take everything in moderation with a grain of salt because if that wasn’t the case then I would be on a no food diet.

  31. Anne Valta says


    Very interesting article. First time I hear about oxalates. I have had GI issues for the last 4 years and doctors have just been scratching their heads (or say that I’m imagining it!). Anyways, I wanted to point out a few things in the low oxalate diet that concern me.
    1) meat. I don’t eat any red meat because a) I don’t like the taste and how I feel afterwards (heavy, lazy, tired…), b) because read meat is not good for you in the long run (diabetes, high cholesterol etc.) so I have to ignore that advise and I hope you would too :).
    2) dairy. I’m very lactose intolerant and any milk, raw or processed will make me sick like you wouldn’t believe it. I also am a strong believer that milk past breast feeding age is not meant to be drank by humans. Most people on earth are lactose intolerant on some level and if you keep eating dairy in moderate/high amounts it will affect your health negatively. I use coconut milk with my steel cut oats and coffee.
    So how would someone like me survive this low oxalate diet if dairy and meat is taken off completely (I do eat fish, chicken and eggs)? I get bored with food very easily so if I have to eat eggs and chicken on all my meals, I will just rather kill myself :).

  32. says

    Hi, I have Fibromyalgia and am involved with a very proactive group I go to when I can. We have regular printouts and leaflets/news articles etc provided by our lovely group founder and I saw an article on Oxalates and how in one womans experiece virtually cured her fibro pain and lethargy! So I thought why not have a go? I have already identified foods on your list I have regularly and have found this site very useful on my search on this! Thanx xx Emma

    • says

      Emma Cutland, I read your post, I need help! Have had Fibromalgia or chronic Lyme for 25 years. Now I am on pain killers, I need to change my life & feel better. I don’t know where to start. You said you go to a group. Can you give me some information? Thank you

  33. Scott S. says

    In a comment several months back, someone said that citric acid (lemon juice) breaks down Oxalates. It does not. Oxalates are the resultant product of Oxalic Acid reacting with another chemical, usually cations like Calcium, Potassium, Sodium, Magnesium, etc. There are other Oxalate forms, too, but that’s not germane here. They were probably confusing that citrates in the diet, whether from citric acid containing foods (like citrus fruits) or dietary supplements (calcium citrate or potassium citrate, the latter better for kidney stone patients), suppress the development of the Calcium Oxalate form of kidney stones.
    Hope this clears that issue up.

  34. says

    I was suggested this web site by my cousin. I am not
    sure whether this post is written by him as nobody else know such detailed about my trouble.
    You are wonderful! Thanks!

  35. says

    What’s Taking place i’m new to this, I stumbled upon this I have found It positively useful and it has helped me out loads.
    I’m hoping to give a contribution & assist different customers like its aided me. Great job.

  36. says

    Ruh Roh. I had no idea. But I’m not going to change anything, cause its all working fairly well right now. I don’t eat nuts or seeds or soy or beans, so that’s good. I do eat some high oxalate foods though, but I’m not going to stress about it. My body seems quite happy with my current diet plan. I recently found some grass fed yogurt at Whole Foods, but I’d like to try and make my own coconut yogurt. If I can find a recipe!

  37. Lyndon says

    Happy to find your page…confounded by the fact that food was given to man to be sustained, and so much of it is killing those who are trying to be good stewards of their bodies. My wife has RA, Lupus and Sponge Kidney…this is further complicated because she is also Bi-Polar. She is untreated for the Bi-polar as most of the meds pass through her kidneys and she has calcification on her kidneys. Did I also mention she is an orphan?

    Maybe this is the wrong forum, but today I am just overwhelmed by it all…and out two sons encounter life on the AU spectrum. Don’t ask about family, as mine have turned their collective backs on us. Its a daily battle between the mind body and soul.

    We are trying healing through diet but man, the hits just keep on coming. I feel for everyone who suffers because of food; its not like they are wasting their lives on drugs and alcohol, but what should otherwise be nutritious food.

    Sorry to rant, super frustrated!

    • Bob Hunt says

      Excellent site, sound information. In trying to correct an error in what I wrote I may be creating multiple posts, hope not.

      Good job, Lauren!

      There is a nice list of oxalate levels on the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center website, type “oxalates” in front of that name and Google to get to the right page.

      You can drag-copy the list that appears there and it will paste cleanly as a table in either Word or Excel.

      In Excel, substitute zeroes in column 2 wherever “ND” appears and delete the plus and minus suffixes from the other numerical values. Note that the ranges are repeated in column 3 anyway. When finished, select all of column 2 and convert to Number format with one decimal place. You now have three columns of data that you can sort by food name or by oxalate levels, high to low or vice-versa depending on your needs. A handy reference of over a hundred foods.

  38. Shawn Lawton says

    I’ve been enjoying the Paleo diet for a couple years and passed a kidney stone this weekend. This experience brought me here in an investigation of oxilates. I thought I was okay with meat but stumbled across this article:


    The article suggests meats are high oxilate as well. I noticed it was written in 2001. Hopefully the research since has proven otherwise. Thoughts?

  39. says

    Hi Lauren I have to applaud your rigorous research and your ability to stick to a restrictive diet to heal yourself. I have read many other blog posts from young people of your age (mostly Americans) who are on a similar healing journey. I am very impressed with the good work you are doing for yourself and also the sharing you do to help others.

    I have had several gut related issues over the past few years – mostly I think as a result of a very stressful life in my “middle years”. However I am not aware of the young people in the UK having such problems and I was wondering if you know why that might be – or rather why there seem to be so many young Americans with autoimmune diseases and allergies and gut related problems that require diets such as the GAPS protocol? I am not saying there are none in the UK as I am sure there are many but I personally am unaware of any and come into contact with quite a few through my children who are about your age

    • says

      First, thanks for the kind words! And secondly, that is an interesting observation. I’m sure there are so many factors and I have my theories but I don’t know if I have the time or space right now to list them all.

        • Cassie says

          My family has been on our journey to health for about six years, mostly by eating WAPF-recommended traditional foods and also the GAPS diet. We have seen tremendous healing to our great relief.

          Most recently here in Washington state, we were disappointed that the GMO food labeling initiative lost, but were heartened by the report that 48% of our voters approved of labeling. I firmly believe that this issue is key to the misery our nation experiences with gut-related problems.

          According to research conducted by Dr. Stephanie Seneff and published in January of this year, the pesticide RoundUp (the most-used pesticide on the planet but especially in the US) destroys gut-bacteria in humans. The research she conducted is found here: http://people.csail.mit.edu/seneff/Entropy/entropy-15-01416.pdf

          This information nailed it for me, bringing all of our country’s gut dysbiosis-related issues together. I wish all of you healing with all my heart!

          • says

            I agree with you completely, and I was so disappointed that GMO labeling lost in Washington. I grew up in the Seattle area and I know that so many people there are really passionate about food rights.

            It is so scary how pesticides and GMOs cause such severe gut flora dysbiosis. Thank you for sharing that link with me and everyone else here. Have you read The World According To Monsanto? It gives frightening insight into how this company prioritizes profits over health.

  40. Patrick says

    Thanks for your post. Most foods have low to moderate oxalate levels. However, a few foods have very high levels (about 10x higher or more than in foods merely high in oxalates).

    Here is a great table with diet recommendations. http://www.ohf.org/docs/Oxalate2008.pdf

    I was regularly eating 5 of the very highest in oxalates on a regular basis, plus nuts, and had a bout of gout. That was both good and bad, as I finally realized my oxalate issue.

    Here is an odd effect that may help some: In drinking beet juice I noticed I had beeturia (my urine was reddish after eating beets). Research showed this meant oxalic acid was not being properly digested. Oxalates protect the red betalaine coloring through to excretion, but only in those whose systems do not properly break down oxalates. So, beet juice may help people self-test whether their digestive system is properly breaking down oxalates. Apparently both stomach acid and gut microbiome play a part. Microbes – including but not limited to oxalobacter formigenes – can break down oxalates.

    The research on beeturia is here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7493168

    • Diana says

      Thanks for the comment about beets. Both my husband and I have noticed the “beet effect” but just thought that it was normal (however, I did briefly wonder if that had always been the case as I didn’t remember that happening when I was younger). I think the oxalate factor may be a whole new realm of things to watch out for–in addition to gluten and sugar. Yikes! But if it makes a difference, I’ll do it.

  41. Natalie says


    I’m currently on the GAPS diet and have been eating broccoli puree soup and beef stock brussel sprout soup regularly! I have candida so I can’t have butternut squash or carrots. Do you have any soup recipes you could recommend? Also, what kind of a difference, if any, have you noticed in your overall health? Thanks for the great article!

  42. dan says

    Not sure if germinating alters the offensive oxalate content but i know that fermenting/culturing foods reduces oxalates significantly and so does cooking, combined together you have a good protocol for avoidance if your sensitive to oxalates and still want to enjoy your fav oxalate containing foods that is

  43. Leah says

    This just adds another layer to my already restricted diet. I have 24 food allergies and trying to stay away from grains and restrict fruits. I am also on a rotational diet. I can’t eat anything 2 days in a row or anything from the same food family 2 days in a row. It is possible but will take some serious meal planning. Any suggestions?

  44. Vickie Forbes says

    I am so happy I found this article. I have been aware oxalates for a few years due to having multiple bouts of calcium oxalate kidney stones. I have had numerous shockwave lithotripsy’s and one emergency laser lithotripsy. The information you receive from Litholink is very limited but I was following their guidelines, taking my potassium citrate prescription and still having kidney stones. Last spring after a particularly painful bout of kidney stones and four lithotripsy’s on one kidney, testing showed my oxalate levels had risen so I started doing more research to find out why and found the Low Oxalate Group in Yahoo. From their food list, I discovered that Fig Newton cookies were the main culprit for my rising levels. Oh, by the way, I had gastric bypass in 2004 and lost 125 pounds but have malabsorption issues. I am trying to eat healthy and lose 75 more pounds which would bring my weight down under 200 (I started at 373). I am lactose intolerant and a diet controlled diabetic. I tried to go gluten free plus eliminated high carb vegetables but ended up craving carbs so much that I went back to eating everything. I keep reading about juicing but I’m afraid because of the greens. I just want to find the right balance so I can control my health and weight.

  45. Stephanie says


    I suffer from asthma and allergies which I have found are definitely gut related and due to low stomach acid etc. I’ve being living on the full GAPS diet for a while and found it great but I’m about to start doing it properly with the introduction section etc to really heal my gut. If your on the GAPS diet wouldn’t you avoid most of these oxalates? Wouldn’t it only be an issue if you went a little crazy with nuts flours or butters?

    Thanks again!

    • says

      You’re exactly right – the GAPS diet (in the beginning stages) already restricts many oxalate-rich foods. It is important not to go crazy on the nuts and seeds anyway, so this is just another reason to do so :) With that said, oxalates are not automatically a problem for many people.

  46. says

    Thanks for the helpful info! I think I passed a kidney stone today. Took it to the doctor to have it tested. I won’t be surprised if it comes back as mostly oxalate, as I’ve been eating a lot of both medium- and high-oxalate foods over the last several months, including collards, spinach, kale, bananas, pistachios, rice flour, almond flour, and kombucha. I think i’ll try that autoimmune diet you mentioned to officially – finally – heal my gut, assuming it’s leaky.

  47. Martina says

    Hi Lauren…..great article BTW……we have recently discovered the naughty side of oxalates when my husband went through hell and back with a passing of a kidney stone……..now his doctor restricted him from consuming foods with high and medium levels of oxalates……..we have changed our diet about 2 years ago to more veg and fruit ….making shakes on everyday basis……limiting meat to only once a week..we have eliminated most diary unless organic yogurts and cheeses….our kids found liking for all this goodness and I was a proud momma……u can imagine how I feel now…….I am feeling very much confused and angry since it seems like nothing is ever enough…..now we have to revamp out diet again?……and I’m not sure to what exactly?!……u r mentioning leaving spinach out of the shakes…..I understand that spinach and chard have ton of oxalates…..but what about other leafy greens like kale and arugula?…..can I substitute those?…..I guess I just have to do more research on this subject…..and it is exhausting…..my husband is otherwise healthy and I don’t even think he is prone to kidney stones but all this overload of “green goodness” tipped the scales for him…..now do I have to be worried for myself and my kids?…..Thank u ahead and sorry for venting ;)….Martina W.

  48. jane says

    I just saw a renal specialist yesterday and found that I have CKF cronic kidney failure. HE wants me to do very low oxalates. I have never heard of oxalates before. I have been on the green smoothies plan amd blood test shows my Kidneys are getting worse
    I am at a level 3kidney failure. I read several lists and find it very confusing with the same foods listed in different catagories. I am sure Spelt would be on the list as well as Teff Tritacale etc. of which I have all.Cabbage was always low.My daughter found this site and I will try to find the yahoo site. I am allergic to eggs although a naturpath said i could do duck eggs. I don’t like meat. No convictions, l live on a beef ramch in Montana
    Just not a fan. My husband is diabetic.its been hard nutritionally. I have done the Atkins diet and lost 90 lbs but never felt healthy. What do you think of goat milk? I am considering buying one as cows give way to much milk for our 2 person family to use. I am so confused. I felt great on the smoothie diet but kidneys got worse
    Fruits amd veggies aremy favoritre food group
    I feel screwed but want to lives so I will persevere on. Thanks for your site and the responses that give me more options to findthe info I need. I am wondering what is happening next.??

    • Arshes76 says

      Have you spoken with a Naturpath? I would recommend milk Thistle it helps keep your liver healthy. With a healthy liver that will take some pressure off your kidneys. Also check the acidity of your urine too much acid will make your kidneys work harder than they need too. You can Ph strips at a healthy old store.

  49. Sonia says

    Yep! I fell into that trap allright. I was eating almonds, other nuts and spinach – to alkalinize! And ended up in a world of pain. 2 years later on low-oxalate diet made a huge difference.

  50. Jenna says

    Hi, Lauren. I love your blog and it has been guiding me as I try to battle leaky gut syndrome. Even after switching to an Autoimmune Paleo diet, I still have my worst symptome, which is a terribly burning in my muscles. I had been very low carb, and this added a weakness and twitching to my muscles. I think low oxalate has been the answer, however, I have fructose malabsorption, histamine intolerance, along with this, so my diet is very restricted, and I need to keep up my carbs/calories. I am only 17, I should add. I am really struggling to balance all of this and am becoming quite hopeless. What is a good low-oxalate starch? I cannot have high-fructose fruits or honey; this is upsetting because the oxalate issue prohibits me from having many starchy root vegetables. My body needs at least some source of carbs to be able to heal. Are there any low-oxalate root or starchy vegetables? Absolutely any advice would be so greatly appreciated. Thank you for the guidance you have provided already.

    • Arshes76 says

      White rices? Potatoes? I have no issues with turnips or rutabagas, but that’s me. I think butternut squash is a safe food.

  51. Norm says

    Are you sure this is true, from the top of your page?

    “many folks [g]o into cardiac arrest on their first day of grain-free…”

    If that’s not what you meant, you should be more careful with your words.

  52. Denise Brand says

    Hi, I’d like to point out there are several mistakes on your page “Oxalates the grain free trap”. You have the following foods listed as high oxalate foods but Broccoli is raw medium and boiled is low, green cabbage raw and cooked is low red peppers are low. Also the source and credit should be given to Susan Owens and the Trying Low Oxalate group for the list of foods that your link takes people to. I also don’t think you should be recommending that people heal the gut first with the paleo autoimmune diet before taking into consideration the oxalate content of food. The extent that a high oxalate diet can cause many many symptoms and problems is under estimated by yourself and the Paleo Mom. I agree we do need nutrition to heal the gut but liver is extremely high in oxalates.

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