Unexpected Side Effects Oxalic Acid Has On Your Body

According to Healthline, oxalic acid, also known as oxalate, is an organic compound found in leafy greens, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds. Although the human body obtains oxalates from various natural food sources, it can also produce this acid on its own, according to Medical News Today. In the body, oxalate binds to minerals to form compounds like calcium oxalate and iron oxalate in the colon, kidneys, and other parts of the urinary tract, per Healthline.

These oxalate compounds should normally be excreted through your stool or urine, but in some cases, you can still have high oxalate levels. For this reason, some health experts advocate consuming fewer foods rich in oxalates due to the unexpected side effects it has on the body, per Medical News Today. If you want to reduce the amount of oxalic acid you consume, it's best to speak to a doctor or nutritionist who'll work with you to create the correct healthy eating plan.

What are the side effects of high oxalic acid in the body?

WebMD notes that oxalic acid can lower mineral absorption in your digestive tract. The source indicates that certain bacteria in your gut sometimes break down consumed oxalates before they can attach to minerals. According to Medical News Today, one example is the bacteria called Oxalobacter formigenesThis bacteria depends on oxalates for energy, which means it can reduce the number of oxalate particles in your body by breaking them down. However, some people don't have high levels of this bacterium, especially those on antibiotics. This leaves them susceptible to inflammatory bowel disease due to the high oxalate levels, per Medical News Today.

There's also a link between high oxalic acid and kidney stones. According to Cleveland Clinic, kidney stones and crystals form when an excess amount of oxalate combines with calcium in the urine. However, kidney stones aren't the only health risk. The source notes that it's hard to eliminate excess oxalate when your kidneys fail, which means the crystals can build up in other areas. This condition is called oxalosis and is linked to hyperoxaluria, which is caused by having too much oxalate in your urine (via Mayo Clinic).

How to reduce oxalate intake

It's tempting to think that avoiding foods that contain oxalate will reduce your risk of high oxalate health risks. However, Healthline indicates that doing this can lead to a phenomenon called oxalate dumping, which occurs when you reduce your oxalate intake too quickly. This condition can lead to various adverse effects, from short-term ones like dizziness and painful bowel movements to hyperoxaluria in the long run. The source advises the best way to switch to a low-oxalate diet is to reduce oxalate intake by 5–10% per week.

According to Medical News Today, one way to reduce oxalic acid levels is by cooking vegetables and discarding the cooking water. A 2020 study published in the journal Foods noted a 76% reduction of oxalate levels in various cooked vegetables. Healthline also advises drinking at least two liters of water a day and eating enough calcium, which binds the oxalate and reduces its absorption. Foods that are high in calcium and low in oxalates include those such as canned fish with bone, cheese, and plain yogurt.