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The Role of Oxalates in Driving Anemia: What You Need to Know

Written by Portland Clinic of Natural Health on October 31, 2023

Oxalates, naturally occurring compounds found in many foods, have drawn attention in recent years for their potential role in various health conditions, including kidney stones. But did you know that there's evidence suggesting that oxalates might also play a role in anemia? Let's delve into the research to understand the connection.

What are Oxalates?

Oxalates are organic compounds found in various foods, including spinach, rhubarb, beets, nuts, chocolate, and certain teas. While many individuals can process dietary oxalates without issue, an excessive intake or reduced ability to eliminate them can lead to problems.

Oxalates and Anemia: The Connection

Gut Health and Nutrient Absorption: One of the primary ways oxalates can contribute to anemia is by binding with minerals, particularly iron and calcium, in the gut. When oxalates bind with these minerals, they form insoluble crystals, which the body cannot absorb. Consequently, even if you consume iron-rich foods, excessive oxalates can inhibit your body's ability to absorb this essential mineral, potentially leading to iron-deficiency anemia.

Kidney Function: Oxalates are known culprits in the formation of calcium oxalate kidney stones. Impaired kidney function can subsequently impact erythropoiesis (production of red blood cells). Additionally, chronic kidney disease itself can be a cause of anemia due to decreased erythropoietin production, a hormone essential for red blood cell production.

Hematuria: In some cases, high urinary oxalate levels can lead to hematuria (presence of blood in urine). This can result in a direct loss of red blood cells, although this is typically not the main cause of anemia related to oxalates.

Candida and Oxalate Production

An often-overlooked aspect of oxalate issues in the body is the role played by certain microbial infections, notably the Candida species. Candida, a common yeast-like fungus present in our gut, can overgrow under certain conditions such as prolonged antibiotic use, compromised immunity, or high sugar diets. What's intriguing is that when Candida proliferates, it has the ability to produce and release oxalates within the body.

Studies indicate that Candida species can convert a precursor called glyoxylate into oxalates. Consequently, individuals with chronic or recurrent Candida overgrowth might experience an internal surge in oxalate production. This endogenously produced oxalate adds to the dietary oxalate intake, which can amplify the potential for the aforementioned health issues, including anemia. Addressing underlying Candida infections might be a key step for those dealing with high oxalate levels and related health concerns.

What Does This Mean for You?

If you're at risk for anemia or already diagnosed with it, it's essential to consider various factors, including dietary oxalate intake or active candida and/or fungal overgrowth. While you don't necessarily have to eliminate all oxalate-rich foods, being mindful of consumption and pairing them with foods high in calcium can help reduce oxalate absorption.

Additionally, always consult with a holistic healthcare professional, such as a licensed naturopathic doctor, before making significant changes to your diet or if you suspect that oxalates may be impacting your health.

Oxalates and Iron Deficiency Anemia

The potential role of oxalates in driving anemia is an emerging area of research. While more studies are needed to fully understand the relationship, the existing evidence suggests that high oxalate intake can interfere with iron absorption and kidney function, both critical factors in maintaining healthy red blood cell levels. Being informed and seeking holistic professional advice, such as from a licensed naturopathic doctor, is the best approach to ensure your health and well-being.

Resources:

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