So you’ve been slowly removing oxalates from your diet, and you’re almost ready to try for a truly Low Oxalate Diet (LOD). What’s the best way to make sure that you stay in the recommended range of 40 to 60 milligrams of oxalate per day?
You know your tendencies better than anyone else. Many have likened following a LOD to counting calories. Since statistically speaking, you’ve probably done one or more diets in your life, you probably know what that’s like. Think about what worked for you then, and try to incorporate those techniques into your approach to the low oxalate diet.
For Precise, Mathematical Types
If you’re the type to weigh your food and track every bite you eat, that is wonderful! It’s actually very simple to track all of your food intake so that you can see how you’re doing on the LOD, and check the low oxalate food list to If you’re an on-the-go person, you might want to carry a small notepad and pen, or download one of the many useful calorie counter or spreadsheet apps for your smartphone. If you’re like me, and spend most of your day on or near a computer, a spreadsheet might work better, and certainly gives you endless options for doing calculations, forecasts and the like.
The Approximation Method
If you are more lassez-faire about your food tracking, that’s OK too – you can still successfully apply the principles of the low oxalate diet. In fact, until the past few years, this sort of method was the only one available, so you’re in great company!
When you look at the low oxalate food list, you’ll see the second column is labeled “Level.” This gives you an at-a-glance idea of whether or not a given food is a good fit for the LOD. If a food is rated VH (Very High), chances are good you’ll want to avoid that food permanently. Foods with levels of L(ow) and VL (Very Low) can be eaten on a daily basis, and should probably form the majority of your diet.
M(edium) foods can likely be eaten three to five times per week without too much difficulty, and having an occasional H(igh) food as a treat is not unheard of, though this is where we begin to get into individual tolerance levels. The rule of thumb is simple – if you react negatively to a food, you probably aren’t equipped to handle it at the moment, for whatever reason. Bear in mind that this is not a forever thing – that is, just because you have a negative reaction to something doesn’t mean that you always will.
In addition, you may be reacting to something other than the oxalates in a food – salicylates and gluten are common culprits, as are phenols and many other substances. So being at least a little methodical in your eating (even if you don’t write every little thing down) can have major benefits when trying to find the root cause of a reaction. Also remember that not every reaction will occur immediately. I know in my own case, there is generally a three-day lapse between the day I gluten myself and the day I get what I call “gluten rage.” This is another reason why at least taking some notes as you attempt this diet is generally advised.
Count Your Supplements Too!
You’ll note that the low oxalate food list has oxalate values for quite a few supplements as well. This is because supplements can easily be a source of “hidden” oxalates. Since a great many supplements either are or contain plant matter, and since plant foods are our primary source of oxalates, it only makes sense to ensure that your supplements aren’t keeping you high-ox despite your best dietary efforts to go low-ox.
Naturally, the food list probably won’t contain every brand and dosage of supplements that you might need. However, it is a good base indicator for most things. Take Pau D’Arco, for example. Even if you use a brand of Pau D’Arco other than the NOW brand (which is what was tested), you can safely assume that it is going to be a pretty high oxalate supplement. Even if you can’t count the precise level of oxalates, you know that you’ll probably need to find a different supplement to substitute for the Pau D’Arco.
You’ll also want to keep an eye on the ingredients of your supplements. I once bought an Alpha Lipoic Acid formula by Jarrow because it was on clearance, without giving sufficient thought to the ingredient list (which included beet powder – beets are a very high oxalate vegetable). Whoops! After just a few days on the new supplement, I started having pretty bad dumping/infraction symptoms. In all honesty, I would never have thought that the tiny amount of powdered beet in those tablets (and I was only taking on per day!) could cause an adverse reaction…but as soon as I switched to a different brand of ALA, my symptoms cleared up within a couple of days. Lesson learned!
Think of the LOD as a Chance to Find What Ails You
Whatever method you choose, try to take the time to make at least a few notes each day about your (or your low oxalate dieter’s) mood, symptoms and overall health. This data can become invaluable in sussing out hidden sensitivities to various foods and supplements. As with the actual oxalate tracking, use whatever method suits you best – a text file on your computer, a notepad app on your smartphone, or written out longhand. Of course, if you’re using one of more precise tracking methods for your foods and supplements, adding this information to that tracking method, so that it sits right alongside what you ate and supplemented for the day, is ideal. But even keeping the two logs separately, or just making an occasional note about mood and health and what you remember eating over the past few days, is better than nothing at all.
If you think of this diet as an opportunity to find the root cause of many of your ailments, you just might discover that you have a lot more control over how you feel than you ever previously suspected. So often, I think, we believe that we are stuck with the little aches and pains that come on with age or activity. What I have discovered, though, is that almost all of my ailments, be they large or small, have at least a portion of their cause in my diet and supplements. The sense of control that gives me is a wonderful feeling!