Why minerals first? Because oxalates, no matter their source, bind to minerals. Oxalates especially like to bind to calcium and magnesium. This means that an oxalate issue can manifest itself as a LOT of different symptoms. From the immediately obvious (heart palpitations or anxiety attacks caused by low magnesium) to the ones you may not see until it’s too late (osteoporosis or tooth loosening due to chronic low calcium), there are dozens of symptoms, and they are all very important reasons to supplement minerals when trying the low oxalate diet (LOD). As always, please check with your doctor before supplementing minerals, as you may have medication interactions, or other medical conditions which make it unwise to supplement with one or more minerals. For example, folks with kidney failure must be very careful about their magnesium intake. This is by no means the only issue, merely one example of which I happen to be aware.
Calcium: This is generally considered to be the most important supplement, and is recommended to be taken in two ways:
1. twenty minutes prior to each meal in a form without vitamin D. This is done in the hopes that it will bind oxalate in the gut and carry it out of the system without being absorbed by the intestines.
2. away from meals, with vitamin D. This is done so that oxalates circulating in the blood stream can be bound, and also so that your body will have sufficient amounts on hand to keep bones, teeth, nails, muscles and all other cells operating as they should.
Magnesium: This can be taken a number of ways. One issue many folks have encountered is called “bowel tolerance.” This is to say, once they take more than a certain amount of magnesium by mouth, they have an issue with diarrhea. So while magnesium supplementation by tablet, capsule or powder may be useful for some, others prefer a trans-dermal delivery system. Trans-dermal preparations can be as simple as a bath or foot soak with epsom salts, or as fancy as a highly concentrated rub-on preparation such as magnesium oil. Most folks seem to prefer to take their magnesium orally if possible, but there are lots of reasons why trans-dermal dosing might be a better choice. However, like calcium, magnesium taken orally can bind oxalate in the gut (prior to it being absorbed into the bloodstream), though for most people magnesium doesn’t seem to be as effective as calcium.
Magnesium is actually doubly important on the low oxalate diet, as low magnesium status is believed to impair a mammal’s ability to absorb and use vitamin B6 (citation here). As you’ll learn on the page about B vitamins, B6 is vitally important to anyone struggling with an oxalate issue. If you’d like a more complete discussion of types, brands and considerations when supplementing magnesium, please see this page.
Other Minerals Considered Important to the Low Oxalate Diet
While I wouldn’t say that you should pick all of these up when first starting the LOD, they each have their own purpose and many who follow LOD find them to be helpful. My best advice is to listen to your body, and if you are having trouble with things one of these minerals can help, to give it a try. Of course, supplementing these minerals is best done under the supervision of a physician who can periodically check your blood levels. Zinc and copper in particular can easily be thrown out of whack (hence the recent controversy over zinc in denture adhesives).
Selenium: an important anti-oxidant, and like other minerals may be bound and depleted by oxalate.
Zinc: May be depleted by oxalate; response and need for zinc seems to change rapidly on the diet, so the dose may need frequent adjustment. One thing I personally know about zinc is that it needs to be balanced in the body by copper. For this reason, if you intend to supplement zinc, I highly recommend having blood tests done to see how your zinc/copper balance is faring. Failing to do this can lead to any number of horrible issues such as developing neuropathies, anemia, and low HDL (“good”) cholesterol.
Copper: While many do not need this (and it is rarely recommended on the Trying Low Oxalates group), I and at least one other regular on the group have found that we do need it. I have no idea whether this is due to oxalate binding it or some other reason, but I felt it deserved its own mention, since it is also important for balancing zinc levels. And as mentioned above with zinc, it is important to keep an eye on your levels via blood tests.