Mineral Supplements for the Low Oxalate Diet

Oxalates and Mineral Balance

Minerals first!

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.

16 Responses to Mineral Supplements for the Low Oxalate Diet

  1. Tony says:

    Why do you not mention doses? Without this vital information your article is useless.

    • + says:

      Hi Tony, I’m sorry you feel the article is useless, but there are several reasons why I do not specify dosages:

      1. I am not qualified. I am not a doctor, nor a nutritionist, and most importantly, I am not YOUR doctor or nutritionist. Only they would be sufficiently familiar with your situation to make such a recommendation.

      2. Dosages are highly individual, and even a single individual’s needs can fluctuate WILDLY. I’ll give you an example from my own recent experience:

      Until a few weeks ago, I was taking 1000mg of magnesium per day, with only beneficial results. Then one day, I noticed I was having tingling hands, and all sorts of other symptoms of hypocapnia (low blood carbon dioxide – generally caused by hyperventilation). Turns out, my body’s demand for magnesium had suddenly dropped when I started another supplement, and the excess magnesium was causing me to experience alkalosis. Since I had been through similar events in the past (and taken good notes), I soon suspected magnesium, and began lowering my dose. Over the course of a few days I discovered that I now need less than 150mg of mag per day. How’s that for a sudden and drastic change?!

      3. When pressed, all I can tell you is what I would do, and that is: start low and slow, and titrate up from there. Since we do vary so much as individuals, there’s no telling what the right dose is for any one person. The best thing you can do is see how a supplement affects you, and adjust from there.

      Hope this helps!
      -Michelle

  2. Janet Chaikin says:

    I have been taking Calcium & Magnesium powder with D3 (NOW) before bed. Is there any need to take calcium and magnesium separately or is taking them this way still beneficial?

    • admin says:

      Janet,

      I guess it depends on what you’re trying to do. Taking the mixed supplement you mention sounds like it would be good for bone health, as well as the many other purposes to which magnesium and calcium are put in the body.

      The recommendation to take calcium or magnesium before meals (and away from Vitamin D, in the case of calcium) is made in the hopes that the minerals will bind oxalates from food while still in the gut, and prevent them from being absorbed. So this supplement might be less effective if taken for that purpose.

      Hope this helps!
      Michelle

  3. marion ogg says:

    Hello Michelle
    I’ve been in touch before and would like to thank you again for the work you’ve put into the site. The yahoo group’s introductory mail says to take calcium without vit D as it can interfere. I’ve been taking it away with food as you suggest and I’m wondering which is the most up to date thinking.
    Thanks Marion

    • admin says:

      Hi Marion!

      There is often a great deal of confusion surrounding the Vitamin D recommendations. I’m not surprised that you’re wondering! The most up-to-date thinking is that, if possible, it’s best to take the calcium with meals WITHOUT Vitamin D. This is to allow the calcium the best opportunity to bind with oxalate in the gut, and hopefully keep it from being absorbed into the bloodstream. Vitamin D is still important, though, and if you don’t get a lot of sun exposure, should be taken with calcium AWAY from meals, so that you get plenty of calcium for bone building, proper muscle function, etc.

      Hope this helps!
      Michelle

  4. wendy says:

    Hello Michelle,

    I just started this diet, im on it a week now. Theres soo much information to absorb and your website has been very helpful in summarizing it all and putting it in terms i understand. I just ordered the probiotic vsl 3 as recommended in the yahoo group (which i was surprised not to see mentioned here? unless i missed that post!). My question is, i am getting ready to get the basic supplements needed and was wondering if you have any brand recommendations? also, is there a way to do a search of people’s posts in the yahoo group to find answers to questions im assuming have previously been asked already. Thanks!

    • admin says:

      Hi Wendy! I’m glad to hear my site has been helpful to you in beginning your low oxalate journey!

      I actually do mention the VSL#3 Probiotic (as well as another popular alternative) over in this post. I don’t push it, or any other high-dose probiotic, too heavily because of my own bad experience with them. However, I acknowledge that for some they are extremely helpful.

      As for supplement brands, it really depends on your personal situation. For example, some folks have to avoid common fillers or tableting agents. Others (like myself) are simply trying to manage a demanding financial situation, and want to find the best, least-expensive supps for their dollar. I have always been pleased with Puritan’s Pride (http://www.puritan.com/) brand for this purpose. For premium brands, iHerb usually has some of the best prices around. You can use my referral code WOJ452 at checkout to get $10 off your order of $40 or more (or $5 off of smaller orders). And of course there’s my old standby, Amazon. I usually check all three before buying, but that’s just because I have to be a tightwad. :)

      Hope this helps!
      Michelle

      • Norma says:

        Are the Puritan and iHerb products low oxalate?

        • admin says:

          Hi Norma!

          I’m sorry it’s taken me a while to find your post. The spam problem on this blog has gotten way out of control lately!

          Anyway, as to your question…

          Puritan’s Pride (puritan.com) has a house brand which I use extensively because of their low prices. They also sell a handful of other companies’ products. However, to my knowledge, none of these products has officially been tested for oxalates.

          That said, most of the filler ingredients in Puritan’s Pride products appear to be negligible in their oxalate levels, which is why I feel comfortable taking them. The exception would be if you get into herbs, which themselves often contain considerable amounts of oxalates, regardless of fillers used.

          iHerb, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to have their own brand, but rather only sells other companies’ products. And a few of these have been tested. For example, Nature’s Way Vitex was tested in March of 2011, and contained 3.87mg of oxalate per capsule.

          So your best bet is to consult the TLO spreadsheet. If it isn’t listed there, then proceed with caution. If something similar (but not the same brand) has been tested, that may give you an idea, but in the oxalate world, there are no guarantees. So if you seem to be reacting to something, by all means, cut it out! It may not even be the oxalates you’re reacting to, but paying attention to your body’s signals is always important.

          Hope this helps,
          Michelle

  5. Kelly says:

    Hi Michelle,
    I think your site is great and quite informative. I have been LOD for going on three weeks now. At first everything was great but over the last week my waste has turned yellow and I’ve been experiencing worsening diarrhea. I’m guessing this is my body’s personal dumping issue and was wondering if its normal? I just picked up a calcium and magnesium supplement (combined in one tab) in hopes that this will help. Otherwise, I’m not sure how I will be able to survive on this diet. Have you heard of this symptom? Any suggestions? Thank you!

    • admin says:

      Hi Kelly,

      Sorry it’s taken me a little while to find your comment amidst the hundreds of spam I’m getting weekly now. I think I saw that you made it over to the TLO board, though (I remember a question like this coming through), so I hope you got some answers there!

      Anyway, for future reference, diarrhea (of many colors!) is not uncommon when dumping oxalates. If you’re fairly certain that it’s dumping which is causing the diarrhea, the easiest way to stop dumping in its tracks is to raise your oxalate intake. I’m not suggesting you go overboard, but eating a few baby carrots, or a couple nuts, or some other decent-size oxalate load (100mg or so) generally stops it for me.

      Then you can decide how to proceed. I’m sure you’ve seen advice to lower your oxalates slowly; going too low too fast is bad! (If not, check out my article on how to begin a low oxalate diet) If you’re dumping too hard (and constant, worsening diarrhea would probably qualify), then when you go back to eating low ox, just make sure you’re eating at a higher level.

      Hope this helps,
      Michelle

  6. Pat says:

    Hello, My husband recently passed calcium oxalate stones, so i’m trying to do a low oxalate diet. I’ve got a handle on the foods, but don’t know about the supplements he takes. he takes one that is an immune support containing lots of berry extracts and concentrates. Do you think this would be high in oxalates since most berries are? Thanks for your help.

    • admin says:

      Hi Pat,

      I have no idea what supplement you’re referring to, but it could very well be high oxalate. If you can find out the name of it, we could look it up on the TLO Group’s list and see if it’s been tested. If not, we could add it to the list to get tested, though that could take a long time. The unfortunate reality is that there is no way to know, just by looking at ingredients, whether or not an item will be high ox. For example, turmeric is a high ox spice, but Enhansa (an extract of turmeric) is not.

      -Michelle

  7. Mark says:

    Magnesium is very alkalizing and I’ve read that it shouldn’t be taken with meals because it’s like taking antacids and you need stomach acid to be able to absorb minerals such as calcium. I always take magnesium before bed at least two hours after eating. I’d also like to recommend that people have general knowledge of the ‘Blood Type’ diet and how certain bloodtypes have different needs bio-chemically. Type A blood types, for instance, tend to have low stomach acid in general while Type 0 tend to have higher. So if a Type A takes an alkalizing mineral like magnesium with or around meals, they are seriously compromising their ability to digest their foods properly. Just some suggestions based on years of experience.

    • Michelle Fields says:

      Hi Mark,

      That’s very interesting that you’ve had that sort of experience with the Blood Type diet. I’ve actually found it to be highly inaccurate for me (I’m type A, and I quickly get hypocapnic on the recommended meat-free or even low meat diet…among other issues), but it just goes to show you how amazingly different we all are!

      Also, it has been noted that certain forms of minerals are more acidic (and therefore less detrimental to stomach acid) than others. I should probably make note of this in this and other articles about mineral supplements, but from what I understand, citrate forms are usually more acidic, and so good for folks with low stomach acid, while the cheaper oxide and carbonate forms are often highly alkalizing.

      Best regards,
      Michelle

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