Oxalate: Poisonous crystalline. Contributes to calcium formation in the body.
High-oxalate level: More than 50 milligrams per serving.
When T’s urologist finally figured out his stones are created by excess calcium, we were a little perplexed. We’d always been told salt is the kidney-stone culprit. But no. With the diagnosis, then, came a one-page handout of low-oxalate — food and drinks. That was all our doctor had. The Internet had even less.
That was five years ago. Recently, I again searched the Web for legit lists of low-oxalate foods — because there’s a lot of conflicting, confusing data — and found that the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, God bless ‘em, had published a comprehensive PDF. This is the best place to start in identifying which foods, often healthy ones, you might be eating that form the stones. Berries? Bye-bye. Chocolate? Same. Leafy greens? Adios. Draft beer, nuts and seeds? Ditto. (Really stinks when you’re out with friends who can drink the fresh beer and eat the table peanuts.)
I know. It’s crappy. Almost all the foods you’re supposed to eat to ward off cancer, heart disease, obesity and death are the ones that make the kidney stones. As this blog develops, part of what I aim to do is share how T has rearranged his eating habits and lifestyle, and dealt with all of the requisite tradeoffs, to keep new stones from invading his body. It’s worked for five years and just this year he has started to slowly reintroduce some of those forbidden foods to his diet. Not in large or frequent doses, mind you, but in small quantities that allow him to savor the flavors he’s missed and that, so far, have not caused any problems. However, I don’t recommend doing this until all current stones are out of your system and you’re as sure as possible that more are not forthcoming.
All in all, it’s been sort of emotional to watch T indulge in the occasional Snickers bar and succulent strawberry after years of abstention. Funny how food and taste are so integral to life’s delights. (Another topic for another day, methinks.) So, yes, those of you just starting to eliminate high-oxalate foods and beverages from your diet will struggle. We’ll be sharing some tips for handling those ups and downs. And if you have stones yet to pass, the regime won’t eliminate those — lithroscopy might be your best option for immediate relief. (T has gone through that procedure, too — another blog for another day.) Still, cutting kidney-stone-prone foods now will, most likely, keep new evil rocks from building. Small steps for a big outcome.