Phenols, Salicylates, and Oxalates are found throughout our environment in foods, pollen, and chemicals, and created inside the body. They are also in high concentration in the most wholesome foods. For most people high amounts of these compounds aren’t problematic, but for those who have sensitivities to them, the potential problems are numerous and serious. The topic of whether a person is sensitive because of genetic predisposition or induced through a serious of other factors is much broader than will be covered here. The different manifestations of the problem also may warrant different methods.
The digestive tract normally would keep oxalates out of the body, just passing them through the digestive tract and out, but if they are absorbed into the system, they can go anywhere because they can pass the blood-brain barrier. One reason oxalates may start to pass through the walls of the intestines into the body is regular use of antibiotics. Antibiotics kill off the bacteria that help break down oxalates and protect us from them. Another reason is that our modern diet has a high focus on gluten and high oxalate foods that we would normally only have access to in certain seasons.
Low oxalate foods include meat, fish, dairy, and eggs. High oxalate foods include many fruits, vegetables, and grains. This may be at the root of the health problems that many start to have when they switch over to vegetarian or vegan diet. The topic is a tough one because there are many reasons, health and other, to avoid foods that are low in oxalates. The perfect combination for each individual case is something that can be figured out with research, trial and error diet changes, appropriate supplementation, and work with qualified practitioners, and especially LISTENING TO YOUR BODY.
Many sensitivities to phenols, salicylates (which are a subgroup of phenols) and oxalates have toxicity in the body or viral infections as their original cause. These conditions cause B6 and zinc deficiencies, which then effect the liver and kidneys. The kidneys release body salts that are necessary to body function (such as bicarbonate, salt, potassium) and instead hold oxalates, often in the form of calcium oxalate which is stored as sharp crystals that can cause kidney pain. Oxalic acid is produced by the liver and without being bound to calcium (creating calcium oxalate) or other things, is responsible for flushing toxins out of the body. The liver produces even more oxalic acid in response to drops in B6 and zinc. One pathway through the liver, called the sulfation pathway, can get blocked as a result of this cascade of events, creating sensitivity to phenols and oxalates because they get processed through the same route. When the pathway is blocked a backlog of compounds that are supposed to pass through the body, remain in the body and build up, wreaking havoc.
The sulfation pathways needs usable sulfur, which is in the form of sulfate to process the compounds that use that pathway. The enzyme phenol sulfur- transferase (PST) is involved. Certain people are deficient in this enzyme, which can be another root cause of phenol and oxalate sensitivity. Among the many substances that should be broken down through this pathway are serotonin, dopamine and noradrenaline (norephinephrine). Norepinephrine is a brain neurotransmitter very similar to adrenaline, which instigates the fight-or-flight response. If the body is not breaking these down then abnormally high levels of the compounds remain in the body. In this way, a build up of these hormones and neurotransmitters intended to be expelled, can cause many metabolic processes to be negatively affected by phenolic compounds and oxalates.
So, those deficient in PST have trouble breaking down any of these substances, as well as phenols and oxalates, creating the sensitivity to phenols and oxalates, and many other conditions. The problem can go both ways - phenols and oxalates can inhibit PST creating extra sensitivity and their diverse consequences and the deficiency itself can create sensitivity to phenols and oxalates.
There are other reasons why the sulfation pathway may not be working properly but regardless of which reason, the whole process may be remedied by taking in more b-vitamins and sulfates and reduction of phenol and oxalate rich foods. The Feingold Diet (www.feingold.org.) is an effective way to reduce the phenol load. Listed below are substances highest in phenols, and those highest in oxalates.
Two ways to increase sulfates are intake of MSM (elemental sulfur) or use of Epsom salts. Epsom salt baths can rectify sulfate deficiency without internal supplementation. 1-2 cups of Epsom salts dissolved into hot water then added to a bath is absorbed through the skin. Stay in the bath for 15-20 minutes. When leaving the bath, avoid rinsing off before dressing, as the salts will continue to be absorbed through the skin for up to 9 hours. Epsom salts also regulate magnesium levels. Most people in America are deficient in magnesium, which has it’s own list of related maladies. Epsom salts can also be used effectively in a footbath and as a spray, diluted in water, and sprayed on the skin.
There is also a supplement called No-Fenol that can help effect the many different factors of the issue.
Vitamin K2 supplementation addresses the calcium disregulation that is related to the creation and build up calcium-oxalate crystals (aka kidney stones). Calcium regulation is normally handled not by Vitamin K but by Vitamin K2, which is converted from Vitamin K by the gut. Vitamin K2 pulls apart calcium oxalate crystals, serving the purpose of breaking up the crystals and directing the calcium to the places in the body where it is needed.
Organic Black Cherry Juice helps to break down calcium oxalates and remove them from the body. Organic is a better choice in general but especially in this instance as many pesticides also get processed through the same sulfation pathway creating more of a backlog of them and more danger from them.
Chlorophyll (especially tablets as the liquid oxidizes quicker) and Raw Apple Cider Vinegar (2 tablespoons with 2 tablespoons distilled water 3 times a day) are two other major allies in healing the body from oxalate poisoning.
Overproduction of oxalic acid by the liver can also cause hypothyroidism. Supplementation of potassium iodide can help with this. Incidentally, potassium iodide also protects the thyroid from radiation.
Combing a no or low oxalate and/or phenol diet with proper supplementation can restore the body to health and relieve the many possible symptoms. This relief can start to occur quickly with diligent adherence to a diet and supplement plan.
High Phenol food include:
Aspirin and products containing aspirin or salicylic acid, Salicylates, Almonds, Apricots, Bananas, Berries (all), Cherries, Chili powder, Cider & cider vinegar (apples), Cloves, Coffee, Cucumbers & pickles, Currants, Food dyes, Grapes (especially red) & raisins, Milk, Nectarines, Oranges, Paprika, Peaches, Peanuts, Peppers (bell & chili), Plums, Prunes, Tangerines, Tea, Wine & wine vinegar (grapes), Oil of wintergreen (methyl salicylate).
Other items to consider are perfumes and fragrances, nitrites and nitrates, monosodium glutamate [MSG], Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein [may contain MSG], sulfites/sulfiting agents, benzoates, and corn syrup [made from hydrogen sulfide + corn starch and many other added chemicals], and petroleum-based products such as BHA, BHT, Vanilla with alcohol.
High Oxalate foods include: Beans, baked in tomato sauce or canned
Beans, green, snap, waxed, dried, pod, runner, Beer, Beets: Tops, roots, greens, Blackberries, Blueberries, Bread, whole wheat, Celery, Chocolate,
Chocolate Milk, Cinnamon, ground (1 ½ teaspoon or more), Cocoa, Cocoa powder, Collards, Currants, red, Dandelion greens, Dewberries, Eggplant, Escarole, Figs, dried, Garbanzo beans, canned, Ginger (1 tablespoon), Gooseberries, Graham crackers, Graham flour, Grapes, concord, Green Tea
Grits, white corn, Juices containing berries high in oxalates, Kale, Kamut, Kiwi, Leeks, Lemon peel, Lime peel, Marmalade, Oatmeal, Okra, Orange peel, Ovaltine, Parsley, Parsnips, Peanut Butter, Peanuts. Pecans, Pepper (in excess of 1 teaspoon per day), Peppers, green, Pokeweed, Popcorn, Potatoes, Potatoes, sweet, Raspberries, red and black, Rhubarb, Rutabagas, Sesame Seeds, Sorrel, Soy Products, Spelt, Spinach, Squash, yellow and summer, Stone ground flour, Strawberries, Sunflower seeds, Swiss chard, Tangerines, Tea, black and Indian, Tomato sauce, canned, Turnip Greens, Watercress, Wheat bran, Wheat germ, Whole wheat flour, Yams, Yellow dock
I was led to write this because I discovered this to be at the source of kidney pain, and many other symptoms. These problems started to occur when I tried to change my diet to a ‘healthier’ one, and really escalated when I narrowed down my food intake to a few foods that I like and were deemed to be the healthiest. My basic diet included lots of vegetables, especially green and leafy, quinoa, chocolate with high percentage of cacao, sweet potatoes, almonds, almond butter, and other nuts. ALL of these things listed are among the highest in oxalates, making me sicker with each bite of the ‘healthiest’ foods. All along the signs were clear that my body didn’t like my diet ‘improvements’ but my mind was wrapped up in the mental beliefs of what the healthiest foods are, to the serious detriment of my health. The lesson is clear now, that my body will have the ultimate say as to what is healthy for me, not my mind.
2020 UPDATE to this blog:
I have found that as I have healed dysbiosis (the imbalance of beneficial/harmful bacteria in the gut), I am no longer as sensitive to phenols and oxylates and can enjoy a wide range of foods. I do keep the high phenol/oxalate items in moderation and follow my body to show me what works for me at any given time. Symptoms are our bodies way of talking to us so keep listening!
Also, here is a link that someone sent me A Helpful Online Safety Guide for People with Autism Spectrum Disorders to add to this blog for those who it can help.