Oxalates are natural compounds found in a lot of foods, so we all ingest them. These compounds bind to calcium as they exit the body, which means that they may worsen several health conditions, such as kidney failure and lead to kidney stones.
Because of that, you may wonder if there are ways you can test your oxalate levels conveniently at home. Or do you always have to book a visit to your doctor’s office?
Can You Check Your Oxalate Level At Home?
High oxalate levels are common in people with kidney issues, so there are many tests available on the market that can test for the presence of these compounds. While doctors still perform the most reliable tests professionally, you can purchase testing strips that test your urine for oxalate levels.
What are oxalates?
Also known as oxalic acid, oxalates are compounds that naturally occur in plants and the foods you eat. Your body naturally gets rid of these compounds and also produces them as a waste product.
But if oxalates accumulate in your body in high amounts, they can lead to several serious health issues, including kidney stones and kidney disease, since they bind to calcium as they leave your body. As a result, people prone to these conditions should mainly monitor their oxalate intake.
Most people get anywhere between 200 to 300 mg of oxalates each day, and it doesn’t cause them any health issues. If you have kidney disease or you’re at an increased risk of kidney stones, your doctor might recommend that you consume less than 100 mg or sometimes even less oxalate.
If you wonder if you should limit your consumption of oxalate-rich foods, always talk to your doctor to create a good dietary plan.
If you don’t have problems with your kidneys, you shouldn’t eliminate foods containing high levels of oxalate from your diet, as they’re incredibly nutritious as well.
Some of the food high in oxalate include:
As you can see, these are some of the healthiest foods you can include in your diet, filled with vitamins and water. If you want to consume these foods but you’re still worried about your oxalate levels, make sure to drink plenty of water to help your body remove excess of this compound.
You can also boil your veggies, which significantly lowers their oxalate content by anywhere between 30-87%.
How do I know if I should get my oxalate levels checked?
When you have too much oxalate in your urine, a condition called hyperoxaluria occurs. Too much oxalate in your body can cause serious issues even if you don’t suffer from any kidney condition.
For example, regularly taking in too much oxalate can lead to the formation of kidney stones and crystals, kidney damage, and even kidney failure. What’s more, if your kidneys stop removing oxalate from your body, oxalate crystals will start to build up in different parts of the body, leading to other issues like heart, skin, eye problems, bone disease, anemia, etc.
In most cases, symptoms of having too much oxalate in your body include:
- Pain in your lower back or your side
- Nausea or painful vomiting
- Blood in urine
- Pain when urinating
- Inability to urinate
- Fever or chills
- Cloudy or discolored urine
This condition can affect anyone, but people with a genetic predisposition and those suffering from kidney issues are especially prone. In other cases, people with digestive conditions, such as Crohn’s disease, inflammatory bowel disease (IBS), or gastric bypass.
This is because these conditions affect how nutrients are absorbed, including calcium, which binds to oxalates. So, if you suffer from any of these conditions and experience the symptoms mentioned above, you should talk to your doctor and get your oxalate levels checked.
If you want to add other foods to your diet that are slightly lower in oxalates, some examples include:
- Cashews, peanuts, and walnuts
- Sweet potatoes
- Kidney beans
- Blueberries and blackberries
- Dried figs
These foods are a good alternative to the previously-mentioned high-oxalate foods. They are easy to incorporate into any diet without causing too much hassle, especially if you previously enjoyed their high-oxalate counterparts.
What are some alternative ways to check for oxalates?
The most common way to check your oxalate levels is to visit your doctor. There, they will take a urine sample from you as that’s where oxalate levels are most commonly checked. Normal oxalate levels in your urine should be less than 45 mg per day.
Your healthcare professional may perform a blood test to check blood oxalate levels in other cases. This can also check for other genetic conditions that affect how efficiently your kidneys filter out excess oxalate. If the condition has progressed, an X-ray or CT scan can also help to show stones and crystals in your kidneys.
You can also easily check your oxalate levels at home. Several companies, such as QuantiQuik, sell testing strips online. These strips measure how much oxalate is present in your urine.
But it’s important to remember that these aren’t as accurate as professional lab tests and shouldn’t be used as a diagnostic tool.
Instead, they can give you an overview of what’s happening in your body, but you should still discuss treatment options with your doctor.
Another way to get your oxalate levels checked is to visit a lab or clinic that performs outpatient urine and blood tests. This can be a more private way to check your oxalate levels but still get reliable results.
Such labs are found in most regions, and a quick online search can show you where you can get the test. Also, make sure to remember that the best results from urine tests happen when you collect the sample in the morning.
Having too much oxalate in your urine can be a severe health concern, no matter whether you suffer from kidney issues or not. Because of that, knowing what options are available for oxalate levels testing is a good idea.
Finally, if you experience any severe pain when urinating, contact your doctor as soon as possible since something more severe might be happening.
Alicia is the senior content editor and writer here at Food FAQ. She has extensive experience with acid reflux, heartburn, GERD, and various supplements. When not eating food for “research”, she’s watching “Friends” for the 100th time.