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This blog is short and sweet compared to my usual lengthier posts, but I wanted to briefly share some interesting research on mold and oxalates that’s been on my mind!
In my nutrition practice, I’m seeing an increasing number of clients with food sensitivities, including oxalate sensitivity. Oxalates are antinutrients found in many plants. Most people with oxalate sensitivity address their disconcerting symptoms by cutting out as many oxalate-containing foods as they can. Unfortunately, many of the foods they end up cutting out are very nutrient-dense and healthy, such as beets, dark leafy greens, nuts, and cacao. Instead of putting my clients on a long-term low-oxalate diet, I instead seek to identify the underlying causes of their gut issues. Two issues that I’ve found to be quite common in oxalate sensitive people are mold exposure and gut dysbiosis.
What’s the Link Between Mold Exposure and Oxalate Sensitivity?
If you’ve ever lived or worked in a water-damaged building, then it’s likely you’ve been exposed to toxic indoor molds such as Stachybotrys chartarum and Aspergillus species. Many of my clients with oxalate sensitivity have, at one time or another, lived in a water-damaged building and been exposed to toxigenic molds. However, what many people don’t know is that certain toxigenic mold species, such as Aspergillus, produce oxalate crystals! If you are a nerd like me, here are a few mold/oxalate studies to check out:
“Calcium oxalate crystal deposition in a patient with Aspergilloma due to Aspergillus niger:” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3755682/
“Localized peripheral calcium oxalate crystal deposition caused by Aspergillus niger infection:” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2185361
“An oxalic acid producing Penicillium:” https://www.jbc.org/content/22/2/287.full.pdf
“A retrospective study of the prevalence of calcium oxalate crystals in veterinary Aspergillus cases:” https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1040638716672254
For reference, all of the fungal species mentioned in these studies grow in water-damaged buildings.
When you breathe in air contaminated with mold spores in a water-damaged building, some of those spores enter your mouth and are inadvertently swallowed, entering your GI tract. If those swallowed spores take up residence in your gut microbiome, they may start producing oxalate-like molecules in your gut. Over time, this situation may create an elevated body burden of oxalates, triggering sensitivity to food-derived oxalates.
Furthermore, exposure to environmental molds disrupts the balance of good and bad bacteria in the gut, reducing levels of beneficial bacteria that degrade oxalates, such as Lactobacillus species, and increasing opportunistic and pathogenic bacteria. (1) A reduction in Lactobacillus further reduces the oxalate-degrading capacity of the gut, creating a vicious cycle of oxalate overload and dysbiosis. Conversely, supplementation with oxalate-degrading probiotic species may aid in both mold and oxalate detoxification. (2)
The Solution: Address Mold Exposure, Colonization, and Gut Dysbiosis
Based on this research, I believe the solution to oxalate sensitivity is to address the underlying causes by 1.) treating mold exposure; 2.) addressing fungal colonization of the gut with pharmaceutical and/or botanical antifungals; and 3.) restore a healthy balance to the gut microbiome with oxalate-degrading probiotics and nutrients that support a healthy intestinal barrier. A low-oxalate diet can be used as a temporary strategy for reducing symptoms during the mold treatment/detox process, but it should not be followed long term.
Are you struggling with mold-induced illness? Do you suspect you may be sensitive to oxalates? Consider working with me! I am currently accepting new clients in my clinical nutrition practice. If you’re interested in diving deep into improving your nutrition and health by working one-on-one with me, reach out to me here to schedule your discovery call. The discovery call will allow us to meet and talk together to decide if my nutrition services are the right fit for your needs. I look forward to connecting with you!