Bee Knowledge Base: Everything You Need To Know About Oxalic Acid

If you are a health conscious individual, you know leafy greens and other plant-based foods are essential to eat. They are all packed with vitamins and minerals that can help us be healthier and help battle certain health conditions. Several of these greens, including spinach, contain oxalic acid. Oxalic acid rich foods also have a variety of health benefits.

Is this one of those things that fall in the category of being able to get too much of a good thing? You should know that ingesting too much Oxalic acid can actually contribute to medical conditions such as kidney stones or crystals.  Here we will let you know all you need to know about this particular acid to keep you well-informed.

This acid is a chemical substance that is dangerous at high levels.  It is colorless and appears to be clear and white crystals. It is considered a poison. It is in metal cleaners, anti-rust products, bleaches, and other similar products.  All of these products should be used with caution.  Use protective gear such as gloves, eye, and breathing masks. Direct contact with the skin or eyes is harmful.  Seek emergency help at your local hospital or call poison control if needed.

In Cleaning Products:

  • Some bleaches
  • Anti-rust products
  • Metal cleaners/polishing products
  • Check all household cleaning/car products

It can be found in many plants.  It can be referred to as oxalate or oxalic acid.  In nutritional science courses, it is referred to by both terms. You can obtain it from food, your body can make it on its own, and vitamin C is converted to oxalate as it metabolizes in the body. Oxalate can also be combined with calcium and iron and other minerals and form compounds in the digestive tract.  It is compounded in the kidneys and urinary tract. The majority of individuals excrete these compounds.  Some people develop pain from certain foods. Always discuss these issues with your medical provider.  

Oxalate is found at lower levels in a variety of plant foods we consume. Some darker leafy greens have higher levels than other plants and vegetables. Oxalic acid is in these plants naturally. Some foods it can be found in include spinach, broccoli, potatoes, cucumbers, and sprouts. Oxalates are found in almost all plants, but some plants contain high amounts; others have little. Most animal foods we buy for our house pets are low in this acid.  The foods that are high in oxalate are healthy for you. Many of these foods also contain important nutrients, fiber, and other antioxidants. When high oxalate foods are consumed, they can have negative health side effects, but you have to consume several pounds of them for them to be toxic.  This pertains more to people with kidney and bladder conditions.  Low oxalic acid foods are certain cheeses, yogurt, and certain canned fish containing bones.

Foods Containing The Acid:

  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Broccoli
  • Cucumber
  • Rhubarb
  • Beet Greens
  • Swiss Chard
  • Cocoa Powder
  • Beets
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Regular Potatoes
  • Peanuts
  • Endive
  • Star Fruit
  • Sprouts
  • Cheese
  • Plain Yogurt
  • Canned Fish
  • Bok Choy
  • Broccoli

Some foods high in oxalate are broken down more thoroughly than others in the digestive tract. Most healthy people can consume oxalate-rich foods with no issues. If you have digestive problems or kidney problems, alter your intake of oxalate acid rich foods and eat things in moderation. Many professionals suggest people that have had gastric bypass surgery or take antibiotics frequently should also limit their intake on foods with higher levels of the acid.  They should get accustomed to a lower level diet.

Is Oxalic Acid Good Or Bad For You?

The acid is okay in small amounts. You may have some reaction even to the smallest amount depending on your health conditions. Too much of the acid can cause some gut disruption and absorption issues. You don’t want to cause absorption issues as they can eliminate proper intake of nutrients. It can also create crystallization and potential kidney stones to occur. Other kidney diseases and medical problems can become worse with too many oxalic foods.

Health Concerns With Oxalic Acid 

One health concern for consuming oxalic acid is mineral absorption. Oxalic acid can bind to minerals in your body and prevent your GI tract from absorbing them properly for digestion. When you eat too much spinach, because it is high in oxalate and calcium, it can prevent absorption that occurs during digestion. Also, when you eat fibrous foods with plants that are high and oxalate, sometimes this can also disrupt nutrient absorption.

Gout, Kidney Stones, Urinary Issues

If you have gout or gout is an issue with several of your family members, you should be careful about eating foods higher in oxalic acid.  People with these conditions have a harder time processing the acid.  Regulation of intake of these foods is imperative.  The acid is not the cause of the medical conditions; it can contribute to pain due to stone formation.

Oxalate can also contribute to the formation of kidney stones.  Normally, oxalate and calcium are present in your urinary tract at the same time. Sometimes they can bind and form crystals which can lead to kidney stones and cause a lot of pain for the individual. If you are one to have kidney problems, be careful when you consume foods that are higher in this acid. Always discuss these issues with your health provider so you know what you should have on your daily menu.

Besides kidney stone formation, gout, and absorption during the digestive process, there are other issues associated with high levels of the acid.  Some medical professionals believe autism could be linked to increased oxalate in the body. Studies have shown that vaginal and pelvic pain could also be a symptom of oxalic acid consumption.  More clinical research is needed to confirm if the acid is the root problem for female pain. Always understand all the conditions you have.  Any medical condition that your medical provider believes could be affected; take precautions.  Make sure you aren’t over-consuming oxalic acid foods.

It is best to consume a variety of foods and not an abundance of leafy greens on a daily basis. Everything should be in moderation, however, those with medical conditions should always read about the side effects of certain foods.

Oxalic acid is an essential household chemical that can clean a variety of surfaces. It can be used as a rust remover, a general-purpose cleaning agent, stain lifter for woodwork and floors, and a bleaching agent.  It is also a great tool for the ridding of mites that are found in beehives. The oxalic acid powder is mixed with water and turned into a solution and mostly used in a spray form.

Bleaching, Removing Stains, And Wood

Oxalic acid can be used as a bleaching agent for stone and wood when they turn gray from the elements. It can be used to clean a wood floor to return it to its natural color. Also, you can use it to clean wood furniture. The acid can also remove food stains, ink, and various other kinds of stains. Stone, wood, brick, linoleum, and vinyl surfaces can also be cleaned without ruining the integrity of the surface you’re cleaning.  For fabrics, you should have them dry cleaned instead, as it will take too much time to clean with the acid formula.

Besides wood, stone cleaning, and bleaching, you can also use oxalic acid to remove rusts around the kitchen, pipes, and other significant rust stains. Wastewater treatment can use oxalic acid to remove calcium from the water. They also use the acid as a reducing agent when photographers are developing their film.

Also, beekeepers who treat for different mites can use oxalic acid. It is a natural component of honey; it is inexpensive, and it is safer for bees. Beekeepers can use it as a spray, dribble or vaporization. Even though the Environmental Protection Agency of the United States approves it for this, some beekeepers don’t use this method, but there are some that use it minimally. The debate over the volume of toxic fumes getting to the bees is still an issue.

You never want to consume too much of a food containing oxalic acid.  If you do, you risk developing crystals and kidney stones, potential pelvic pain, vaginal pain, and not absorbing enough nutrients during the digestive process. It is always important to discuss with your doctor a meal plan if you have kidney issues, gout, female issues, or anything that may negatively be affected by consuming foods high in oxalic acid.

Some medications may also be affected by certain foods, and you can check with a pharmacist. Try to avoid harsh chemicals and use cleaning products that are more environment and health friendly. If you cannot avoid them, make sure to take safety precautions. Also, some beekeepers use the acid for spraying their hives due to mites. The acid can be in foods and used for a variety of things.  Be sure to be safe when consuming high-level foods or cleaning using products that contain the acid.

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