Sally K Norton
This week our resident health experts Elliot Overton and Doug DiPasquale interview Sally K. Norton about the hidden dangers of a certain toxin hiding in our vegetables: oxalate. Otherwise known as oxalic acid, oxalate is made by plants and some fungi and serves their biological needs. Oxalate crystals have the potential to inflict a great deal of mechanical injury on the body. It is corrosive and toxic, yet many of the vegetables, nuts, grains and fruits that contain the most oxalates are promoted as health foods!

Sally K. Norton earned her Bachler of Science degree in Nutrition from Cornell University and a Master's degree in Public Health Leadership from UNC-Chapel Hill.

She's spent over three decades promoting health, wellness, and holistic healing both at the community level and also through academic research. She is now a self-employed health consultant, oxalate educator, and researcher. She regularly presents introductory seminars on the therapeutic value of low-oxalate eating. Since 2014, she has led a monthly educational study-group in Richmond, VA to support people using diet to heal and recover from difficult health issues.

Here's where you can find Sally:
Her website:

And be sure to check out the Susan Owens' Facebook group 'Trying Low Oxalates (TLO)'

For other health-related news and more, you can find us on:

Running Time: 01:57:11

Download: MP3 - 107 MB

Here's the transcript of the show:

Elliot : Hello everybody and welcome to this week's edition of Objective: Health. I am your host today, Elliot, and this is my co-host Doug. Today I am very excited to be introducing a very special guest. This guest is actually an expert in the field of something that we call oxalates. I've been doing a little bit of research into this for the past year or so and it's a highly nuanced topic. But essentially this guest today is going to tell us all that we need to know, or is going to try anyway and hopefully by the end of the show this week, you're going to have a good idea about why this topic is actually so important, especially when we're talking about how to maintain a healthy diet and what is a healthy diet and what makes a health food because it turns out that there are actually many foods that we're consuming that we're told are healthy that actually might not be as healthy as we think.

So this week's guest is Sally Norton who is a self-employed health consultant. She's an oxalate expert and a researcher. She has spent over three decades promoting health, wellness and holistic healing, both at the community level and also through academic research. She earned her bachelor's of science degree in nutrition from Cornell University and a master's degree in public health leadership from UNC Chapel Hill.

So welcome to the show Sally.

Sally: Thank you Elliot. I appreciate the invite. Great to connect with you both.

Elliot: Yeah, it's really great to have you on the show. I think we're going to have to go back to basics because I'm not sure that many of our listeners are going to be too familiar with the topic. You know a lot about oxalates so would you be able to just give us a very basic introduction into what we're talking about when we mention oxalates? There's so much information on the web about it and it's really difficult to get any kind of solid information because there's people who say one thing and then other people who say another thing. So could you just give us the basics as to what oxalates are and where do we find them?

Sally: Yeah sure. In that question there are several sub-questions that maybe we can pick apart and that's the tendency to throw out information that's half-baked and that's happening even inside the research world where they are saying things that aren't true over and over to each other and thinking it is true. So even at the level of the technical folks who are doing the research on this and working with people who are quite ill because of oxalate poisoning in their bodies, there's still confusion.

So people who are translating ideas about what we're supposed to eat have very little understanding of the fact that plants produce a lot of toxins and the number one problem with plants, I think in terms of getting us into trouble with health instead of helping us with our health, is oxalate. Oxalate is a small chemical. It's an organic molecule with two carbons in it and it can be produced in nature from lots of different directions. It can happen spontaneously in the clouds and the air pollution because it's such a small chemical it's easily formed and it's used as a cleaner because it's a chelator of metals.

So this little molecule starts off as oxalic acid and that's two carbons, four oxygens and these two protons or hydrogen molecules. Being an acid, what that means is it dissolves things. You know that about acids. Acids drop a positive charge, one of those hydrogens or protons when they have this reactivity that gives them the ability to dissolve things. What they're doing is picking up other elements that have a positive charge.

So oxalic acid always has at least one negative charge but easily has two negative charges and it picks up things with positive charges and that little molecule then becomes an oxalate because it's now considered a salt molecule and often it's in the form of the acid-side plus calcium. But if you look at any kind of mineral at all, calcium has two positive charges. A lot of other minerals can connect to oxalic acid and become an oxalate salt and these oxalate molecules have crystals. You know how sugar and salt actually have crystals? If you shake out salt you're shaking out crystals. Well oxalate salts do the same thing. They form these crystals that look like Epsom salts. In fact, they look so much like Epsom salts that people would accidentally take it as medicine if it was mislabeled or unlabeled, and die very quickly!

Doug: Jeez.

Sally: It happened a lot in the early 1800s and late 1700s because people had access to this oxalate salt that was called salts of lemon because it was an industrial cleaner. It still is. It's used in factories today. It's used in cleaners today, especially in India. Barkeeper's Friend has oxalic acid in it.

Doug: Oh really!?

Sally: Yeah.

Doug: I used to work in bars. I'm familiar with that.

Sally: You are! Well please wear gloves. I've been told by people who've listened to my lectures that they have family members who insist on using Barkeeper's Friend every day and they don't wear gloves and their fingers are completely knotted up with arthritis and they're in pain all the time and they're insisting on cleaning with oxalic acid. We know that dermal contact causes disease and illness. You see it in agave workers who get poisoned from oxalate crystals and so on.

So, going back to the fact that it forms these crystals, the poisonings were frequent enough and in the news in the early 1800s, that the dawn of toxicology, the very best study done by a brilliant researcher, a fabulous toxicologist who's the father of nephrology, who was Queen Victoria's personal physician, he was one of the mostly highly respected, brilliant scientists, did a fabulous study that was published in 1823 about how oxalate kills us because people thought they were taking Epsom salts for their stomach problem but they took oxalic acid crystals and died.

Oxalate, oxalic acid, salts of lemon, potassium oxalate - that's what salts of lemon is - that's what's in your Barkeeper's Friend, that's poison. It kills you. How much you need to die and whether you die varies a lot from person-to-person. There's a whole terrain issue we can talk about. In the body, if you've got eight-to-ten or 12 pairs of these oxalate molecules, they come together and they form the beginning of a crystal. So that is the seed crystal that's a nanocrystal. Nanocrystals are very small and super toxic. The toxicity of this crystal is equivalent to asbestos or silicon.

So basically, in high oxalate foods, we're eating something in the equivalent of asbestos. Yet we promote them because we think plants are fabulous. We have this general idea, this general faith that plants are fabulous but they're fabulous because they've survived our predation of them by poisoning us and bugs and everyone else who's trying to get them. They're constantly under pressure and attack and they have to survive weather and funguses and seasons and predation and they're clever buggers. That's why we go into the Amazon looking for plant chemicals because plants are chemical factories. Why we think we can eat them willy-nilly in any quantity no matter what just because we believe in it, is really unscientific and quite frightening in this era with all this pressure.

We're being pressured to eat more and more of these high oxalate foods. So here's an example of some foods that are high in oxalate. Dark chocolate, chia, nuts, quinoa, beets, turmeric, spinach, Swiss chard, sweet potatoes, white potatoes, black pepper, you name it. So this is supposed to be great for our health. They're all available everywhere in any grocery store. You can even get high oxalate foods at the check-out at the Home Improvement store. There's Reese's cups, there's peanut M&Ms. These are very high oxalate, garbage foods. With peanuts themselves, you can just become addicted to peanut butter and be overdoing it and you're doing it day-in and day-out and it's year-round exposure. You don't ever have a season where you stop eating chocolate, peanuts, potatoes and so on.

And then you're trying to get healthy from your potato habit and you add in a spinach smoothie to fix everything and you're making everything worse. So is that kind of the intro about oxalates? Is that explaining it a bit?

Doug: Definitely.

Elliot: Yeah, totally. It's fascinating because the list of foods that you just said are the foods, as you just mentioned, are typically seen as health foods. Particularly for our listeners, because many of them may have been on ketogenic diets or familiar with low-carbohydrate nutrition, many of the foods that you just mentioned are relatively low in carbohydrates so we have those greens. We have the spinach and the nuts and whatnot. So people think, okay, they're giving up these starchy grains and things and they think that it's a healthy alternative to actually replace those with things like nut flours. But what you're saying...

Sally: I made the same mistake. I figured out after eight years of being a vegan, which followed eight years of being a vegetarian - I was quite sick, trying to get through graduate school - and my body was finally able to get through to me that I should stop eating wheat and beans. So I switched to sweet potatoes. So I stopped getting some of the wheat and bean symptoms I was getting, but my arthritis and other symptoms and fatigue were not getting better and I started to get more muscle pains at night and it became harder to sleep. At the end of these vegan years I had all these wrinkles. I looked horrible. I don't have any wrinkles now. But that was a long time ago. That was about 21 years ago when I stopped being vegan and I didn't fully recover from the damage of that diet because I didn't realize that all the sweet potatoes that replaced all that starch were doing me in.

Then as things continued to decay in my health I added more Swiss chard. "Oh, Swiss chard is the answer!" I've been growing Swiss chard since I was nine years old and always loved vegetables and greens. I love to put a plate out with three vegetables plus a salad with the meat in the middle. I thought that was great eating, great living, high living, good nutrition and love home cooking and worked hard at being healthy and having variety in my diet, and my health continued to degenerate and degenerate and degenerate.

Doug: It's kind of crazy because the vegetable thing is the standard across all dietary recommendations. The vegans, the vegetarians, even the standard American diet like the food pyramid is telling you to eat your greens, five servings of vegetables a day and then you've even got the keto guys and they're still saying, yes there's meat and fat and don't be afraid of that, but also pile on all these veggies as well. It doesn't really matter where you turn, those are the things that are being recommended.

Elliot: I would say that when I went ketogenic, I was eating more of these high oxalate foods than I was beforehand and I thought that that was a healthy thing to do. Following the recommendations of some of the advocates who are recommending 10 or 12 portions of greens and spinach with your meals with every single meal, when you think of it like this - now this is potentially going to be a fairly new concept for many of the listeners as well, the idea that plants actually have these inbuilt defence mechanisms - but when you think about it logically, just like animals can run away, plants have to survive and they want to survive.

Sally: Yeah.

Elliot: So it's interesting how they do it on all of these levels. So plants are producing this toxin, but how is it getting into the human body? How are we becoming exposed to it?

Sally: So this is important to understand. There's a lot of misunderstandings around this and a lot of dismissal about it and hand-waving, like "Oh well!" Even science used to think oxalates just went straight through you to the toilet" as if that in itself was okay. In fact if that's all it did, it would still be terrible because you're eating crystals and ions that cause physical damage and cause inflammation and oxidative stress. So your intestinal tract is just one cell layer thick. Now it's got some mucous and bacteria and things that help to protect it, but you are exposing your entire digestive tract lining which is your barrier between these toxins and you, to crystals and ions of oxalate that are damaging your gut.

So number one, it doesn't even have to get absorbed to be a problem because so many oxalates are in these little molecules or ions. Some of them are in these nanocrystals that are so small they can get wherever they want to go. They just move around. And then some of them are built from nanocrystals into these incredible structures that are crystals that are big enough to see under a microscope. They're about the length of a dust mite so you can actually see them in a microscope and these crystals are like shards of glass and many researchers have described them as crushed glass for 100 years. They've looked at them under the microscope and say, 'Yeah, we're eating crushed glass splinters. We're eating crushed glass disco balls that have these different plates of crystals all into a round thing that sticks out and edges". That's called the druse. They make these stalloid shapes which are square sticks with points on each end. They make these squares that are like two pyramids on each end.

So they have these sharp edges and points and electromagnetic charges. They're causing all kinds of grief, both mechanical damage and electromagnetic damage, which causes mayhem on membranes. This is like electronic interference with how cells should be running themselves because it's all about electrons and charges that help make life go in biology. So this is interfering with that and also mechanically scraping you up and causing abrasions. Why would we eat sandpaper and shards of glass and call that healthy?

Elliot: I'm just wondering because oxalates have been implicated in things like peptic ulcers and various kinds of functional gut disorders where there are inflammatory lesions, like ulcerative colitis and things like Crohn's disease. Is that correct? Do you think it might have something to do with this mechanical sharpness, like tearing away at the intestine?

Sally: Well I definitely think it's causing inflammation so you're promoting leaky gut. It's also causing a lot of neurotoxicity in the GI tract so you see things like reflux and heartburn because the nerves that are controlling the sphincter muscle at the bottom of the esophagus are disordered and disabled. You see fecal incontinence in the rectal area. The nerves that are controlling the muscles that control rectal function get disabled. You can get into chronic diarrhoea. You can get into fecal incontinence. You can get into belching.

Another related neurotoxicity is the disorganization of the diaphragm. The diaphragm starts having convulsions and you get hiccups. Now hiccups is actually a late stage sign of oxalate toxicity. In the research, whether it's humans or rats, one of the last symptoms and the most telling symptom that this rat or human is about to die is the onset of hiccups.

Doug: Whoa!

Sally: Weird. But it's all related to that neuromuscular control so the neurons that are supposed to be controlling the muscles are going in spasms and causing muscle spasms and there's the hiccup. A personal note: when I was eating plates of Swiss chard and sweet potatoes for dinner, at bedtime I would have all kinds of problems with belching and hiccups. I was very close to being the rat that was dying. I really overdid the healthy plate of vegetables every day because I'm consistently taking care of my health so I'm consistently destroying my health with that diet.

Elliot: That's fascinating because actually, come to think of it, when I was eating a bunch of greens I used to get hiccups all the time. It was a really common thing. But I haven't had hiccups in a good couple of months and I used to get them quite frequently and I haven't been eating these plants for quite a long time. So that's fascinating.

Sally: So we saved you from the hiccup death. {laughter}

Elliot: I think so. So neurological dysfunction locally in the gut, but aside from the gut - because it can get into the body, when it gets into the body...

Sally: Yeah. So this is an absorption question, right? So, alright, you've already mechanically messed up your gut. Now your gut is especially good at absorbing it. You can absorb at least five percent of what you eat. It depends on a lot of factors. How much is the soluble oxalate versus how much is the crystals? Those big crystals, the sandpaper and the toothpicks and the disco balls, all those bigger crystals that you can actually see in a microscope, they don't get absorbed. They just cause wear and tear. But the smaller stuff, the molecules and the nanocrystals, can get absorbed. As much as 65% of what you eat can get absorbed. Now if you're absorbing more than 10% they consider that hyper-absorption and a lot of studies have shown that at least two-thirds of everybody is a hyper-absorber without any symptoms of GI dysfunction. But if you do have inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, digestive issues, you are definitely going to be a hyper-absorber and absorbing more than 10%.

Back in 1823, that initial toxicology study demonstrated that the absorptive surface was the key thing. That was allowing too much to get into the body for whatever reason and whoever's gut lining, whether it was this dog or that dog or this rabbit - he tested all this on animals - that absorptive surface makes a big difference on whether you die and how you die and how quickly you die from the oxalate poisoning when it's acute and high levels of poisoning.

But most of us are just getting to the level of hiccups and surviving and waking up the next day. What is that? Absorbing this at breakfast because you had peanut butter on your whole wheat toast. Or absorbing it at lunch because you had a spinach salad. Or absorbing it at dinner because you ordered potatoes and chili with beans in it or decided that you needed chia. Not to mention that you needed an afternoon snack bar that was made of almonds and you needed dark chocolate for dessert. You're going to expose yourself three, five, ten times a day to oxalate. It takes a few hours for that to absorb into the whole bloodstream because it's passing from the stomach to the small intestines and it's moving through your system for at least 24 hours. So more like four to six hours after eating something you see a peak in the bloodstream of oxalate.

So by the time you go to bed, the oxalate levels in your body are at their highest. This is a terrible time to be high in oxalate because sleep is how your body maintains (phone ringing in background) -the key thing is that there is a delay in absorption too so you're not going to see the symptom at dinner time. You're going to see it four to six hours later if there is even a symptom as it's coming in. Often it's silent or certainly Elliot never thought "Oh, I'm hiccupping. It must have been that spinach smoothie I just had." No! {laughter} Because everyone's insisting on ignorance. We want to dismiss oxalate because "Oh well, oxalate's been around forever so that can't be a thing". Right?

Doug: Yeah.

Sally: So that's real important because you have a big meal of oxalate, you absorb a lot of it over the course of just a few hours and the tissue levels get high, the blood level is high. The blood does not like oxalate in it. It tries to get it out of there and so it disappears from the blood very quickly. And where is it going? Well that's what we really need to think about more and research because it's getting hung up in the body. It is a toxin that gets stuck on proteins and it gets stuck on cells that can't defend themselves. So wherever you've already got inflammation going on, you've got infection going on, you've had injury or illness, you just had surgery, your cat just scratched you, those cells are the ones where oxalates start getting stuck in the body and you get this progressive accumulation where the body is picking up oxalate whether it likes it or not.

At least one to maybe six percent of the oxalate that gets absorbed is now getting stuck in the body because you're eating it all the time! There's no chance for the body to unload it because in order for the body to unload it, it needs to not have so much oxalate coming in. I mentioned this in a previous podcast, this image of too much coming in all the time, this Lucy in the chocolate factory thing. You can look this up on YouTube, Lucille Ball, the I love Lucille Show, funny show from the 1950s. There's a classic scene of her getting a job at the chocolate factory wrapping chocolates and she and her best friend Ethel are learning to wrap chocolates and the conveyor belt's coming past them. The chocolates is the oxalate coming at them. They're the body trying to deal with this oxalate coming in and it's overwhelming the capacity of the blood stream, the tissues, the kidneys. There's a limit to that.

And somehow these people who are dismissing, "Oh, smoothies are fine", "high oxalate diet is fine" are dismissing the fact there's a finite capacity to our physiology to take on toxins. It's doing the best it can but this constant incoming stream puts the body in defensive mode so it has this way of holding them. "I'll catch it and I'll hold it here and I'll wait for a moment when I can release it again." So what Lucy and Ethel do with the overwhelm is they start putting the chocolates in their shirts, under their hats, in their mouths. They get desperate. "We've got to stash this stuff so they don't know in the packing room that we're not keeping up."

So the packing room might be the kidneys or the urine and you don't see a problem in the packing room because inside the body we're busy stashing it away. So the body's stashing it away and holding onto it, hoping for the moment when there's a time when it can get rid of it. It doesn't want it there. It's doing that to keep you from having a heart attack or having kidney failure.

Elliot: So is this one of the reasons why standard urinary oxalic acid testing or something is flawed in many ways because some people simply won't show high levels, even if they do have high levels?

Sally: Yes. Very much so. I was one of those people. I had an organic acid test in 2009 and my urine was fine. I had no oxalate problems whatsoever. {laughter}

Elliot: I see it all the time, honestly. I'm seeing it more and more. People are presenting with symptoms, previous history of really high oxalate diets, symptoms which are similar to all the things related to oxalate, but the urinary oxalic acid is normal or low. It's annoying to think that practitioners rule this out. They rule out oxalates because they think that if oxalate was a problem, it would always show up on the test.

Sally: It doesn't. There's several reasons for that. We know when someone's in deep renal failure, their kidneys are so clogged with oxalate itself that oxalate becomes this filter where the incoming oxalate from the bloodstream and the diet gets stuck in the kidneys because there's so much oxalate there it can't even pass through it anymore. It just keeps making the deposits bigger and bigger. So the more oxalate in your kidneys, the less you're going to see in the urine because it's just getting trapped there. It's a magnet to itself. These salts and crystals build on themselves and they grow. You've seen crystal grow. They're attached to each other.

So if there's a bunch of oxalate in the kidney already it can hardly get out and that's just a known thing that even high dollar urologists sometimes forget. And they often don't want to test the urine to begin with. They're not bothering until maybe the 15th kidney stone and then they'll say "Oh, maybe we should do an oxalate work up on you." Everyone's being way to casual about oxalate.

The other thing too is that the pathology of oxalate coming out of the body is not well understood. How the body is doing all this background management is not well understood. We have such a tendency to treat the body as a thing, as a box but not as a living being. So the living being of the body has a certain kind of wisdom and all kinds of tactics for self-care and in the background the body is doing this management of too much oxalate in the body. It's stashing and wrapping and keeping them as quiet and keeping you alive and functional as it can, but we're ignoring the fact that it seems to come out in funny spikes. This was well-established but not well documented and researched by a guy named Clive Solomons who tested nearly 4,000 women's urine. He was testing women with crotch pain, basically vulva pain, vaginal pain, pelvic issues that are really awful and disabling. He compared that with normal people without these problems. His clever insight was to test every urine void of the day for multiple days.

So he would get at least three days of pictures from these women, not necessarily consecutive days but he'd collect each void separate. Now this is careful research. That's a lot of tests. It's a lot of expense. Nobody bothers with that. So what he found was each woman had at least one spike, but usually commonly two spikes out of maybe eight voids a day. So if you take the void for your test that's not one of the spike times that looks fine, or if you take a 24 hour urine, it may be a little on the high side but it's not unusual, no big deal. You don't see that pathologic spike.

So there's a lot going on there, circadian-wise and maybe just because of meal patterns. We haven't studied this enough to explain it. The problem is that researchers want to stay with the 24 hour urine chemistry and right there, they already don't want to use the tools they need to even evaluate what's going on. So the level of ignorance, even in the level of the high dollared research guys is sad because it's promoting this casual attitude about this.

Doug: It seems like from a mainstream medical perspective, when people think of oxalates, all they really think about are kidney stones. But from what you were describing it sounds like there's a multitude of different places where oxalates actually could be interfering.

Sally: Right. So we're starting with the gut and then where does it go next, the part that gets absorbed? So Doug, the gut is connected to a whole circulatory system that's collecting all this stuff that absorbs into the blood stream that channels all of that straight to the liver. Hepatic circulation drains all this absorptive nutrients and whatever else gets in from our food and bacteria in the gut, to the liver because the liver needs to detox. Maybe the bacteria in the gut are also producing toxins. So the liver is protecting us from all that milieu of the gut, colon too.

So all the oxalate that you absorb goes straight through the liver. Now the liver cells filter and process every element in the blood. It doesn't get protected. It's in intimate contact with the cells of the liver. So if you're eating peanut butter on toast for breakfast and M&M snack and a nut bar, the liver is all day long dealing with oxalate. That's oxidative stress. The liver has to consume a certain amount of its own antioxidants just to protect itself from that direct exposure. The liver has no enzymatic way to disable or undo or process oxalate. It just keeps carrying through. In fact the liver creates more oxalate because it's undoing vitamin C and dealing with amino acids and it's actually adding to the oxalate load in the blood. I don't know when it's doing that because nobody has really studied that either. They haven't bothered to study. That's called endogenous oxalate production where the body's biochemistry, one of the natural toxins that comes out of biology and biochemistry and processing of energy, is the production of oxalates.

So there's some amount of the oxalate in your urine, at least 30% or it, maybe 50% of it is coming just from your own physiology and depending on how much is coming from your crazy diet, that amount will change. And of course they haven't really studied that endogenous production in any kind of way. They don't even know how that varies during the day. They don't know how the diet is affecting that very well. They just have wild guesses.

There's a lot of room for better understanding of oxalate metabolism. Already it hasn't gotten anywhere near the kidneys yet and your liver's being stressed out by oxalate.

Elliot: I don't know if you know this or not, I don't know if they've even researched this or not. I couldn't find anything personally. Oxalate going through the liver, is that depleting things like B6, the glutathione system? Is that directly depleting that as it's running through the liver?

Sally: Well it seems to be depleting B6 and maybe biotin because these enzymes are running these reactions that help produce some of those conjugates and some of the self-defence. Some of that biochemistry is beyond me and I haven't seen good research on oxalate's effect on the liver. What I see is myself and a great many of my clients have multiple chemical sensitivity. They cannot tolerate going into these stores full of packaging. They can't tolerate people's fragrances. They can't tolerate nail polish and solvents and gasoline. Putting petrol into their cars is quite headache-inducing.

So their liver is obviously struggling with dealing with these solvents and that's often a conjugation reaction and I think conjugates get depleted as the B vitamins get depleted. Minerals get depleted by this constant influx of a chelator that's grabbing minerals and minerals are getting depleted from many other mechanisms as well. If we have time we can talk about that.

Elliot: Yeah. I'm not sure whether you test things like plasma B6 or anything, but have you found that people who have these oxalate problems also come up low on any of the specific B vitamins? Have you seen any patterns there?

Sally: Well I am not a big tester type and clinical type. I don't pretend to be a doctor. I am a nutrition educator and don't play doctor. I think we don't understand the physiology of this. We don't understand the biology of this enough. It's simple enough to go back to the logic that we could do 200 years ago. You can experiment with a low oxalate diet with the proper guidance, get toward that safely and you can start putting it together. Most of my clients are in no doubt whatsoever once they figure it out and learn to observe what's going on, that oxalates are causing them a problem. We know that anyone who has overdone oxalate is going to be depleted in minerals and B vitamins. Mineral depletion has been a huge problem and makes the whole recovery process difficult and is contributing to things like fibromyalgia and a lot of these pain syndromes.

There's a long tail after you reduce the oxalate that's coming in through your stomach and coming in that way. Now you've got all this stuff stuffed in your body that the body's been dealing with and it doesn't want it so it's going to take it out and it's going to take it out as best it can, as fast as it can, but if it's too fast, you could be more toxic with oxalate on a low oxalate diet than you were in the defensive mode because you've completely shifted your metabolism from one of defence, like sucking it in, holding onto it, to one of "Ahhhggg!". And if it's just puking out oxalate all at once you can wreck your kidneys and feel quite miserable.

So switching on and off oxalates is a tricky business. But I don't pretend that I can read a blood test and know everything about you and it's sort of disturbing that we think the plasma tells all because it can't. For example, potassium doesn't hang out in the plasma. It needs to be in your muscle cells. It needs to be in your heart cells. I cannot really tell you how your muscle cells are doing with potassium but I know, if you've been high oxalate, they need potassium and so does your heart muscle. It takes a long time to get all these minerals back where they need to be. It's a whole country dance, kind of getting in the right minerals at the right times and getting that back up to where it should be.

But I do know if you have muscle knots and trigger points and you're achy and you're having trouble sleeping, you need potassium! Those muscles are probably starved for oxygen because without potassium it causes calcium to be inside the cell to make up for that positive charge that's missing. Those muscle cells now with calcium being inside are on, so they're contracting which is restricting blood flow into those muscles. So eventually those muscles aren't getting enough oxygen and you're creating hypoxia which hurts a lot. The nerves are unhappy that there's no oxygen there. And of course hypoxia creates cancer!

So these muscle knots are serious. You don't want to leave them there starving and yelling at you all the time. You want to give them potassium. So you need B vitamins. Meat and animal foods have a lot of B vitamins that are bioavailable. If you quit making vegetables the star of the show and eat more meats, you can just naturally start correcting them. The minerals we need to push more with supplements. But I don't play around with blood tests. I don't really think that we know enough about genome tests. We don't know enough about the microbiome. We don't know enough about what's really happening biochemically in the cells that matter. Plasma is not you. There's more to you than that.

So I think you're asking people to waste a lot of money and people like me who are sick for decades and decades and decades have spent tens of thousands of dollars on supplements and tests and paying doctors and experts and homeopaths and acupuncturists and herbalists and massage therapists and you name it, and nobody can help. One of my chiropractors, when he said to me finally, "I can't help you anymore Sally", he had tears in his eyes. He didn't want to be wasting my time and money either but I wasted a ton of time and money by worrying too much about the experts with their tests and their supplements when all I needed to do was look back at my own field of nutrition and realized oh my gosh! I've been completely ignorant about something that should be part of the curriculum.

Elliot: Yeah, that makes perfect sense. There's so many fancy tests. There's so many this, that and the other and it's easy to fall into the reductionist kind of viewpoints of the human body and it's important to take a step back. I find, especially for me anyway, I need to periodically do it and pull myself back and say "I'm a human being. I'm not a machine!"

Doug: Right.

Elliot: Especially anyone in the medical community or in science fields and things, it's easy to be kind of reductionistic but it's fantastic that you found in your personal experience working with so many people, that actually just listening to their symptoms and using your knowledge, that people don't need to spend all of this money. They can just regain their health by trying to eat a diet that is more compatible with human physiology. Because ultimately it seems that diet is the kingpin. The problem I think is that we're up against so much now, especially with the rise of veganism and then the rise of keto, but you've got things like plant-based keto and it kind of seems like these diets are potentially going to cause people more health problems in the long run.

But with regard to these health problems, you've spoken a bit about how the oxalate crystals get lodged up in the body. How does that manifest? If the body is loaded with oxalates - because we can't really test for it unless you got a biopsy or something...

Sally: Right.

Elliot: So how would someone be able to know if they've got this?

Sally: Well there are patterns. The original diagnosis of this was being done in the 1850s and back then they called it the oxalic acid diathesis and their way of diagnosing it was that there was an existing GI problem. Everybody had some kind of stomach problem or intestinal complaint that also had along with it either a rheumatological problem - that's joint and muscle pain - or a neurological problem like bad sleep, bad mood, dropping things a lot, this spasm of the muscles, the hiccups. That's all neuromuscular.

The other piece that made them know it was oxalates was there was a dietary component. Back then they could see it rising up seasonally in the spring. People felt better in the winter and then in the spring they would always target it when people started having the rhubarb in England. Once the rhubarb came in, this oxalic diathesis showed up. So certain people couldn't take the rhubarb and in England they already had the baseline of four-to-five cups of tea a day and potatoes with most meals so they had that baseline of exposure with that sudden peak. In the spring they could see it seasonally.

Nowadays you don't get to see that seasonal thing because we tend to be eating these foods. Most people have some high oxalate food they like, even if it's just buckwheat cereal for breakfast every day, that's enough. That's very high in oxalate. So you might feel worse at night. I always felt worse at bedtime. I was more swollen and achy at night. Then I'd get in bed and I'd start belching and hiccupping. You feel a little better in the morning. You wake up and you think 'oh gosh, I feel better' because your levels are lower. You might see these symptoms that flare up for no reason and then they kind of get better. So they come and go. You see that variability.

You also see the fact that the symptoms can jump around. Some days it's your left hand, other days it's your right foot. So it varies with the body parts. It can travel around. The sleep is often affected. With skin issues, you might have thin skin or rashes or tender skin. That's basically it. You have a lot of aches and pains. It comes and goes. Everyone says you're crazy. You go to the doctor and the doctor says "You're perfectly fine. I don't see what's wrong with you. You're just a malingerer." It's the kind of thing where if nobody knows what's wrong with you, it's probably oxalate. Does that help?

Doug: Yeah. I don't know if there's a connection or not, but that reminds me of what people with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome and stuff like that would say. They would be going to the doctor and they'd be saying 'There's absolutely nothing wrong with you'. So I don't know if there's an oxalate connection there or not.

Sally: Oh yeah! I totally believe that at least a third of everyone with fibromyalgia is just toxic with oxalate and maybe it's all of them. But clearly, a huge percentage of what we call fibromyalgia is oxalate poisoning.

Doug: Wow!

Elliot: That makes perfect sense as well because you think of how fibromyalgia and hearing the accounts of how people describe it, like there are shards of glass in their skin and then you go and look at the structure of oxalate, it's like, there you go!

Doug: Yeah. That is shards of glass.

Sally: A lot of my clients talk about how they feel like they have mini-razorblades poking them in their body.

Doug: Oh god! Does it increase with sweating, that feeling?

Sally: I noticed when I was on a low oxalate diet - I do hot yoga which is 105 degrees Fahrenheit for an hour-and-a-half of exercise so you're sweating buckets - for me, for the first two years or so on this diet, about one out of five of those classes, I could literally feel the prickling crystals in the sweat.

Doug: That's very familiar to me.

Elliot: So your body can get rid of it via the sweat but it can get rid of it via multiple other ways, can't it?

Sally: Some in your eyes, so if you're prone to a lot of crusting in your eyes, there's something oxalate-related to that. The body's getting rid of it. There's a lot of different kinds of glands around the eyes and the skin as the sebum and sweat and then there's various lacrimal glands and all kinds of stuff going on in the eyes. There's so much glandular stuff up there and the eyeballs and cells are quite alkaline and oxalate gets especially stuck in alkaline tissues and it's hard to get rid of it there because of the alkalinity. But you'll see extra crusts in the eyes. When you're starting to detox it you might have issues with eye sties and issues in the eyes.

People with oxalate problems tend to have a lot of tartar on their teeth. When you go on the diet the tartar goes away but then it comes back again because as it's coming out of the saliva glands and out of the mouth area, you get the tartar as a sign that the body is clearing up oxalates. The tooth and facial areas are very prone to oxalate accumulation. There's a lot of calcium there. Calcium and oxalates are magnets for each other. The calcium really goes for that oxalate and is its magnet. The oxalate in the body gradually moves towards bone and teeth. So you're going to get oxalate in the face because there's a lot of sinus bones with thin layers of calcium basically and other minerals surrounded by a lot of mucous membranes, a lot of vascular flow in the teeth.

If you have tooth sensitivity that's another symptom, both of the poisoning and the tooth sensitivity will come back as those tissues try to break up those bigger crystals. So the body's storing in the jaw and sinuses these crystals and how it does it and keeps you from having too many symptoms - although if you have a lot of sinus infections, chances are you've got oxalate going on there. When it starts breaking up these bigger crystals that are quiet because the body wraps them in dead white blood cells, now it's got to take some big, quiet, wrapped insulated crystal and bust it down into nanocrystals and ions for it to move out.

So the nanocrystal and the ion is that exposed, electrically charged, toxic molecule that's causing the inflammation, the oxidative distress, the cell distress, brings in the immune system and you get this inflammation reaction to the healing process. So you might see tooth pain when you go back on an all-carnivore diet. All kinds of stuff could flare up and that's the body actually cleaning out and healing.

Doug: I think you're muted Elliot.

Elliot: Oh yeah, sorry about that. {laughter} I was just going to say, I've had quite a few accounts of people who get gum bleeding, swollen tongue, that kind of thing. Is that something that you see as well?

Sally: Not that often but it definitely is all part of that frail skin and disrupted tissue that comes from the oxalates moving through that area. So anything glandular is tending to get caught up in oxalates. We were talking about excretion of oxalates so tears in the eyes. I have clients who have crystals pouring out of their eyes, literally like their eyeball and they go to their eye doctor and the eye doctor says "Oh that's just junk. That's just some old calcium. Whatever. It doesn't matter." They're not curious about it. I'm hearing this from a lot of my clients and I get the eye sties and this and that, easily handled though. There are things we can do that handle that.

So it's coming out of the saliva. It's coming out through the colon, even people who aren't using a chelator. We use calcium citrate as a chelator that we want to have in the colon. We'll take it orally hoping to not absorb the calcium, so that the colon which can secret oxalates to get rid of it, excretes it out into the colon from the blood. This is why people say you've got to have the right flora because what the colon's expecting is that there's bacteria there that will help it disarm and take apart that oxalate. Often only at best 30% of people might have those oxalate-reducing bacteria.

But that's just part of the excretion process. It doesn't really protect you from absorbing it. You're going to absorb it. There are that many bacteria in your stomach and your upper GI tract is not loaded with bacteria, no matter what your microbiome is doing. So the major excretion route is through the colon, believe it or not.

Elliot: Wait there, wait there. Reading the papers, the scientists will say this is protective against absorption, but what you're saying is actually, no, the bacteria is not necessarily going to protect you. As a devil's advocate I might say "Okay, you have this oxalate degrading bacteria and therefore if you do this stool test and it says that you've got this bacteria it means that you can go ahead and eat lots of oxalates and you won't absorb much because the bacteria will degrade it." So that's the argument and that's what many of the scientists will kind of push in their papers. But you're saying that that's not the case, right?

Sally: Well it's pretty funny they're pushing it in the paper just because they've been trying for over 20 years to develop a probiotic so they can put that oxalobacter formigenes in and they can't even do that!! Why do we keep telling everybody "Well your bacteria" - which we can't get to colonize anyway - "is going to save you?" Saving you in that stage of excretion, definitely - okay, it's flowing into your hepatic circulation, it's possible that even before it gets to the liver maybe there's a way for the colon mucosa to grab that and excrete it out and kick it out. So it's a revolving door process. It's getting in but you're kicking it out, kicking it out. But in the colon, if something isn't going to catch it, it could just float back in just by passive transport. So yeah, the bacteria have a role but they have shown in multiple studies that supplementing it or using an enema with it, it doesn't help. It doesn't fix the kidney stone. It doesn't fix the problem.

So science and researchers in the modern era have to focus on research that has some sort of financial future. It's going to become a product. Science used to be about science and now it's about developing solutions to problems we don't even understand. Until we understand the physiology of oxalate, how do we know that the bacteria is really the magic solution? Most of our magic solutions from the last 50 or 75 years have fallen on their faces.

Doug: Yeah.

Sally: So that's just one more distraction from, 'Hello! There is a limited capacity for the body to process oxalates. How much ground glass do you really want to eat anyway?' {laughter} Well, it's simple!

Doug: Yeah.

Elliot: That makes so much sense. Wow! Okay.

Doug: I think there's a certain level of cognitive dissonance there too because we've been told for so long that vegetables are so good for us. So they don't want to say anything bad about the vegetables because that's just going to upend everything. Certainly you couldn't survive on just meat! It's impossible!

Sally: Meat is killing you. Vegetables are saving you. And it's not PC to say anything bad about vegetables. People are deeply defending spinach!! Like, what is it about spinach?! {laughter} Are you in its will or something? Is it going to leave you money? You don't want to offend spinach because something bad is going to happen to you!? There's all this social conformity and nonsense going on, even at the level of PhDs with tenure. Even they are not picking up on actual science. It's cultural. So much of what human being do and want to believe is culture. The way you get treated in a medical office is all about culture. If it wasn't, a doctor would say, "Wow! Crystals out of your eyeballs! I wonder what that is." And scientifically they'd have some curiosity. "This woman says her eyes are bothering her. This stuff is happening. She's got crystals in her eyes. I wonder if I could send it to a pathologist and find out what is in her eyes. Maybe that has something to do with her complaint."

No, because culturally, "Oh that's just junk. That's just calcium. Everyone has calcium and junk so forget it." It's cultural practices that says "Oh, we're going to take your blood pressure" which comes from convenience. It's the low apple on the tree. Blood pressure is cheap and easy to measure so we know how to treat it, we know how to talk about it, so we'll focus on that. We've decided heart disease and cancer are the two diseases that matter. So we have a whole public health infrastructure for colonoscopies and cancer tests for early detection which have nothing to do with prevention and real health promotion. So we've built these big structures which ultimately make money but it's not necessarily science. Everyone thinks, "Well he's a doctor. He knows everything and Sally's nobody so she must be wrong."

The culture is really blinding us to things and my personal theory about why we love vegetables so, so much comes from America's experience of world war and England. England and America were in big trouble in WWI. The Brits were getting bombed to smithereens. The mommies in WWII were putting their baby boys and girls on boats and saying good-bye forever so they wouldn't die. It was devastating. WWII was horrible and food shortages were very real. It was hard to keep developing these perishable products of fresh milk and fresh eggs and fresh meat and so people were desperate to eat. They told them during WWI in England, go ahead and eat your rhubarb leaves because you're desperate for something to eat and people started dying and getting really sick on them. They said, "Wait, wait. That's too much oxalate. Rhubarb leaves are not good. Stop that."

But in America it was the victory garden. The victory garden saved the war. Women at home who were fearing that their husbands and boyfriends would never come home again - and many did not - knew that if they could just grow enough food and keep things going in America that we'd pull through it. The victory garden made the vegetable the hero. It's from trauma. I think we've been traumatized into thinking we can rely on vegetables when we're starving. That's exactly what the Alaskans used to call vegetable - starvation foods. When you're starving and desperate, vegetables will save you. So therefore vegetables are wonderful. And I really think at some cultural level that's some of the seeds of this fantasy about 'vegetables are saving us'. Sally theory.

Doug: Yeah. I think it's a good theory because clearly, if you look at past generations, they were not eating tons and tons and tons of vegetables in general. That seems to be a more recent phenomenon. So I think it's a good theory.

Sally: And if you look cross-culturally, vegetables are not the thing on the plate. If you travel world round you'll see that's not really a thing. But England and the US and some countries like that have really gotten into the vegetable hero thing and we're leading the culture of the world. Everyone's been following California for the last 60 years. In California with its big vegetable growing power, that's what brought its economy up to this awesome thing that it is, the fertile valley that produces all this fresh fruit and fruit and vegetables represent affluence. This is what the kings did. All the great royal portraits of things that are beautiful is a giant bowl of fruit and vegetables and a table laden with grapes and pears. This is what the royalty did.

Of course the royalty had gout. Poor Queen Anne just started with tea and hot cocoa was a new thing that the French royalty and the English royalty were into at that time. And they all had gout. When I was in school the vegetarians blamed the high meat affluent diet of the royalty on their gout but it was probably their sweet tooth for hot chocolate and their love of tea which is very expensive and with the caffeine, both of those are quite addictive. So the wealthy people would get gout - gout is an oxalate-related problem - from their tea and hot sweet cocoa habit.

Doug: Yeah.

Sally: Follow the rich and get sick and tired and gouty! {laughter}

Elliot: I don't know if you've encountered. I assume that people who come to you Sally are already kind of familiar with your work, your ideas and things like that. I've found that the dogma really runs deep in terms of what you're saying about vegetables, before this idea that we should be eating vegetables in multiple portions on a daily basis all year round. But really, I can understand that because the way that I was trained, I was taught that that was the thing to do. That was healthy. But actually I've found that really when you try to put it into context and approach it as if you were a 2-year-old or a 3-year-old toddler, go out in January in the northern hemisphere - I'm not sure how it is where you live Sally, but I live in the UK, so I often say to people these days is actually, in January, if you were to go for a walk out in the woods, how many vegetables would you find in the wild? {laughter} How many fruits do you find out in the wild? So why do you think that it's acceptable or adaptable or suitable for a human body to be able to have access to these exotic fruits and things 24/7, all year round?

Doug: Yeah.

Elliot: It's not something that would naturally occur, unless you're living at the equator. But my question to you is, if someone was living at the equator, they do have access to these things all year round. Do you think that the human body's capacity to deal with oxalate specifically, differs based on things like ethnicity and environment? So someone living at the equator where they do have many of these things available all of the time, do you think that they have a better ability to break it down?

Sally: No one has done that research. But think about the foods available at the equator; mangos and coconut and pineapple. Those are all low oxalate foods. Weston Price's research demonstrated that those folks highly prize the liver of the shark and did a tremendous amount of fishing. It was basically seafood that most of the tropical folks were living on or some form of hunting. It was so not fruit-based diets. Fruit is so yin. It just doesn't fill you and make you feel sturdy and like you want to go do something great, climb a tree. You know? Nah!

Also there are still seasons to that and I just don't think that humanity ever thought that fruit was going to make us great again. {laughter}] I just don't think that's real and I'm not sure that that's where the high oxalate foods are. Nuts are really hard on your system in so many ways and the oxalates are quite heavy in the seed part of the plant because there are many functions that the plants need oxalate for but one of them is to pantry calcium. So the seeds store the calcium in the form of calcium oxalate so things that are nuts and seeds and grains and the bran are all high in oxalate.

These are not practical foods to pick and shell and process. The Indians would put acorns in baskets and leave them in the river for a few weeks to get rid of the tannins and they'd be sprouting and get rid of a lot of this stuff and then they'd heavily cook them and pound them and process the heck out of them. That is a ton of work! Even if you did that, you didn't do it every day because you were constantly moving to find better water, better herds, better hunting and when you're traveling you're not pounding and soaking acorns. You're chewing on a bit of fat back. You have some dried out bacon-like stuff in your pouch and you're nibbling on it and hiking for days on end. That's a zero oxalate diet. As you're moving around, you're using hunting. Nobody had a big cooler and refrigerator and two wagons of flour in the back. They would just have their tools and their pots and they could hunt a possum or whatever they could find and just cook dinner when they camped.

So the kids all knew how to hunt. Everyone knew how to spot an animal and as they were hiking they'd say "Oh, let's grab that possum so that when we camp in a few hours we'll have something for the pot." It's all a fantasy that we're hanging in trees eating bananas all the time. I just don't buy it.

Doug: Yeah.

Sally: If you go in the woods in the northern hemisphere, you've got acorns, you've got some pine needles, some pine cones. Try making dinner out of pine needles and pine cones. {laughter}

Elliot: So that clears that up. Thanks for that Sally. {laughter} It makes perfect sense though. It's heretic to say though.

Sally: Elliot, you're thinking and looking outside of the culture! If you set aside the culture and just look at reality for a few minutes, it's very hard for people to do that. Our thinking is so sheeped by culture. We're all wearing these rose-coloured glasses. It never occurred to me that you could just live on meat alone until I met Amber O'Hearn. Really? I'm so culturally blinded by the idea that my life works better when there's cool vegetables on the plate. That's part of being middle class. That's part of being part of my family. That's part of being part of my culture, sticking this stuff on the plate. People get so hyped up about that food holiday. They've got to have what they had as a kid. We're not thinking, we're just feeling our way through what we like to do, what pleases us, what seems good, what's approved socially.

Start saying spinach smoothies are bad is not approved socially and it might even be physically dangerous because now there's so many people with financial investments in that infrastructure. We're talking about stepping outside the whole economic infrastructure of our entire society. This is not tolerated. You're not allowed to step outside. Ask any sociologist. You can only step so far out of the social norms before you are locked up!

Doug: Because we were talking about fruits and vegetables, there's one thing that I don't totally understand but I've read a little bit about, and that is the idea that vitamin C actually will convert to oxalate or something along those lines. Now vitamin C is like a sacred cow for a lot of people. It's the miracle thing. Anytime anybody's talking about doing the carnivore diet, the first question is "Well where are you going to get your vitamin C from?" Separate issue I guess, but people who supplement a lot of vitamin C, are they in danger of actually...

Sally: Of high oxalate.

Doug: Yeah.

Sally: The research suggests there's a lot of variability on that too. How much vitamin C you can tolerate and how much of it turns into oxalate in the body. This is a known thing. Vitamin C is one of those what we call precursors to the metabolism. As the body's taking out the vitamin C, some of it becomes oxalate in the body. It looks like if you're taking more than 500 mg of vitamin C a day, you're probably overdoing the vitamin C. Most people are doing 1,000 to 10,000 mg of C a day. Luckily you can only absorb so much. The gut protects you from too much vitamin C so 10,000 is probably just wasted anyway. But they're now using vitamin C as an IV therapy and you can get 60 grams injected into your vein in two hours and that for some people, is not working out.

Now people who do that defend that tremendously because I think some people do tolerate the C. There's different metabolic strengths and weaknesses in different people that are more of a genome or epigenome thing. But these metabolic studies, we don't have any way to pick out who can take that therapy well and who is going to end up more sick with too much oxalate in their system. What we're talking about here is a toxicity disease where the internal milieu of your body has got too much oxalate in it and undoing this, you ask anyone who's finally figured this out after their body's fallen apart and their life has fallen apart and they can hardly function and every day is a struggle, you ask them if they would go back and do it differently and they would totally thrown that vitamin C away. Vitamin C is one more "food" that can get you into trouble with oxalate.

So those of use who've been down this awful road really would love to spare a few other people who are willing to listen and there are a few listening.

Doug: Yeah.

Sally: But most do not.

Doug: It seems to be coming more to the fore now because people come at it from different angles. I think a lot of the people were coming at it from a different angle, but a lot of people didn't really notice this oxalate thing until they started doing things like carnivore. I think with the rise of people trying the carnivore they're certainly having all these symptoms of the oxalate dumping and it's like "Well why is this happening?! This doesn't really make any sense. I didn't have this happen when I was on keto and now all of a sudden I'm having these strange symptoms start to show up." At least from that community it seems like with a lot of the Facebook groups and stuff I belong to that are carnivore groups, it seems like there's a lot of chatter about oxalates now. And I think that's why.

Sally: It got picked up. I did a presentation in 2017 for the Ancestral Health Society which is my philosophical home base. To cut through the chats, to cut through all our modern nonsense and to just let go of all these millions of theories about nutrition, Ancestral Health helps simplify everything. Just imagine what we did before all these modern possibilities when we were hunter-gatherers. That's a basic way to just feel sane again and stop trying to figure everything out. Just use basic logic, based on ancestral health.

So that's my home base. Those are the people I love. They're fantastic and I really thank Weston Price's work and Sally Fallon for being the leader to bring Weston Price's work back into modern awareness. That's what saved me from the end of my vegetarianism. I went from veganism to Weston Price and that helped me tremendously to start eating tons of butter and all that.

Where were we going with this to get myself back off the tangent?

Doug: I was just talking about how the carnivore community seems to have come up from there because they're having symptoms.

Sally: I did a presentation in 2017. It's a 30 minute presentation and it got picked up by different folks and some anonymous person put together a pro-carnivore movie and clipped out a piece of that too. Unfortunately it was this chunk where I misspoke. In a 30 minute presentation when you have two days worth of material, there's a lot of pressure so as a speaker it's easy to misspeak and say it wrong. So never trust an oral presentation completely because it's easy. I said four percent of what you eat when I meant four percent of what you absorb is what Susan Marengo found in her radioactive rat study.

There was another rat study similar, slightly different technique but also using radioactivity with a shorter duration of exposure done many years sooner than her study that showed this retention. Once it gets in the blood something like four percent is stuck all over the body and she was able to establish that because of using radioactivity. So somebody's picking it up and I think that's partly why now ancestral/carnivore world is noticing it because a) now they have someone else giving them one more reason why we have all these aches and pains and b) explaining what happens when you go to a low oxalate diet. Now you're still full of oxalate and it's high in your system still but now it's coming out instead of going in, so you've reversed that and it's going the other way, you've been in this loop building up your stashes, now it's got to come back down and that's going to take you five, maybe 10 years to get it out of your system.

So if you go suddenly from spinach smoothies and almond nut bars to full carnivore, you're traumatizing your physiology. You're traumatizing that whole catch and release process so the body's in defensive mode. You're traumatizing your microbiome that's been eating all this fiber and these things. That's changing. You're also asking your cells to suddenly burn ketones instead of sugar. That takes many months, I think, to get that material up.

So this is way wrong! You don't jump from high oxalate to carnivore. I think carnivore has a lot to teach us in that the high nutrient value of meat, the high bioavailability rests your GI tract, it gives you that vitamin pill in a form that's actually useful. It can be very restorative and reverse this depletion caused by plant foods and oxalate and plant food. But you can't jump from high oxalate to carnivore. That is going to make you really sick. You may end up in the hospital with kidney stones and kidney failure. You're going to ache and pain. You're going to be screaming "What is going on with me?!?" It's terrible. It's like you're out on a ledge committing suicide. You're out there on the edge of a cliff or a window sill, jumping off the high oxalate train. You're about to hit the ground and die or you back off that ledge very carefully, reversing your way out of this high oxalate lifestyle, wisely, slowly, gently, and then build up your nutrients and then hope that you can get through some of these days when it's going to not be fun.

Doug: So does that involve staying on some level of oxalates or maybe cycling oxalates or something like that?

Sally: Well it seems to. It depends on your constitute emotionally. Some people, once they recognize that their ultimate enemy that's made them disabled and miserable is oxalate, how can you bear to eat it anymore?! So there's a whole tussle there. But people who are still really wanting to hang onto their dark chocolate and their cup of tea and their tater tot or their peanut this or that, you can keep that stuff. Keep your sugar. Keep some of that stuff. Work your way down. If you get down from 1,500 or 2,000 mg a day to 500 mg, you're already lowering it enough, and you even want to get there gradually if you can.

Susan Owen's group says five percent. I think that's a little too small a change because you're going to vary by 25 percent every day anyway. You're already varying it up and down all the time anyway. I think you could at least cut a high oxalate food in half and dose for the first five to 10 days and then keep picking a food that's high oxalate that you can live without. You probably don't need that buckwheat cereal. Get off of that. You can live without it. You can live without the whole grains. And then the spinach - really? Come on!

Doug: Yeah. {laughter}

Sally: Wouldn't you rather have a stick of butter? Honestly?

Doug: Nobody really likes that stuff. They're lying to themselves.

Elliot: Tastes horrible!

Sally: You don't even need a blender. All these things you bought and spent money on, really? They're just selling you stuff and giving you one more chore to do. So think about the really high ones that you can live without and start slowly backing your way off from them. For some people it takes a long time. It also will make it harder for you to see the symptoms. If you go suddenly to low oxalate, you will see it and you will be sick and you'll go "Oh my gosh! I just got hit by a truck!" And you're going to blame the butter or the cholesterol. People think "Oh no!" The fatty liver is probably from all this distress from the oxalates and the high sugar that is now showing up because your system is in this almost traumatized mode of trying to recover and get better.

Nobody's looking at this!! You need a huge amount of money to collect a few thousand people who are high in oxalate and really study this process. No one's had the money to do it. So thank goodness for Susan Owens because she's crowd sourced, even recognized this as the phenomenon that they see over and over again. You go suddenly low oxalate and a rash breaks out and then other weird stuff that's never happened to you before starts showing up. That's the body going "Oh, thank god we're going to get rid of some oxalate!" But by releasing oxalate back out into the interstitium and into the plasma and so on, you're asking the immune system to come along and clean up the mess and you get all this inflammation and weird reactions and it's ugly.

Elliot: So for people who've been on high oxalate keto and then all of a sudden jump onto carnivore, stay carnivore for four or five months, start getting some symptoms, what sort of thing would you recommend for them if they feel that they're adapting to carnivore, they like the way that it's going and they're willing to deal with the symptoms, would you just say this person can deal with that oxalate load? Is there a difference? You said there's individual variability. So some people who have been on a high oxalate diet, jumping immediately to carnivore, they seem to be able to deal with it whereas other people tend not to. So how would you make that distinction, whether someone can deal with it or not?

Sally: Well really we're just in the dark here because there is so much variability. It takes about five days for cells to generate the mechanism for getting rid of oxalate so the first five days after you go zero oxalate, you're going to feel much better. There's this honeymoon period. Sometimes it's two weeks. Sometimes it's even a month, depending on how you've backed off. But at some point when the body suddenly goes "Okay, now we're going to get the infrastructure together so we can get rid of the oxalate", it's like "Okay, we're going to get that infrastructure to burn ketones instead of sugar". It takes some metabolic adjustment and how well your turns around that and how well your body is able to produce the antioxidants and so on, if your system's already been inflamed a long time, if you have co-infections you're not going to do as well because the cells are just worn out.

So depending on your general vitality, I think that's going to affect how much antioxidants the cells can manage and how well this goes. So it's super variable because the places that you've got deposits, really represent your personal history of where you've had injury, where you've had overuse. If you type all the time it might be in your wrist, arms and shoulders. If you've been pounding around on the campus with your heavy books it might be your feet. If you're a ballerina or a runner, it might be your feet or knees or hips.

So your old issues might come back because wherever you've had issues or injuries, those areas are full of oxalate crystals and as they come out you might see the skin peeling on that body part but the feet are working great. For me, it was my feet. I had to drop out of Cornell where I was getting my nutrition degree, for four years because my feet where such a mess. And during that time at Cornell I was told I had gout which really was the oxalates. So of course I had orthopedic surgery and I was still growing Swiss chard and it was still not good and I spent almost a decade on crutches.

Doug: Whoa!

Sally: Major painkillers, huge amounts of Motrin and I had to use a wheelchair to go in a grocery store, go on vacation. I'm in my twenties and I'm a total cripple, travelling to the middle of the US to get surgery and then didn't recover well, until 30 years later when I went on the low oxalate diet. And then I get a couple of tweaks in my feet, especially that left foot which was the worst. I get this peeling skin. I look like I have leprosy and it looks like I have maybe athlete's foot and all this stuff. The peeling skin lasted about three-and-a-half years. But in six months now I can wear heels. I can use my feet. I can jump, run, play. All those 30 years I couldn't go barefoot because the connective tissue wasn't strong enough to hold my feet together and I needed some side support on my feet. They'd get real tired and achy. I could not run. I could not do things like tennis. Forget it! Any kind of side movement with heels? Oh man, that's not good!

But now I can wear heels, I can stand on the ends of my toes. I can do whatever I want now five years plus after I've been on the diet. So 30 years of delayed healing and voila! My feet are fine. That's a lovely thing.

Doug: Yeah.

Sally: We could really put orthopedic surgeons out of business if we quit all these high oxalate foods we're eating. If you've got any orthopedic issues, you've got carpal tunnel, you've got something going on, you do not need oxalates in those damaged tissues.

Elliot: It seems like oxalates are universally problematic, yeah? With the plant toxins, when someone starts looking into this kind of material there's all of these arguments for the phytonutrients like the NRF2 up-regulators and all of these things which potentially up-regulate these phytochemicals in plants. They go into cells and they up-regulate all of these cool antioxidants and things and this is one of the arguments for eating plants.

But with the oxalates it doesn't seem, from what I can see anyway and correct me if I'm wrong, but it doesn't seem like the body can make use of them, yeah?

Sally: Yeah.

Elliot: Is there any use for them at all?

Sally: There was one article written in the most odd logic - and I still don't know what he's trying to say - trying to argue that there's some metabolic use for oxalate. It might be that oxalate is used as an anti-bacterial. It's so toxic you can kill the bacteria of course. {laughter} So it could be that oxalate could be put into uses like that in various spot situations but certainly to fill yourself up day in and day out with oxalate is just self-poisoning. It's a fatal chemical. Somewhere between 3-1/2 grams and 30 grams - and this is a crazy range - is the fatal dose. So if you're sick, if you have diabetes, if you have hypertension, if you've got liver problems, if you've got age and frailty, you're down at the 3-1/2 gram level. You're lower than somebody who's fabulous.

There is a paper that I cited in that talk and mention often about a man in Barcelona who was 53 years old who dropped dead on about 3-1/2 grams of oxalate from sorrel soup which is sort of like spinach. It has that nice sour taste that oxalic acid gives. Remember it was called salts of lemon because it has this sort of sour lemony taste. So the guy's an alcoholic, overweight, diabetic so of course he probably drank too much and he was trying to make good and get himself all healthy so he orders two or three or four bowls of soup at the restaurant instead of just the usual one, and he ends up dead.

Doug: Oh my god!! Sorrel soup actually killed the guy! Wow!

Sally: Fatal oxalic acid poisoning from sorrel soup or something like that, from the Lancet. It was this very short study. But the guy was throwing up and feeling horrible and he got to the hospital and they put him on life support, the dialysis and the respirator and all the life support and life saving things they can do and they lost him in two hours. He probably was already filled up with crystals because addicts will tend to be out of control with their behaviour because of malnutrition. I really believe that addiction is a reflection of the malnutrition of the brain.

So that malnutrition makes them unable, as much as they don't want to be an addict, they can't do anything about it so they're stuck in this nightmare addiction and they try to make good by going for the good food. So they'll go for a spinach smoothie or a sorrel soup remedy and those people are really in danger of being literally killed. I'm really concerned about using spinach in nursing homes and rehab centres and daycare centres of all kinds, for babies and for adults who have dementia.

Elliot: So would you say that there's any safe limit for the diet? What would you say is the lower limit?

Sally: The expected normal intake is 100 to 200 mg a day. And if we literally stuck inside that range, we'd probably be okay. Your typical smoothie is pretty much close to a gram, 1,000 mg, depending on how much almond butter you've added and peanut butter and extras. But three cups of spinach is over 900 mg of oxalate. So just add a little almond milk and a little almond butter and there you go. You've got a gram of oxalate. What is that? Five to 10 times the range that you should get all day long.

Elliot: Yeah.

Sally: So that means if you were to stay at 200 a day, then you get 60 mg per meal. That's about 12 baby spinach leaves.

Elliot: HA! When you think about when you cook spinach and it turns into nothing. [laughter]

Sally: Nothing.

Elliot: You need to use half a bag just to get anything out of it.

Sally: That's a great point. When you cook your vegetable you eat more of it. You're making it denser. So you take a fluffy salad and you cook it and you get a teaspoon of spinach. This is not good.

Elliot: Right. Well that brings me to a point actually because there are people who will come along and they'll say "Cooking is a way to protect your body against oxalates because cooking destroys most of the oxalate". Now what do you have to say about that?

Sally: Yeah well, that's a generalization and this is the thing. The formalized dismissal. "Oh well just cook it. I don't want to look into the details and really know anything. I'll just tell you to go away and so just cook it." That comes from the fact that cooking can disable a lot of enzymes in things and soaking can if you soak them long enough. With lectins if you soak them for three days and them cook them at really high heat in a pressure cooker, you can disable lectins. They're giant proteins, a very different mechanism, very different kind of toxin. Phytates and these other things and the enzyme inhibitors are very different than an asbestos crystal. You're not going to remove the asbestos crystal by cooking but the smaller, soluble molecules and nanocrystals might leech into water.

So if you boil your broccoli you can reduce your oxalate by about a third. If you boil your asparagus you can reduce the oxalate somewhat. Boil your kale. You can cut back and throw out the water. The problem is most people think vegetable broth is okay.

Doug: Yeah.

Sally: Let's make a vegetable broth! Maybe potassium vegetable broth from the peelings of potatoes. Potatoes are super toxic in many ways. You're going to collect those toxins in the water. The ones that are soluble and easily move around are the ones that easily move into your blood. So if you collect those cooking liquors and eat them, you're just getting the best of the oxalate out of it. But if you need your vegetables, do boil your broccoli, do boil your asparagus then you can have a fuller portion of them and enjoy them with complete peace of mind. You don't need to be afraid of food. You just need to be better educated. You haven't been taught.

Elliot: How about this one. This is one that I've heard a couple of times. {laughter} I'm playing devil's advocate here. We know that spinach contains lots of calcium as well. When calcium is binding up with the oxalate it's forming this calcium oxalate salt, yes? And this is insoluble so this is one of the crystals that's not going to be absorbed into the gut, assuming that the gut is not leaky, yes?

Sally: Right.

Elliot: So what happens when you eat spinach? Is the calcium not protective against the oxalate?

Sally: Well actually there are several layers of issues going on with that idea. Number one, in spinach you've got at least 70-73 percent - some huge amount - of the oxalate in spinach is in the soluble form. So whatever calcium is there it's not enough to really sop all of that up so there's not enough calcium to make up for that. But what is so about that is that zero of the calcium in the spinach is doing you any good whatsoever because it is going to get bound with oxalate and once calcium has attached itself to an oxalate or oxalic acid and calcium together, that's a bond that's not coming apart anytime soon.

So you've actually converted a perfectly nice mineral nutrient into an evil toxin. So yeah, there's calcium there but it's only going to be this toxic form of it and none of the nutrition tables do any corrections for this. So a nutrition table will tell anybody who looks at it that there's calcium in this food even though we have known for ninety years that there is no nutritionally available calcium in spinach, it's still in the tables as if it's there. Why?! It should just say zero!

We don't bother with bioavailability in nutrition. Here it is almost 2020 and we still aren't caring about bioavailability whatsoever in our data tables about nutrients in food so we can willy-nilly just fantasize that the nutrients that you can measure in a lab have anything to do whatsoever with whether your body can get ahold of it and make use of it. Plant nutrients are very hard to extract from the fiber and from those chemical forms and convert to something you can use in the body. But the nutrition world is content to just ignore the fact. They already know this but they're not actually using it to think well about how you deliver nutrients to a person. It isn't with spinach. I can tell you that. There's almost nothing in spinach that's going to really do you any good that you can get to.

Elliot: That makes sense.

Sally: Is that enough of an answer?

Elliot: Oh indeed.

Doug: Indeed. That's one of my pet peeves about all the nutritional information on foods out there; it's not about bioavailability at all. It's just about how much of a given mineral is actually in there but it's not how much your body can actually use. That's never taken into account at all.

Sally: That's really embarrassing. To me, that tells you that the state of nutrition and public health is kind of miserable.

Doug: Absolutely.

Sally: I'm from this profession! I am embarrassed for us that we're so out to lunch. This is not right. You can see I'm quite passionate about this.

Elliot: Understandably.

Sally: My entire biology has been screwed up by oxalate since I was 12. I've had arthritis and aches and pains. My academic and professional career have all been dogged by me being sick by trying to be healthy and I don't wish that for anybody.

Doug: Yeah.

Elliot: I've got another one for you Sally. {laughter}

Sally: Alright. Where are my Wonder Woman bracelets? {laughter}

Elliot: There's a lab in the US and they are proponents and they teach people - at many of the conferences as well on these kinds of topics - they teach people that if someone's got oxalate problems then it's probably being caused by an overgrowth of candida in their gut and that the treatment protocol is after you kill the candida with antifungals, the oxalate problem will go away in and of itself {trying not to laugh}. I'd like to know what your thoughts are on that. Is that true? Does killing yeast resolved the oxalate issues? {laughter}

Sally: I'm having quite a good time because we have covered enough today that you can see already that this constant bombardment and flushing your system with spinach smoothies and high oxalate chia seeds and all of that is just fundamentally a disaster. One of the things that does for you is create a terrain for you where the pH is messed up and a lot of things are messed up in your terrain. So when you're high in oxalate it's easier for candida and things to grow. So you tend to see them together.

Also, tissues that are in infectious states tend to get caught up with the oxalates. The oxalates get stuck in those inflamed tissues. So you can see how you might associate the two because when you start to dump oxalate, you will start seeing these flare-ups and vaginal yeast and things like this and that's because the terrain is changing and allowing the yeast that would naturally be there to overpopulate. Dysbiosis is really about things that should be in small quantities suddenly getting a leg up and the environment allows them to overgrow. It's the oxalate environment that allows them to overgrow. They're not the basis of the infection.

The infection isn't creating the oxalate although some molds will do that in the body. If you get an aspergillus infection which is breathed in, in the air, you get a spore of aspergillus in the air and you breathe it in and it somehow gets stuck in your inflamed lungs because of the pollution or whatever, the oxalate, your lungs are not happy, the spore gets stuck in your lung and that aspergillus will generate oxalate and make you quite sick and they'll find crystals of oxalate in the lung and that person will have kidney stones and oxalate poisoning, partially because of the aspergillus infection.

So penicillin is able to make oxalate and a lot of the molds in the soil, the funguses in the soil make phenomenal oxalate, beautiful structures of oxalate and that's part of managing the calcium in the soil which is really nice for plants because plants don't like high calcium soil so they'll grow well in soils full of these mycorrhizae that make a lot of these crystals because then it moves the calcium out of the bioavailability. Once it's locked up with oxalates it's not very bioavailable. So the fungal rhizae in the soil really help plants and plants that don't have so much calcium will make less oxalate actually because the calcium's toxic to the plant and one reason why plants make oxalate is because they're trying to manage the over-calcification of soils they're growing in which is another example of why the variability in one food versus another depends on growing conditions. There's many other growing conditions that affect that.

But blaming the candida for the oxalate? I haven't seen anybody prove that candida can even make oxalate. There are plenty of yeasts and molds that have no power to make it. Until you prove that candida is metabolically capable of producing oxalate at all, you don't have a leg to stand on so that makes no sense! If you deal with your oxalate overload and you have flare-ups of yeast, it's easily treated with dilute hydrogen peroxide or tea tree oil. Because literally some of these organisms get caught up in the crystals in the body and as the crystals get broken out, you will release old viral stuff. You might get some cold sores or something that looks like athlete's foot or these flare-ups of yeast. You're going to see these "infections" just start pouring out of your body. But they're old, not really virulent and they respond really well to things like coconut oil and tea tree oil and they're no big deal.

They're not the cause. They're part of the milieu of being poisoned by oxalate.

Elliot: I don't know if you know anything about this, but the findings of various kinds of chronic infections and pathogens which are associated with a wide variety of what we call autoimmune conditions - let me think of one off the top of my head. When you've got atherosclerosis you've got chlamydia pneumonia I think it's called and then you've got other kinds of chronic infections which are associated with these diseases but long-term antibiotic treatment doesn't necessarily work. Sometimes it works but for other people it doesn't seem to work and I was wondering if you thought that maybe these underlying chronic infections may actually have something to do with oxalate actually either making an area of the body more susceptible to the infection or whether they're kind of like living in the oxalate crystal or something. I know that e coli can do that and there's a couple of others, like you said. So I was wondering if you think there's any connection there?

Sally: Well we definitely see connections with kidney stones. A person who's prone to kidney stone will end up with a kidney infection and that's usually what kills you. How the kidney stone kills you is from the infection. It kills you pain-wise because it's blocking flow of urine and that block allows for bacteria to set up shop and to start proliferating and it's very likely that similar processes where the normal tissue fluid flow, the lymph flow and other things that would normally keep tissues bathing in interstitial fluid that keeps moving around, it's very possible that oxalate deposits are interrupting the normal flow, exchange and maintenance of those tissues. There's no question that tissue maintenance, repair and recovery from injury are all retarded because of oxalate in those tissues.

So it's perfectly reasonable. I see in myself and about two-and-a-half years into this low oxalate life, I had many tests that showed I had active Epstein Barr reactivated and Lyme's disease. Nobody did anything about it so I started cryotherapy and some kind of "Hello?" and then someone gave me an antibiotic. One course of antibiotics seemed to just work it out and that was the end of it.

So I don't know if they were both coming up and out because in the two-and-a-half years I was doing some deep work in the tissues. Some junk is really coming out at this point. Really it's like a year and beyond. Year one to year three, you're in some deep healing work and some ugly stuff can be going on. The fact that it was so easy to cure - most people say "You've got Lyme's disease, you're screwed!" It just took one round of antibiotics. I haven't retested it but I don't feel all that fatigue. When they were both going on, I was dragging. When you have active Epstein Barr and Lyme's disease at the same time, you are dragging.

Theory holds that tissues that are under distress are prone to infection. You are and the depletion that goes with oxalates, you're going to be depleted in minerals and B vitamins pretty much guaranteed. That's what disease comes from. It comes from toxicity and nutrient deficiency. If you don't have those two things you can't really get sick. We're meant to be awesome and we can be if we don't have toxicity and nutrient depletion and oxalate is a fabulous character for creating both.

Elliot: So in terms of practicality, I know it's probably difficult to make any sort of solid recommendations because, as you said, everyone is individual, so the pace that one person works at is going to be different to another person. Our listeners are probably going to be thinking "OMG, I've got loads of oxalates! {laughter} What do I do about it?!" And they're probably going a bit crazy right now. I was when I first listened to this kind of information. What would you recommend for someone who's just getting into this and who is tempted to drop every oxalate-containing food out of their diet? What would you recommend and what resources are there available because I know that you've got lots of things on your website. Could you tell our listeners what you've put together in terms of providing support for people, where they can look and how they can start this journey?

Sally: Right. I think the biggest part that needs to be healed is your mind and your soul. This is such a gut punch. Here you've tried to be healthy and you're doing your chia seeds and your chia pudding and this and that. You think almonds are so great because you can carry them around all day. It's so difficult emotionally. So it's important for you to tap in, know people like me and be reinforced and see if you can get people in your life to learn about it too, so that when you start changing how you eat that you don't get all this blowback because the last thing you need is everybody fighting you on it. So if you can't get your household to be willing to learn a little bit about this and be supportive, then you really need support and you need to call somebody like me who knows stuff and can validate what you're going through.

So that's the main thing. I think it's so upstream. One of my clients who's been vegan most of her life - she's in her mid-50s - she went raw vegan and she's completely falling apart and emaciated and really battling the whole inner demon of everything that she's bought into and believed in and taught to others. She now talks about how she's a salmon swimming upstream from her own stuff and now she understands that we're meant to be hunters. It's really hard. So most importantly, nurture your soul. Make sure you've got things in your life that nurture you as a person. Don't neglect your own humanity. Plant a flower by your front door and have a yoga class. Have a buddy. Give yourself a break. Ask people to give you time off. Know that your function is going to go up and down and just mentally prepare yourself for the fact that you are sick and now you know why. Now you know why but no one else around you knows why. Your doctor thinks you're crazy. You're not going to find a lot of support.

You might have weird stuff coming out of your skin. You might get white dust peeling off yourself and the doctor's going to be like, "Well whatever. It's just because you're a nut job that that's happening." {laughter} I think the most important thing, honestly, is to just love yourself better through this. On my site in the support section you'll see the shop download section. There's a beginner's guide that has the high oxalate list and the best bets on there and a graphical explanation and if you sign up on my list serve, my email list, you can get a coupon for that and not pay $2.50. But it'd be okay to have me make a living and throw $2.00 away. {laughter} I've been working hard to know this. I spent four years and a lot of work and nobody's just said "Oh, thanks for coming to the library. Would you like $1,000 for that?" {laughter}

Doug: Unbelievable.

Sally: So I'll take any support. I am working on a book on this.

Doug: Oh great!

Sally: It's going to be going to the publishers and I have a whole lot of recipes compiled in a big PDF and I'm not sure how to deliver that and let people buy it from me so I've got to figure that out. That's coming. But if you're a client of mine, I particularly pick out a few recipes to get you started and walk you through it. I really think everybody needs some potassium citrate and it's okay to take it. It's not going to kill you. This is another big myth in medicine. "Oh, potassium!" No, you really need some potassium. It's standard treatment for kidney stones, like 10 grams of the stuff, but you can do a lot with 2 grams which is about 20 pills because you're only allowed to put it in...

Doug: 99, yeah.

Sally: Somebody decided that people who are in late stage kidney failure don't process potassium well and it does back up in the blood and you can get in trouble with that. The rest of us can waste potassium all day long. The RDA is 4,700 mg so get on a little potassium citrate, a little magnesium citrate. There's things we can do to get you through it but the main thing is please feel validated and it's not your fault. Don't blame yourself for following this advice and going vegan and going nut crazy and doing all these bombs with chocolate bits in it and thinking that chocolate was going to allow you to survive keto.

They just invented all this stuff, the whole paleo muffin was an invention. They didn't study oxalates to say it was okay and safe. The whole autoimmune paleo has just been an invention. It's been accepted on the internet as a thing but it's not a thing. So you keep getting tricked.

Elliot: I just wanted to quickly add Sally, you mention autoimmune paleo. That is insanely high on oxalates!

Doug: Oh really.

Elliot: I've had several people who've come to me, autoimmune paleo, having green smoothies, sweet potato with every single meal, beet root juices. This is what you're meant to be on when you've got an autoimmune condition!

Sally: Yeah, oxalate is probably the biggest generator of autoimmune conditions of anything past vaccines. Oxalate is constantly irritating the innate immune system and triggering the inflammazone and putting you in these loops. All of us with oxalate problems feel like we've got six autoimmune conditions, none of which have been diagnosed because it's all vague and nebulous. But there's this chronic inflammation going on and now a lot of us are hyper-allergic to the whole plant kingdom by now. It's been irritating our immune system so much the immune system just can't figure out what it's supposed to be battling because the oxalate is constantly causing cells to call in the immune system for help.

My oxalate diet is the best way to feel like an immune nightmare. So the autoimmune paleo, somebody has good marketing and they're making good money. Bless you for trying to help people, but you didn't quite do enough research and that's because nobody in the medical literature, nobody in the toxicology department, nobody in the dietician world and in public health and in medicine has warned anybody about the fact that you can get too much oxalate through diet and get yourself into some serious health places you do not want to be.

That's nobody's fault. It's not anybody's fault that medicine chose to ignore this. Human beings have cultural ways of doing everything and we just decided oxalates weren't a thing and we're not right about that. I'm just hoping that those people who really are sick of feeling sick can find this information and turn it around because you can! This is a totally avoidable problem. You can get into really disabling health problems and it was avoidable to begin with. How much it's reversible depends on a lot of things; catching it soon, doing it well, sticking with it and living long enough. You need that five to ten years to really find the awesome sweet spot.

So I'm doing my best to help everybody. I want to get this book out. I want to get a cookbook out. I've got materials. I'm consulting with people who really need to be hand-held through the process, understandably so. Honestly, a lot of it is the darkness because I don't have tens of millions of dollars to pull together a research study to give us definitive answers about what's the right course of action for diagnosing this and treating it and making the recovery as painless as possible.

Elliot: It's kind of like you're shooting in the dark, so-to-speak.

Sally: Yeah.

Elliot: The Trying Low Oxalates Group is also a good resource, isn't it?

Sally: Yes.

Elliot: Because there are people on there who have been doing it for a very long time.

Sally: The moderators are just as devoted as I am and some of them have been more devoted for longer years than even I have been. We owe Susan Owens a great debt of gratitude. She's a real pioneer. If you just want to honour the fact that we even know anything about this, it's thanks to the VP Foundation which stands for Vulva Pain Foundation which has been around for nearly 26 years now, getting food tested for oxalate and helping people with pelvic pain. That's the work that made it possible for the Trying Low Oxalate Group to start helping autistic kids about 10 years ago or so. Or 15, I'm not sure what it is now.

It was really from the bravery of one person who suffered greatly, who persevered through much hardship and pain to find an answer and then decide to found a foundation, get foods tested and stand up against the slings and arrows from doctors and researchers and people who said "She's not right". If it wasn't for her we wouldn't be here. That's how I discovered it personally. I had an attack of vulva pain that was so bad that I had an outburst asking god to cut off my genitals because I couldn't take this! And my husband found them on the internet because he heard me say "Somebody cut these off!" and he ran to Google. Dr. Google saved the day and he found the Vulva Pain Foundation. That was in 2009. It took me to 2013 to actually get it.

So I tried the diet as best I could on that information in 2009 and 2010 and I just didn't see it and I was back on the sweet potatoes and then the kiwis finally taught me, in combination with yoga class, I could finally see it in my own body. So once you know a little bit about how much oxalate you're eating, you just know something about the foods and which ones are the high ones, eventually you'll see it in your body if you keep aware of "Oh, now I'm eating high oxalate foods for the last two weeks and I feel like crap" or "my arthritis is back" or whatever.

You'll start to see it yourself eventually. But there's a lot we just have no - philosophically, mentally, in our education about nutrition and food and symptoms - we don't have any kind of infrastructure in our own head to hang it on. You can't make it fit. It doesn't fit anything because so much of what we believe isn't right.

Doug: Yeah.

Elliot: Well Sally it's been amazing having you on.

Doug: Really great.

Elliot: Blow my mind once again, honestly. Tearing down these myths left, right and centre. Honestly, it's been really a pleasure and honour to have you on. I think what you're doing is a real service to humanity. It's only a shame that not more people are talking about this and if they do talk about it, it's easy to fall into this trap, talking about it there's so many myths that are so common about it, it's very difficult to get to the truth. As you said, the research is so blurry and half of it is wrong anyway, it's very difficult for the lay person to get anywhere with this so I think that you are doing such an important job. I'd just like to say thank you and on behalf of our listeners as well, thank you. I'm sure they found it fascinating and I'm sure that you'll have people who purchase that guide that you've made. They'll pay the $2.50. {laughter} But we really look forward to seeing your book and whatnot.

Doug: Yeah.

Elliot: And the material that you've got coming out. Is there anything that you'd like to end this show on? How can we find you? How can we access your stuff?

Sally: Yeah, yeah. So please come by to That's my website. K stands for Katherine. Check that site out. There's a lot of information there. There's some videos there and links to podcasts I've done in the past and I'll try to add this podcast to that list. So under the "About" page the first "about" is about me and the second one is lists of interviews and talks that I've done. Please, all of you who are taking an interest in oxalate, like Elliot, I'm so glad you've found this topic and are taking it seriously. Let's be careful about what we say so we actually know what we're talking about. Susan Owens has done that beautifully. She's refused to be a big pusher because she's trying to get it right.

Check out SallyKNorton. I'm also on Instagram now. I'm trying to learn it anyway. {laughter} I'm kind of liking Instagram. It's sort of fun so please follow me on Instagram. I'm on Twitter as well. On Twitter it's BetterLowOx and on Instagram it's SKNorton.

Doug: We'll add those in the description below the video so people can find them.

Sally: Great. Thank you. I'm looking forward to seeing you guys in real life too.

Doug: Yeah, absolutely. Thanks so much Sally.

Sally: You're welcome. Thank you. Be well. Happy spring.

Doug: Indeed.

Elliot: Thanks Sally. Bye-bye.

Sally: Bye.