Autoimmune Thyroid Disease

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The problem with the low oxalate group

with 6 comments

I have so many more important things to do than this. Internet wars are just tiresome. However, when something upsets me, I tend to dwell on it and I can’t do anything else until I have had my right of reply. Hence I am writing this instead of writing one of the final chapters of my novel. I would much rather be writing my novel, I was working on a killer scene but because of this it’s fizzled out like a damp squib. This is why I don’t do the internet anymore.

I wrote a criticism of the low oxalate diet some time ago. Looking back on the article now, I can see I spent a lot of time waffling, ranted off on other subjects like gluten, and wasn’t clear enough in my conclusions. In actual fact, the article should have been entitled “the problem with the low oxalate yahoo group,” since that is really what I was criticising.

So, I’ll state my conclusions about the low oxalate diet here:

1. A low oxalate diet is helpful to some people, particularly those with kidney stones or vulvodynia. I have recommended people consider oxalates along with other theories on the occasions when their symptoms are anomalous and/or do not resolve on the failsafe diet.

2. There are many, many people on the low oxalate diet group who are clearly affected by salicylates, amines and glutamates, and may not be reacting to oxalates at all.

3. These salicylate/amine/glutamate responders are helped somewhat by the low oxalate diet because it cuts out a very, very similar list of foods to those cut out on the failsafe diet, in particular, the very high chemical foods failsafers see reactions to, like chocolate, nuts, leafy greens, “too much protein” (i.e. amines) and so on.

4. These individuals falsely draw the conclusion that they are responding to oxalates. When they react to anomalous low oxalate/high salicylate/amine foods, they believe they are “dumping” oxalates. This is the equivalent of a candida “herx”. It is something that people use to explain away anomalies rather than reconsider that their hypothesis may be false.

5. It is damaging that people who are not responding to oxalates are continuing to believe that they are. It is damaging to themselves, and damaging to others with the same constellation of symptoms. It is also damaging to the science of the low oxalate diet, because it is really messing up the perception of what symptoms are and are not caused by oxalates, and it is really messing up their variables.

6. This kind of group, like so many other yahoo health groups, is what I call an aspie-trap. Aspies see patterns in things. Sometimes those patterns aren’t really there. Aspies can get attached to things and hate to move on, and they will keep on trying for years without concluding that they are on the wrong track.

7. I wish these people would try the failsafe diet FIRST, before trying a low oxalate diet. Unfortunately, most of these people have not heard of the failsafe diet.

I wrote the post because I was SO TIRED of having people come to my group who had tried the low oxalate diet and it didn’t work properly for them, or they were really, really confused about what they were reacting to and trying to cut out too many foods at once.

My problem is not with a low oxalate diet per se, it is with the really big goof-ups people testing a low oxalate diet have been making in the scientific method. My main point was this: unless you have tried the failsafe diet first, there is absolutely no point going on a low oxalate diet. Unless you have first established whether you react to salicylates, amines and glutamates, you are failing to control your variables properly!

I’ve had some moderate hostility in response to that post. It doesn’t help that I waffled a lot.

I have a nifty RSS feed that notifies me when other people link to my blog, and it turns out that someone from the trying low oxalates yahoo group recently discovered the post.

First I found a blog post with a copy and paste of Susan Owen’s response, along with the following comment:

Below from Susan, list owner of the oxalate list. The low oxalate diet works for me and I continue to read the list to find out more info. I suggest the list to clients who know someone with problems which seem like low oxalate diet might help. Lots of success stories on the list of people with kids with Autism or Asperger’s syndrome who had to deal with temper tantrums, rage, etc. Low Oxalate diet does not cure all problems from Autism, but it sure seems to help a lot. [my emphasis]

Unfortunately this is exactly what I mean by point 6. on my list. The low oxalate diet is an aspie-trap. It helps, but it does not cure all the problems. That’s because oxalates are unlikely to be the problem! The diet is simply working by cutting out most salicylates, amines, and glutamates. Think about it: why would cutting out oxalates fix temper tantrums? Oxalates don’t affect neurotransmitters, unless you are SO toxic that they have disturbed your blood mineral levels. Salicylates do affect neurotransmitters, and amines and glutamates ARE neurotransmitters.

So here’s what happened on the trying low oxalates group.

Someone posts a link to my blog post along with the following comment:

I think the author is a bit hostile to anything that does not fit with her diet 26202

I think this is a bit of an unfair introduction, don’t you? The only thing I’m hostile to is pseudoscience. I’m very hostile to morgellon’s disease, for example, or chronic lyme disease. I recognise very much that different people have different dietary needs, that’s why I don’t go out of my way to criticise carbohydrates even though I prefer to low carb. The only diet I’m actively hostile to is the candida diet, because it is such utter CAM tosh.

Says the next poster:

I looked at this point, and the person seems to have a bone to pick. Too bad – telling people a diet doesn’t work just because she thinks they don’t have data is like saying the sun isn’t shining because it’s behind the clouds.

Nowhere in my original post did I suggest people not try the low oxalate diet because of  “a lack of data”. This is an odd thing to say. I clearly spend most of the post telling people to control their variables – i.e. to clarify their data by first testing an established diet – the failsafe diet – which known to clear up the symptoms that are claimed by the trying low oxalates group to be caused by oxalates.

There are lots of folks who are pro and con all sorts of things, and when they are pro or con because of a personal bone to pick (my guess with this blogger) then you aren’t going to change their minds. That’s fine: I’ve got my results with my daughter, and that’s all that I need.

A personal bone to pick? This individual is now inventing stuff to explain my actions away. Of course, I can’t be making a rational argument, I must have some sort of emotional hostility to the low oxalate diet. Obviously I have been personally offended by the low oxalate diet and bear it a grudge. Perhaps I really, really like rhubarb or something.

However, she’s aggressive and nasty so I’m not likely to put a comment on her blog. 26207

I can only say WTF?! I will certainly dish it out in the comments section when people write me anonymous insults (as someone chose to on that post), but there’s nothing aggressive or nasty about my criticisms of the low oxalate diet group.

This time it’s Susan Owens’ turn:

This particular blog is pretty clearly what is called an “argumentum ad hominem” […] Ad hominem argumentation is along the lines of “You’re ugly and your mother dresses you funny”.

Notice how much space this blog piece gives to characterizing the personality of the people on our list (not just me). Her own diagnosis of us as being Aspergers seems to be what invalidates, in her eyes, what we do here, or any need on her part to address specific points of research we’ve brought in from pubmed. I wonder when (if ever) she was on our list because she must have been busy diagnosing us rather than paying attention to the scientific details!

Why would having Asperger’s invalidate “what we do here”? I have Asperger’s. If I was out to invalidate people with Asperger’s, I would be invalidating the whole of my own blog and the whole of my personality. I have a pro-aspie bias and generally think of aspies as being smart, technical people like me, with a few unfortunate weaknesses, in that, untrained, they can get really carried away with things. There was no ad hominem attack involved. My own group is full of smart aspie people too, many of whom have the same weaknesses. I am always trying to get them to control their variables and not jump to conclusions on too little evidence (apologies community members!).

The problem in interpretation here, is that Susan has assumed that being an aspie is a negative thing. It isn’t. It’s the best thing that ever happened to me. I’m GLAD I was born this way. If you told me I could eat what I want and have loads of friends, I would not give it up in exchange. Susan thinks I am criticising the low oxalate group members for being weird. I’m so not.

Instead, what I was trying to do was to point out the horrible ways in which internet health forum aspies can get trapped in styles of thinking and end up in the wrong place. It is no different with the candida diet. I am so tired of seeing these individuals turn up at my group believing they have an oxalate problem (or a candida problem) having been low oxalate (or on the candida diet) for ages, and after proper testing on my group, THEY DON’T have a problem with oxalates (or candida). I have certainly had individuals turn up who DO have a problem with oxalates (or candida), but they are in the minority and have specific conditions like vulvodynia (or thrush).

In actual fact I devote very little space in the post to this characterisation of aspieness (four paragraphs out of around twenty five), the vast majority of the post describes the flaws in people’s reasoning that can lead them to false conclusions about what diet they need, and scientific criticisms, which are not addressed by Susan.

Susan may wonder, but I have been lurking on trying low oxalates for a long time now. I found the group a couple of months after I first went failsafe. I thought “hmm, there’s a variable I ought to test for, maybe it explains some of my anomalous reactions,” and so I did test for it. I discovered that I do not respond to dietary oxalates. I am just very sensitive to food chemicals (and only mildly responsive to the opioid peptides in gluten and A1 casein, while we’re at it, and no I don’t have leaky gut either). I still sometimes suggest oxalates as a cause if I see a rare anomalous reaction in myself or someone else. However, I usually trace anomalous reactions to sulphites.

Most people don’t have the luxury of variable-controlled testing like I did, because they are unaware that there is more than one diet. The longer I lurked on the oxalates group, the more I realised that there were so, so many people there who were responding to salicylates and amines and attributing this to oxalates, and they were all getting trapped in the same confirmation-bias style of thinking that plagues so many CAM groups, whether they be GFCF, candida, lyme, or whatever.

Next Susan goes on to write:

Interestingly, she says in the “about me” section of her blog that she has Aspergers. She also says:

>I have a variety of chronic genetic health problems and peculiarities, including asperger’s traits, ADD/concentration problems/brainfog, cyclothymia symptoms, fibromyalgia (I do have an official diagnosis for that), reactive hypoglycaemia, back and neck pain, ear ache, heart palpitations, insomnia and hypnic jerking, allergies, asthma, and eczema. Messy, huh?

I don’t know what listmates think as they read her list of health
complaints, but to me, she sounds like a pretty good candidate for trying LOD, but I doubt she will try it because of her loyalty to the Failsafe model.

Can you imagine how much this remark irritates me?

It presumes I am too prejudiced and close-minded to try the low oxalate diet. In fact, I have already tried the low oxalate diet and I have discovered that I do not react to oxalates.

It is a beautiful example of confirmation bias. Susan has quoted this list of health problems from my about me page. The very next paragraph on my about me page goes on to describe how I follow the failsafe diet. It then concludes with the following phrase:

[T]he above health problems have all but vanished as a result.

In spite of clearing up my health problems by going on failsafe, Susan still believes I am a candidate for the low oxalate diet. Unbelievable. This is a very strong indication of confirmation-bias in her thinking style.

Susan goes on to make a couple of statements I totally agree with:

Her blog gives me the opportunity to say here that I’m thrilled to hear about the improvements people have seen on this diet, but there isn’t a good reason to develop a loyalty to the diet outside of what it has been capable of changing. Any diet should rest on its own merits in being able to help people, but it shouldn’t acquire a life of its own.


I am confident LOD has many specific niches and can stand on its own merits and can compete “in the open market place” (as if that were a goal?). My goal is to get people better and I see LOD as one very interesting and capable tool which has its own relevancy and reason to study carefully.

And some points I don’t agree with:

When people criticize THIS STAGE of the diet’s history, I guess they are expecting RESEARCH at the beginning stage of its life, to pop, as it were, out of the womb already dressed in academic gowns, carrying a Ph.D. diploma, sporting a full beard and speaking in a voice that is already low, mellow and mature!

The problem is, Susan, you have a very good opportunity to do some of this research, albeit informally, with your group members. But unless you actually tutor them to control their variables properly, everything you are doing on trying low oxalates is invalidated by the existence of the failsafe diet, and specialist allergy/food intolerance doctors are not going to take it seriously.

You need to tell your audience to test for salicylate, amine and glutamate reactions. Because all of the symptoms you claim to be caused by oxalates – with the notable exception of kidney stones, vulvodynia, and one form of arthritis – are already established by the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital Allergy Unit to be caused by salicylate, amine and glutamate sensitivity. Unless you are going to weed out all of the people on your group who ought to be failsafe, then you are not going to be able to discover those individuals who have actual real problems with oxalates. Control your variables!

Susan finishes with the following remarks:

It seems LOD’s philosophical critics tend to think the only way to stop the LOD from spreading like a plague (and offering competition to other diets with loyal followings) is by discouraging people on the front end from ever joining our list to consider what we present here. I guess that is why this lady wants to characterize our list as

>so systemised and technical, it tends to attract aspies, rather like flies into a big sticky spider web. Whee, thinks the aspie, I like this; technical language, orthomolecular medicine, smart people like me, and lots of complicated theories!

So I will state again, clearly, the objective of my original post was not to discourage people from trying the low oxalate diet. It was to encourage them to try it whilst controlling their variables. It was to encourage them to avoid that big sticky spider web of thought that results from confirmation-bias, from being over-loyal to diets that only half-fix the problem, and from assuming that what appears at first glance to be scientific is actually fully grounded in science.

I am not sure why this message did not get through in the first place, but I suspect it has something to do with people reading things the way they would like to read them instead of reading what is actually written.

I am not sure why Susan wants to characterise me as someone who is afraid of a diet which “offers competition to other diets with loyal followings” – i.e. that I am somehow afraid that the low oxalate diet would take over from failsafe. This is not a marketplace and diets are not wares. I have no financial interest in the failsafe diet.

I also have no credibility or reputation invested in the failsafe diet, which is already very well established and used widely in Australia (unlike Susan’s diet). On my group, if I think someone is not sensitive to salicylates and amines, I will suggest a different course of action, whether that is a different diet, or a trip to a doctors to be diagnosed with a completely different condition. For example, frequently when individuals present with digestive problems, the first thing I will ask is if they have been tested for celiac disease, despite the fact that many people intolerant of salicylates and amines have digestive problems. The only reputation I have invested in is in remaining scientific and open minded, and in steering individuals towards the right cure for their problems, not in steering them towards what I would like to be the cure for their problems.

At any rate, I hope ths woman hasn’t ad-hominem argued herself out of trying something that would get her well, or at least better! That would be sad, wouldn’t it? 26225

Were it true, it would be very sad. But it is not, because I have actually controlled my variables properly.

Susan focusses almost entirely on what she regards as the “ad hominem attack on aspies” at the start of my post and doesn’t address any of my actual criticisms. Once Susan has had her say, everyone else goes along:

I sure won’t give her a thought. You have helped so many of us. We must just ignore posters like this. […] just let the nuts go spread their nonsense and we’ll continue to get our health back. 26226

So now I’m a nut. I’m not making any rational criticisms at all.

Funny that the criticism characterizes us all as “aspies” when there are some of us here who have arrived due to vulvar pain and chronic yeast […] Her post is personality assassination of a group based on very little evidence. 26228

All I said was that the group was “very aspie”, not that everyone on it had Asperger’s syndrome. Why do some people think in absolutes? Keep ignoring the 20+ paragraphs of logical criticism that followed the characterisation, in the hopes that they will go away.

sounds like this lady suffers from the same thing other closed-minded people do when it comes to health issues. it’s sad that some get an *attitude* when they feel like they have more education under their belt and start belittling everyone else, even though they may have no experience whatsoever in what they’re writing about. 26240

When criticised, people like to console themselves by turning the critic into an emotionally driven character rather than a rational one in an effort to undermine their arguments.

People don’t like to countenance ideas and theories that haven’t been constructed in their own minds. Maybe it’s a matter of personal pride. Such a pity. It is in my opinion one of the greatest barriers in the development and proliferation of new ideas and the greatest impedance to helping our kids. 26242

Strange, because I didn’t construct the failsafe diet in my own mind, or the GFCF diet in my own mind, or the Atkins diet in my own mind… but I countenanced them. I’ve countenanced a whole lot of ideas in the past. At one point (when I was really ill and desperate) I thought I had candida or lyme and I was juicing green vegetables and eating apricot kernels like I had cancer or something. I disagree with the poster. I personally feel the greatest barrier to helping autistic kids is the sheer lack of scientific reasoning displayed by the biomed community. A lot of active harm is being done to autistic kids this way.

Being an aspie might be beneficial. 26243

Says someone who has got trapped in this odd idea that I think being an aspie is a bad thing.

This blog sounded to me like an intelligent critical opinion – albeit a shallow one. […]

Her website is difficult to comb for salient information, given her tendency to write on about absolutely everything she knows […]

However, she makes a good point that people can get overly fixated on a single problem like gluten sensitivity, yeast dysbiosis, etc and can tend to blame every physical and even emotional problem on their pet cause. She seems to feel the same way about salicylates, amines and glutamates… and because this listgroup is specifically about oxalates, it’s easy to get the idea that we’re all obsessed with that alone as the source of all our problems. 26250

The comment “she seems to feel the same way about salicylates, amines and glutamates” could be interpreted in two ways. I’m choosing to interpret it generously, in that this individual believes I do not blame everything on salicylates, amines and glutamates, which would be correct.

But yey for me! I may be shallow and in need of an editor, but at least one  on the low oxalate list actually read what I had written instead of what they wanted to read!

I would not have felt the need to reply to any of this if I had not been so wildly misrepresented and the criticisms I actually made were taken seriously. Instead what results is a character attack on me, and no answer at all to the arguments I put forward.

I didn’t say anything half as nasty in my original post as these people have written in response. Girls, act more like ladies and less like bitches, huh? If you’ve got a problem with what I write, keep it on a logical and a scientific level please.


Written by alienrobotgirl

6 December, 2008 at 1:48 am

The problem with the low oxalate diet

with 7 comments

The yahoo group trying_low_oxalates is an experimental group promoting an experimental diet that is low in oxalates for a variety of symptoms, in particular for Autism spectrum children. The group has only been in existence since the August of 2005, and is only two years old.

I admire the trying_low_oxalates group in that the people there are focussed, systemised, and highly technical (one could definitely say ‘aspie’). The quality of the posting is much higher than the stuff on the WAPF groups and almost as high as the quality on the orthomolecular/Yasko/autism groups. Many of the people there have been through the wringer trying to cure themselves or their children and are highly familiar with orthomolecular medicine. On top of this their theories aren’t too wild and outlandish as so many aspie theories tend to be. I think that because the talk on the trying_low_oxalates group is so systemised and technical, it tends to attract aspies, rather like flies into a big sticky spider web. Whee, thinks the aspie, I like this; technical language, orthomolecular medicine, smart people like me, and lots of complicated theories!

However, being very aspie, they are also prone to demonstrating the cracked and warped logic that aspies are prone to. They don’t take account for all of their variables, and they pattern spot when there is no pattern. They don’t account for false negatives and false positives or retest what they think they have observed in the past. The difference between science and superstition is the ability to tell the difference between real patterns and false ones, and not to cling to the false ones. Apsies aren’t innately good at this, it has to be something we are trained into whether by ourselves, or by others.

On top of that, once aspies spot patterns, they will become attached to those patterns and believe whatever theory they want to believe regardless of how logical it is or how many flaws you point out. You can tell the average aspie ten times over that you must/must not do this or that to control your variables, and you will be talking to a brick wall. This is because in addition to becoming attached to underlying theories, aspies tend to have a lot of self-belief and a superiority complex and think that no one else could possibly have been through this before them and that they always know better about their bodies than anyone else.

Aspies also don’t like change. Someone, possibly Max Planck, once said “science advances, funeral by funeral.” As the entire scientific establishment seems to be run by mild aspies (‘geeks’) of various extremes, if there is something wrong with scientific progress in general, it is what is wrong with aspies. Aspies hate change. Aspies will build theory upon theory and castles in the sky to explain what does not fit in with their observations.

Back to the point. The major faults with arguments used on the low oxalate group are:

  • Oxalates are in all of the same foods that are high in salicylates, amines and glutamates with a very few exceptions.
  • Oxalate content of food varies wildly depending on how it is grown, so none of the charts are reliable and accurate and many contradict.
  • Oxalates allegedly “cause” the same set of symptoms that people experience to salicylates, amines and glutamates, yet diets low in these chemicals are well documented to resolve those symptoms.

Based on this, it is impossible to regard a low oxalate diet for autism as scientific unless you first control your variables. It is therefore impossible to determine if you have an actual problem with oxalates unless you are first fully on the failsafe diet.

Not many people on the trying_low_oxalates group are on the failsafe diet. A fair proportion of the people there don’t even know what the failsafe diet is. As a result, there is virtually no controlled evidence to support the theory that people’s symptoms are caused by oxalates, since they are still eating salicylates, amines and glutamates. In addition to this, virtually every time I see people complain that they are having a reaction to a food, that food is typically a food that is very high in salicylates, amines or glutamates. Like chocolate or fruit, or a mysterious reaction to ‘protein’. But the people on the group do not see this and are attributing their reaction to oxalates.

How do people get to the trying_low_oxalates group?

People seem to arrive there having done GFCF and having seen only minor changes in themselves or their autistic/ADHD children. At least they have got this far: some people do GFCF and continue to blame every little problem with their health on tiny invisible bits of gluten or casein in their diet (“I/my child ate gluten-free, casein-free ice cream and have had a funny reaction, therefore it must still contain gluten or casein,”) is a cry I have heard several times over, and it’s one that can lead to hysterical levels of paranoia and amusing hidden gluten-hunts when people have reacted to GFCF processed foods – containing reactive ingredients that are usually obvious to an outsider, like tartrazine, artificial flavourings like vanillin, or sulphites that are routinely added to gluten-free flours.

Other people seem to arrive there having done the Feingold diet and also seen only small changes in themselves or their children. This is because the Feingold diet is outdated. The Feingold diet was an attempt in the seventies to cut out or reduce the salicylates and additives in salicylate-sensitive individuals’ diets. At the time not much was known about the salicylates in foods, and no connection had been made to the amines and glutamates in foods. The Feingold diet does not cut out all salicylates, some foods very high in salicylates remain, and it does not cut out amines or glutamates at all. Had Dr Feingold lived, I am sure he would have updated his diet, but unfortunately he died just as the Failsafe diet was being born. I don’t know why the Feingold organisation keep promoting Feingold and keeping quiet about failsafe, it’s embarrassing and rather shameful and probably the single most damaging thing to Feingold’s legacy. The Feingold diet regularly has the critique thrown at it that “this didn’t work for my kid/this only works for a small number of children/I did the diet and it didn’t work for me.” Whether the Feingold diet helps you or not largely depends on how you perform it. If for example you drink lots of Feingold-permitted pineapple juice (high in salicylates and amines), you are not going to see any improvement in your health and it may even worsen.

So some people arrive because GFCF has failed to work for them, and they go on the low oxalate diet, which involves cutting out most high-chemical fruit, vegetables, nuts, and chocolate. And they see a dramatic improvement! Sure, they aren’t perfect. Sometimes they have bad days as well as good days. These may well be days where they have eaten some chemicals, but not knowing it they assume these bad days are a sign that the oxalates are low enough in their blood stream that they are “dumping”, that is, the oxalates are decrystalising and leeching out of their muscles and into their bloodstream. “Dumping” oxalates is rather like candida “die-off”. It’s a great way to explain otherwise unexplainable symptoms in the context of retaining a firm grip on your pet theory.

Other people arrive to the group when the Feingold diet fails to work for them, deciding that they are “not” salicylate sensitive, because they are still eating salicylates, glutamates and amines and the Feingold diet has made no difference. Then they go on the low oxalate diet, which involves cutting out a more comprehensive range of high-chemical foods than Feingold. And they too see an improvement! Which is not surprising at all.

Others still have actually done failsafe. Now we are almost approaching true science. They arrive at the low oxalate diet having never reached baseline. When I see what they are eating or putting on their skin, most of the time I am not surprised they could not reach baseline and sometimes they will reveal mistakes when quizzed. In addition to this is the sad fact that some people are just so sensitive to chemicals and have so many disruptions in their methylation cycle that they will never properly normalise on failsafe. These are the people who really need to go out and spend a lot of money on Yasko’s protocol.

Another very important thing you need to do to reach baseline is sort out any underlying infections, whether fungal or bacterial. Food chemical sensitive people are prone to infections per se. It is well known in the medical literature that certain types of people – for example those with asthma and eczema – are prone to particular types of skin/stomach/ear/nose/throat infection. Food chemicals make these people more prone to infection, but removing food chemicals does not automatically clear up the infection.

Something amazing that I see people doing too, is blaming failsafe for health problems that suddenly appear when they go on the diet.

For example, they may have previously eaten a diet that is gluten free because they have spotted a problem with grains in the past. Though failsafe is quite clear that you should not reintroduce foods that you suspect are a problem, when people go on the diet, they will suddenly decide that they can now eat gluten grains or oats again (‘yippee…’). By doing this they are not controlling their variables. People who are food chemical sensitive seem to have problems, major or minor, with opioid-like peptides, and can also be more sensitive to the lectins in beans and grains and the solanine in potatoes. It is not surprising then, that these individuals suddenly become ill in different ways when they go on the failsafe diet. I have known people to go from a GF oat-free celiac-style diet to suddenly eating almost nothing but oat bran and taking all kinds of dodgy supplements in an impatient effort to ‘cure’ themselves of ‘vitamin deficiencies’ – then suffering all kinds of symptoms of ill health as a result and turning around and blaming the failsafe diet. See what I mean about cracked aspie logic?

Others still never notice a problem with grains before they go on the diet. They can have apparently normal digestion, but a multitude of other symptoms. When they go on the failsafe diet, their symptoms change. It is perfectly normal for symptoms to change when you go on the diet. Suddenly new and different symptoms emerge when you have infractions. Old symptoms disappear and don’t come back unless you commit a more extreme infraction. A person who may not have ever noticed a problem with grains in spite of their other symptoms, suddenly discovers they get an upset stomach when they eat grains once they are failsafe. In reality, the person has always had a problem with grains, but that problem was never noted, or expressed itself differently, for example with headaches, cravings or brain fog instead of stomach upset. It may even be that the grains are being eaten differently, for example the person has changed from using sourdough bread to regular bread to reduce amines, unfortunately resulting in an increase in lectins, hard to digest long-chain starches, and gluten opioid peptides. Either way the answer is not to blame the failsafe diet, it is to reduce these extraneous factors.

If you have been through all of this, controlled your variables properly, exhausted these options and you are still not at baseline, then you can start to clarify whether you have an issue with oxalates.

By this time you are probably about to complain that you have already incidentally cut out all oxalates from your diet, so how could you possibly prove your problem is oxalate related? Well, I never said life was easy, but it is possible to vary the quantity of oxalates you eat on the failsafe diet.

  • If you have oxalate-based kidney stone symptoms, or start to pass little bits of grit in your urine, you probably have an oxalate problem.
  • If you have an officially recognised oxalate-related problem, like gout, rheumatoid arthritis, or vulvodynia, you should see an improvement and if you do see an improvement you probably have an oxalate problem.
  • Vitamin K MK4 dissolves oxalate crystals. Try yourself on small quantities over a few weeks and see what happens. Megadoses are likely to induce clotting, which may feel to you a lot like oxalate “dumping”, so it is important to be sensible and think about what you are doing and feeling. Other supplements like citrates and malates may also be helpful.
  • If you have accounted for all of the variables mentioned above, and you are eating a low-salicylate, low-oxalate diet and have not improved over the timescale of a couple of months, you probably don’t have a problem with oxalates.
  • If you have tried taking out and adding back in failsafe vegetables to your diet and this makes no difference to how you feel in general, try eating some of the very few high-oxalate, low-salicylate vegetables, versus some of the low-oxalate, low-salicylate vegetables. This should make an easily discernible difference to how you feel if oxalates are an issue. If it does not, you do not have an oxalate problem.

Written by alienrobotgirl

28 August, 2007 at 4:12 pm


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For many adults in the world, the phrase “got milk?” is quickly followed by “got a nearby toilet?” Lactose, the primary sugar in milk, is a universal favorite in infancy but into adulthood the level of lactase-phlorizin hydrolase, the enzyme that metabolizes lactose in the small intestine, decreases and digestion of dairy products becomes difficult. In some populations, however, such as those located in northern Europe, the ability to digest milk remains most likely as a result of lifestyles based around cattle domestication. In 2002 Finnish scientists localized the genetic mutation that conferred this trait in northern Europeans to two regions on chromosome 2.

Now, the results of a four-year, international research project find that communities in East Africa leading traditionally similar pastoral lives evolved their ability to drink milk rapidly and independently of the northern Europeans. According to University of Maryland biologist Sarah Tishkoff, the lead author of a study appearing in today’s Nature Genetics, the mutation allowing them to “get milk” arose so quickly and was so advantageous that “it is basically the strongest signal of selection ever observed in any genome, in any study, in any population in the world.”


Swallow concedes: ” It looks jolly well as though drinking milk as an adult was good for some of us at some time in our history, that’s for sure.” African Adaptation to Digesting Milk Is “Strongest Signal of Selection Ever”

Lactose: some of us tolerate it, some of us don’t. Lactose intolerance is far more common than people think. Digestive problems associated with milk in an adult are more likely to be lactose intolerance than milk protein allergies or intolerances.

Digestive problems associated with breast milk in babies, on the other hand, are more likely to be caused by food chemicals than lactose intolerance.

Written by alienrobotgirl

12 December, 2006 at 8:59 pm

Food for thought?

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This post is for a couple of friends of mine who are big fish eaters.

Mercury released by coal-fired power plants contaminates waterways and accumulates in fish. Many thousands of the pregnant women in America who eat fish consume enough mercury to potentially harm their children’s neurological development. Some states warn that children should not eat more than a can of tuna per week; based on EPA guidelines, a twenty-pound child may exceed a level considered safe for the most sensitive populations with just 1.3 ounces.

Lakes fish contaminated with PCBs showed lowered IQs and shortened attention spans. And these effects on intelligence and behavior have been shown to persist throughout childhood. A Dutch study confirmed that increased maternal levels of PCBs can impair cognition in infants. Young monkeys exposed to PCBs at low levels show learning disabilities and hyperactivity. ADHD leaflet from

If you are a pescatarian or a regular fish eater (i.e. you eat fish more than once a week), I advise you to visit immediately and calculate your mercury exposure, because you’ll probably never eat tuna or other oily fish again.

I’ve calculated mine. One 6 oz serving of cod (comparatively low in mercury), gives me around 40% of the maximum weekly exposure of mercury. One 6 oz serving of tuna gives me between 140% and 270% of my maximum weekly exposure.

Eat fish every day? You’re in deep trouble.

Written by alienrobotgirl

23 August, 2006 at 3:15 pm

Dermatitis and oxalates

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I happened on this very old article by a dermatologist, written in 1929.

All sorts of dietetic regulations have been laid down as part of the treatment of acne and seborrhoea, mostly useless. The patient must of course avoid overeating and drinking, food which upsets the stomach, and food containing much oxalates. The importance of the latter restriction is not generally appreciated. I may mention the ease of a dermatological colleague who suffered from seborrhoea. In conversation with him over a case, he laughed at my fad in telling the patient to avoid altogether rhubarb, spinach, pineapple, and to only take moderate amounts of beans, cauliflower, and tea. Last summer he told me he was converted to my opinion, as he had personally found that after eating rhubarb he had an exacerbation of his seborrhoeic troubles. My attention was first directed to this many years ago. I was consulted about an epidemic of skin trouble in a large school for girls. The cases were so numerous that it was thought to be some infectious disease; the school infirmary was overflowing with cases. I found them to be all acute seborrhoeic dermatitis. Of course, this is not uncommon among adolescent girls, but in this school it was beyond all normal proportions. I was a little puzzled to account for this but when I left the infirmary by the back door, I came upon one of the biggest plantations of rhubarb I had ever seen. Investigations about the diet demonstrated that the school authority had a theory that lots of rhubarb was good for health. The girls had rhubarb jam for breakfast and tea, rhubarb pies or stewed rhubarb for dinner and supper. Acne and seborrhoea were common in the school at all times. I advised a no-rhubarb diet, with almost immediate good results, and the great rhubarb plantation was scrapped. After clinical experience and observation, my opinion is amply confirmed. Always investigate what oxalic foods the patient is taking, and if much oxalate of lime is found in the urine, treat your patient for a time with small doses of hydrochloric acid with meals and magnesia between meals. SOME DERMATO-THERAPEUTIC NOTES by A. W. WILIAMS, Can Med Assoc J. 1930 June; 22(6): 821–825 [PDF]

An interesting and amusing anecdote!

Written by alienrobotgirl

18 July, 2006 at 11:32 am


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Nicotine is an alkaloid found in the tobacco plant, and in the following foods:

  • Potatoes
  • Tomatoes
  • Eggplant (aubergine)
  • Capsicum peppers

Nicotine is also used as a pesticide in organic farming, so residues may remain on any vegetables that are not thoroughly washed. (I find it quite disturbing and upsetting that both sulfites and nicotine are allowed in organic farming). Nicotine is extremely toxic. The LD50 of nicotine is around 40-60mg.

Sixty milligrams of nicotine (about the amount in three or four cigarettes if all of the nicotine were absorbed) will kill an adult, but consuming only one cigarette’s worth of nicotine is enough to make a toddler severely ill!

What happens to people after ingesting nicotine? Nicotine poisoning causes vomiting and nausea, headaches, difficulty breathing, stomach pains and seizures. Each of these symptoms can be traced back to excessive stimulation of cholinergic neurons. People poisoned by organophosphate insecticides experience the exact same symptoms. With organophosphates, acetylcholine builds up at synapses and overstimulates the neurons. Because nicotine is so similar to acetylcholine, and binds to cholinergic receptors, nicotine in excess produces the same overstimulation and toxicity. The more nicotine binding to the nicotinic cholinergic receptors, the more acetylcholine is subsequently released and free to activate other subsets of cholinergic receptors. How stuff works

Though many epilepsy charities protest (pathetically) that smoking “does not cause seizures”, the clinical evidence indicates that nicotine can and does cause some kinds of seizures. In fact, nicotine is used to induce seizures in rat models of epilepsy.

Written by alienrobotgirl

24 April, 2006 at 7:36 pm

Dear "Healthy" magazine

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I don’t believe for one minute that “Healthy” Magazine will publish this and get the message out… “Healthy” is produced directly for Holland and Barrett and used to promote the products they sell, including their wide range of soya products. I’m a regular customer of Holland and Barrett and I know that their magazine reaches a great number of health nuts. I’m merely trying to stir up a bit of trouble in the editor’s office: if I can make one journalist think twice about this kind of sneaky promotional advertising, well, it will have been worth it.

Dear Healthy Magazine,

I am deeply concerned by your promotion of soya in the March/April 2005 issue. I have never written to a magazine before, but I am so concerned by the bias expressed I feel moved to do something. The soy industry is a very powerful lobby able to buy a lot of space and publish a lot of selective “scientific” studies and I feel that the truth is not being told because of this. Years ago as a vegetarian teenager, my own health suffered severely due to consumption of soy products and I feel it is in your reader’s best interests to learn about the darker side of soya:

  • Phytic acid in soy reduces assimilation of essential minerals and is not neutralised by ordinary preparation.
  • Trypsin inhibitors in soy interfere with protein digestion and may cause pancreatic disorders.
  • The high-temperature processing soy undergoes over-denatures the proteins, it forms MSG (neurotoxin), lysinoalanine (toxic), nitrosamines (carcinogens) and results in high levels of aluminium which is toxic to the nervous system and the kidneys.
  • Vitamin B12 analogs in soy are not absorbed and actually increase the body’s requirement for B12. Soy foods also increase the body’s requirement for vitamin D. Soy phytoestrogens (isoflavones) disrupt endocrine function and have the potential to cause infertility and to promote breast cancer in women.
  • Soy phytoestrogens are potent antithyroid agents that cause hypothyroidism and may cause thyroid cancer.
  • Babies fed soy-based formula receive the estrogenic equivalent of at least five birth control pills per day.
  • Soy consumption is associated with delayed puberty in boys and premature puberty in girls.
  • Even moderate intake of phytoestrogens during pregnancy can have adverse affects on the developing foetus and timing of puberty later in life.
  • Tofu is consumed by Buddhist monks to reduce libido. Researchers theorise that the high phytoestrogen content in soy is a self-defence mechanism that prevents the proliferation of animals who would otherwise eat the plant, by effectively putting them on “birth control pills.”
  • In Japan, tofu consumption in mid-life is associated with Alzheimer’s disease in later life.
  • Average consumption of soy food in China is only 10 grams (2 teaspoons) per day, soy is almost always consumed in a fermented form such as tempeh, natto or tamari which neutralises many of the toxins that actually remain preserved in the modern tofu and soy mince dishes consumed in the West. As a crop, soy is used to fix nitrogen into the soil, it has never been eaten as a staple.
  • The FDA have never actually given soy protein isolate a GRAS (Generally Recognised as Safe) status due to concern regarding the presence of toxins and carcinogens in processed soy.
  • The Weston A Price Foundation (a non-profit nutritional organisation) in the United States are currently seeking to bring a class-action lawsuit against the soy industry on behalf of the many people who have developed hypothyroidism and sex hormone disruption due to consumption of even moderate amounts of soy.

For more information as well as full references please visit:

yours faithfully,


Notes from October 2007

This is embarrassing to read back. Not because what I was saying was wrong, but because I’d become such a Weston A. Price Foundation nutcase that I was parroting their stuff. Although all of these facts are scientifically accurate, I probably sounded like a complete fruitcake.

I used to have such utter trust and faith in WAPF – despite having nothing but bad luck on their diet due to the sheer amount of amines it contains.

The truth is, soy is nasty stuff, but there are far nastier and more common food chemicals than the ones found in soy.

Written by alienrobotgirl

24 March, 2005 at 12:41 pm

Posted in Other Intolerances and Toxins

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