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The Low-Oxalate Paleo: Part One

Updated on June 12, 2008

My Story

I have Lichen Sclerosis, a very uncomfortable, painful and chronic disease that many women suffer from, and of which there is no real "cure". For some, topical corticosteroids in combination with estrogen cream help immensely. For me, it sometimes helps to control the itching, and helps the skin to heal when I have flare-ups, but it is no cure.

So, in an attempt to help myself I have done a lot of research. I have discovered two things which may (or may not) help me to control my disease. LS is believed to be an autoimmune disease. Many autoimmune diseases seem to be helped by following a Paleolithic diet. (For example, diabetes and rhuematoid arthritis.) So, it seems logical that a Paleo diet may help to improve my symptoms as well. Another therapy which has had great success among women with vulvodynia is the Low Oxalate Diet. The science behind it is a little sparse, mostly due to the fact that there has only been one study into the effects of the diet, and that study concluded that the diet had no particular effect. But, there are lots of women who apparently follow this diet with some success. At a site dedicated to women with vulvodynia, there is a guestbook in which many women have stated that the Low Oxalate Diet is helpful to them.

I have decided to combine the two diets in the hope that I will benefit from them over the next few months. My goal is to follow this diet for the next 100 days, and then re-evaluate my condition and see if it has helped in any way. Here is some information about each diet:

The Paleolithic Diet:

No one knows exactly what a "Paleolithic Diet" was like. But based on what we do know, and what we can observe by studying modern day hunter-gatherers, it most likely varied a great deal in the types of foods eaten depending on where you lived and what was available day to day and season to season. Most scientists agree that a true Paleo diet should consist of meat, poultry, seafood, fish, eggs, vegetables, nuts, seeds, tubers and fruit. Most scientists also agree that the Paleo diet did not include grains, beans, dairy products, and sugars (except as in fruit, and occasionally honey). The area of fat consumption and types of fat eaten is debated. Personally, I plan to eat Paleo foods and let the fat fall where it may. True, today's grain-fed and high-fat animals aren't the same as the wild game we evolved on, but today's high-sugar fruits and veggies aren't the same either.

The Low Oxalate Diet:

Traditionally, a Low Oxalate diet has been used to inhibit kidney stones. And lately has been a suggested therapy for sufferers of Vulvodynia as well. While following the diet it is recommended that you limit your Oxalate intake to 40-50 grams per day. Oxalates are present in many plants especially dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach. Here is a short list of items which, sadly, I eat regularly, that are very high in oxalates and must be avoided: Spinach, almonds, dark chocolate, blueberries, whole grains, and soy products. Strangely, these are also considered to be some of the healthiest foods there are. I fact, I have a Prevention article which touts them as some of the "top ten cancer fighting foods". I miss them already.

Here is a list of vegetables I like and can eat which are Paleo and also Low-Oxalate:

Cabbage, onions, mushrooms, peppers (except for green), radish, lettuce (including Romaine which is a dark leafy green, go figure...) broccoli, asparagus, snow peas, cauliflower, tomato (1/2 cup per day), summer squash, zucchini, eggplant(1/2 cup), celery root (1/2 cup per day), pumpkin, cucumber, scallions, artichoke (1/2 cup), brussels sprouts. (Note all the cruciferous vegetables!)

Here is a list of fruits I like and can eat which are Paleo and also Low-Oxalate:

Apple, avocado, apricots (1/2 cup) strawberries, raspberries (1/2 cup per day), grapes (except for concord), lemon, mango, melons (cantaloupe, honeydew, watermelon), cherries, papaya, pears, pineapple, plums (certain kinds limited to 1/2 cup), oranges (1/2 cup) and grapefruit (1/2 cup).

With these food choices, along with as much meat, seafood, and eggs as I wish to consume, I should be able to craft a healthy and tasty diet. Please stay with me as I use my cooking skills to make it through this very limited diet plan.


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    • Karen Ellis profile image

      Karen Ellis 9 years ago from Central Oregon

      Hi Sara,

      I hadn't heard of this disease before. I suppose you hadn't either before you were diagnosed. I wish you luck with your diet. Please let us know if it is of benefit to you. I thought your article was well written.

      Karen Ellis

    • sarahatch profile image

      sarahatch 9 years ago from Seattle

      Thank you Karen. I appreciate the comment and the good wishes!

    • profile image

      Joanne Gleich 8 years ago

      How did the combo diet work out for you?. I am also suffering from varieties of vulvodinia and have to follow a low oxalate diet, which I just started

    • sarahatch profile image

      sarahatch 8 years ago from Seattle

      Hi Joanne--

      Hi Joanne--

      Someone else asked me this on part three of my article. Here is the answer I gave her:

      I have had good luck with the diet so far. If I go off it and eat high oxalate foods like a lot of chocolate or whole grains, or blackberries I suffer the consequences, but if I am primarily conscientious I do well. I do not follow the paleo part of the diet as well as the low-oxalate part though--I do eat dairy regularly, and drink coffee. I also started taking a probiotic VSL#3 which is supposed to help re-colonize your intestinal tract with helpful bacteria that consume oxalates. This definitely helps as much if not more than topical corticosteroid creams for me. I still use them in small amounts as prescribed by my doctor, but it makes a difference while following the diet.

      I eat yogurt cultured with the VSL#3 bacteria every day (I have only been taking the VSL#3 for about a month and a half--and it does seem to make a difference) I still have itching from time to time, but most of the inflamation has gone. I think it is a combination of the diet and the probiotics mostly, although it could just be a fluke--only time will tell. I have had some flare-ups during this process, but in general it is getting steadily better. I started the VSL because of the "Trying Low Oxalates" thread on Yahoo--the science behind the approach they are taking is interesting and makes sense to me. If you haven't yet, I would recommend checking them out. Good luck, I hope you have success--just don't be discouraged if it doesn't happen overnight--it took a couple of months for me to really notice an improvement.

    • profile image

      Joanne Gleich 8 years ago

      Thanks for the info- as you said, time will tell!

    • profile image

      Paleo eater 8 years ago

      Welcome to the paleo way-of-eating! I get lots of tips, and a few recipes from the paleo forums on . Hope this helps you.

    • profile image

      Kara 7 years ago

      I know it's been a year since you first posted this so hopefully your symptoms are still at bay. :)

      I have a full three page lists of low/medium/high oxalate foods and raspberries are on the high oxalate list. You have it listed above as low oxalate.

      I love/adore/cherish raspberries and am curious to know if you have had any problems with them or if they are okay in the small amount you mention. I want the pain to go away, absolutely, but I also want to eat raspberries, even if it's only once a month!!

      I'm also very happy to hear you've had success, I've been trying different treatments for a few years and nothing has really worked. I'm really hoping this new diet does (and the calcium citrate, probiotics, NAG, etc my naturopath has recently got me taking.)

      Any follow-up you have would be great.

    • profile image

      Sara 7 years ago

      Hi Kara--

      In my low oxalate cookbook, raspberries are listed as low to medium oxalate. I ate them pretty regularly in 1/2 cup servings per day with no ill effects.

      I have not updated this in a while, my symptoms got pretty bad about 6 months ago, and nothing seemed to help--so I went to a new doctor who prescribed Clobetasol Proprionate ointment (not cream) and it has helped a HUGE amount. I have tried other cortico-steroids and to be honest had given up on traditional medicine, but she wanted me to try it for a little while and see if it made any kind of difference. I used it twice a day for two weeks, then have cut back to twice a day three days a week for maintenance--if it continues to work, I will cut back even more. I hate the idea of using Corticosteroids because they never worked for me before, but now all of the itching is gone, my skin in recovering, it is amazing--My doctor suggested that the problems I was having with the other creams not working may have been due to the ingredients in the cream--she is the first doctor I have had who suggested an ointment instead of a cream. If you haven't already tried it, I would recommend trying it. I can't believe the difference it has made for me. The best thing is that I can eat anything with no ill effects...I really missed spinach and blackberries--and rhubarb!

    • profile image

      Heidi 5 years ago

      Hi, Sara. Just stumbled upon your page. Are you still using both diets? Have they helped you? I also suffer from vulvodynia (almost 30 years now), but my symptoms have improved about 80% on the low oxalate diet. It has been my life saver. I was a little concerned about you and your commenter who are lamenting not eating blueberries. They are actually low oxalate - 4 mg./half cup. Have you accessed the new lists and all the testing that's been done in the last 4-5 years? Most of the old lists on the internet and even in doctor's offices are wrong. The trying low oxalates group on yahoo has the most up to date list available in their files section. Anyway, I can't express how important a low oxalate diet has been to my health.

      I've been leaning toward a Paleo lifestyle myself, to help combat blood sugar issues. I was already controlling my carboydrate intake a lot, so it's just taking that a little further. I don't think I'll ever totally eliminate dairy, but I'm working on grains.

      Hope you are doing well. Come visit me at:


    • profile image

      Ferdinand 3 years ago

      Hey there,

      I just read your article and I wonder how you are doing by now ? I`d really appreciate an answer ! I also have LS and just started the Paleo diet, I will combine it with the low oxalate diet aswell.. greetings

    • profile image

      Chris 2 years ago


      I'm not sure snow peas are a vegetable, I think it is a legume. This category includes peanuts, soy, beans, chickpeas, lentils, among others.

      I'm pretty sure that legumes should NOT be eaten if one wishes to follow a Paleolithic type diet.

    • profile image

      Sara 2 years ago

      Hi Chris--

      Legumes are a class of vegetable. Snow peas, sugar snap peas and green beans are considered to be fine in the general Paleo community. Whole 30 does of good job of explaining that these are more "pods" than beans.

      The reason beans are left out of the Paleo diet is due to the lectins that are present in them--young sprouts and pods do not have the same high levels of lectins and should be fine. People who lean toward the more Ancestral Health side of the Paleo spectrum often include all sorts of beans in their diet provided they are properly soaked and sprouted first which reduces the amount of lectins.

    • sarahatch profile image

      sarahatch 2 years ago from Seattle

      Update: I follow a Paleo/Primal diet now. I have been able to incorporate many high oxalate foods without any problem now and use Clobetasol proprionate about once a week to control the symptoms of my LS.

    • profile image

      SharonA 11 months ago

      I was diagnosed one month ago and have extensive research. I too use the Clobetasol but twice weekly. My first diagnosis I had five white patches, my checkup one month later after using the Clobetasol and Perrins Complete Creme on opposite days as the Clob, I had one white patch. I never had itching or burning or any of those symptoms to deal with. I'm going to try the Paleo/Low Oxalate Diet and the VSL#3 and see how it goes for one month. I don't know if there will ever be a cure but just controlling will be a relief. Let me know Sara if you are still writing on this blog.


    • sarahatch profile image

      sarahatch 11 months ago from Seattle

      Hi Sharon --

      I only check in here occasionally when I get a comment. It sounds like you are having good results with the club and Person's approach. I think the Paleo diet has helped me a lot, but I have stopped focusing on the low-oxalate part.

      There definitely seems to be some relationship with autoimmune diseases and gut bacteria, and I think that Paleo encourages healthy gut bacteria. There is really a lack of research into LS sadly...

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