If you experience painful sex and/or have been diagnosed with chronic vulvar pain, vulvodynia, or urethritis, the trouble you’re experiencing could be caused by your body’s inability to properly expel oxalates.
Oxalate, aka oxalic acid, is a naturally-occurring substance found in a variety of foods, especially plant foods. A person with optimum digestive health has plenty of good bacteria in their gut to digest and eliminate it harmlessly.
However, if you live with an autoimmune disease or a chronic illness that causes your digestive system to malfunction, oxalates may build up in your system and cause serious health problems.
The most common health problems related to oxalate toxicity (a build-up of oxalate in the system) are kidney stones and vulvodynia.
When Doctors Say “It’s All in Your Head”
If you’re a woman living with mystery symptoms of any kind, including vulvar pain, you’ve likely been dismissed by one or more doctors. These doctors act as though it’s all in your head, they accuse you (either directly or indirectly) of being “afraid of sex”, or they try to put you on an antidepressant.
People with vaginas, regardless of gender identification, rarely feel comfortable seeking answers from their doctors about painful sex, painful urination, or any other type of “down there” issue because their first encounter with a medical specialist on the subject is likely one of disbelief and dismissal.
Sex may be advertised all over the place in America, but God forbid we actually have a conversation about the health of our genitals!
Do You Eat a Healthy Diet Filled With Greens?
If you’re prone to oxalate toxicity, your “healthy” diet could be what’s causing your painful crotch symptoms. Again, in someone with optimum digestion, oxalates pass harmlessly out of the body. In your case, however, something else may be happening.
When the digestive system isn’t able to properly break down oxalates, the crystals they form act like tiny pieces of glass that become lodged in your vaginal tissue and urethra. In addition to being sharp and painful, oxalate is extremely acidic and can cause actual corrosion of the vulvar area!
Vulvar pain associated with oxalate damage is often described as stinging or burning, with a feeling of rawness or irritation.
The Yeast Infection Connection
Many individuals who struggle with vulvodynia also have an overgrowth of a yeast called Candida albicans in their vaginal tract. This can further compound the problems associated with oxalate crystal damage. If you’re prone to vaginal yeast infections as well as painful sex and/or urination, Candida overgrowth may be making the pain even worse.
Studies have shown that anti-fungal treatment to get Candida under control along with a low-oxalate diet can help significantly reduce vulvodynia symptoms.
Symptoms of Oxalate Toxicity
In addition to kidney stones and vulvar pain, there are other symptoms of oxalate toxicity that you should be aware of.
These symptoms include, but are not limited to:
- Burning sensation during urination (rule out bladder infection)
- Burning sensation during bowel movements (rule out digestive disease)
- Digestive malfunction (leaky gut syndrome, IBS, etc.)
- Interstitial cystitis
- Joint pain and inflammation
Vegetarians May Have a Higher Risk of Oxalate Toxicity
People who follow a vegetarian diet must be especially mindful of the amount of oxalates they take in. The two largest culprits for oxalate toxicity among vegetarians are soy protein and spinach. Nuts are also high in oxalates, so, if you’re eating a large spinach salad with soy protein and nuts on a frequent basis, this could be why your nether regions are killing you.
The Calcium Question
When doing research for this article, I came across two completely opposing viewpoints when it comes to calcium. On the one hand, one article warned that high-oxalate foods combined with calcium-rich foods or supplements can create oxalate crystals.
Other articles suggest that using calcium citrate in combination with a low-oxalate diet is one of the most helpful ways to treat kidney stones and chronic vulvar pain.
I would recommend doing your own research when it comes to supplements.
Foods High in Oxalates
A food is considered to be high in oxalates if it contains more than 10 milligrams of oxalates per serving of that food.
Foods high in oxalates include:
- Green pepper
- Dried and canned pineapples
- Black tea
- Dark chocolate
Reduce Your Intake of Oxalates Slowly
If you suspect oxalate toxicity is causing your chronic crotch pain, resist the urge to cut oxalate-rich foods out of your diet completely. This will result in a rapid and unpleasant detox reaction. Instead, reduce your intake slowly and look into natural herbs and supplements that may help you.
Living with vulvodynia is painful, frustrating, embarrassing, and depressing. You’re not alone. I’ve lived with it on and off my entire life. I understand how you feel. I have found that as I get older, my symptoms are more intermittent, but they do seem to return with a vengeance if I eat too many of the foods listed above.
Note: Consider consulting a nutrition expert before beginning a low-oxalate diet as following it incorrectly could lead to nutritional deficiencies.
A low-oxalate diet may not be the miracle solution you’re looking for, but it may be a very good place to start.
Not sure where to start? The Low-Oxalate Anti-Inflammatory Cookbook offers 75 recipes for you to try!