Low Oxalate Eating for Freediving Performance with Sally Norton

 In Best of, Training for Freediving, Travel, Videos, Vlogs

A discussion with Sally Norton and Renee Blundon about oxalates and how they impact freediving and athletic performance.

We will discuss; what ARE oxalates, what foods are they in, how the ‘super foods’ we are consuming may not be so super (!!!), how low oxalate eating can be extremely beneficial for health and athletic performance & recovery AND MORE!

For more info about low oxalate nutrition and/or to set-up a consultation call with Sally Norton, you can check-out her website at: https://sallyknorton.com/


Hello everyone, my name is Renee and I’m here with Sally Norton. I’m a freediver and freediving instructor and I also do coaching, I’m in Dahab, Egypt, and I’ve been wanting to talk to Sally Norton about oxalates.

Ah I recently started a low oxalate diet, high protein diet, which is a little bit different than what most freedivers do. Most freedivers are on more of a vegetarian diet and vegan diet

So carnivore is pretty extreme opposite to what most of my peers around me are doing but what I found in the health benefits of being on carnivore, ah, it’s just out of this world. I’ve been on carnivore now for five weeks, and it’s just the health changes are absolutely mind blowing, so I wanted to set up a call with Sally Norton so we can discuss oxalates, what are oxalates, what are…what food are oxalates found in, because just in my research about it, I noticed that a lot of the foods that freedivers are eating, these like ‘super foods’ are actually high-oxalates, and I don’t even know if people are aware of this.

So what are oxalates, what foods are they in and how in general this can effect freediving performance

And Sally is extremely knowledgeable on this topic, she has over 35 years of experience of education and research, well let’s see, I have all of your credentials written down here.

You hold a bachelors in Science of Nutrition from Cornell, a Masters of Public Health from Chapel Hill, clinical consultant on a team incorporating holistic healing using plants in critically ill patients, a contributing author, and editor, and researcher and a faculty member of the Virginia of Common Wealth University Department of Social and Behavioral Health, so you’re definitely the most knowledgeable person I can think of to talk on this topic, and thank you for being here with me today and taking the time out of your busy schedule. I really appreciate it.

Sally – You’re welcome, it’s great to connect with you. This is exciting to be thinking about plant toxins and sports performance and what diet allows us to not only perform well in sports while we’re young and healthy but also lets us age gracefully and continue to be productive and do things we love to do for our whole live rather than burn out young.

And it turns out that my whole field of nutrition and public health has not been paying attention to the oxalate issue which is a lethal toxin. Oxalic acid, it’s a known lethal toxin, we’ve known that you can die from oxalic acid exposure since the late 1700’s, and the first European studies that were real, what we call, experimental design studies, the first one in toxicology was done on oxalic acid, using animals because so many people were dying accidentally by ingesting oxalic acid by mistake in the early 1800’s.

So this study came out in 1823, and basically just established that how difficult it is to detect the oxalate in the blood and so on, even though somebody or an experiment was on animals, the animal died. The point of the study was to make sure that the coroner who was looking at the corpse of the person who died from taking oxalic acid could be analyzed and studied to be able to conclusively say what killed the person, and in the concern that it would be easy to intentionally kill someone by poisoning them with oxalic acid.

So it was a professor of jurisprudence who was trying to make sure that the coroner would be able to detect murder cases and confirm that it was oxalate that was the murder weapon.

And that was what inspired that study, but that’s a long time ago, and there’s quite a bit of oxalate research and kidney health research because oxalic acid forms a salt called oxalate, oxalate is the acid combined with calcium or magnesium or potassium or sodium or iron or all these other minerals that are electrolytes in the body, connect with oxalic acid and that becomes a salt called oxalate, so oxalates are this family of molecules that can connect with different minerals.

You have calcium oxalate, magnesium oxalate, iron oxalate, these are all oxalates so often we talk about them in the plural, and those salts form crystals just like the salt in your salt shaker. And those crystals can form in the body and grow into stones in the body, like kidney stones. So most of your kidney stones are made from calcium oxalate, 80% of all kidney stones are calcium oxalate.

And it turns out that oxalic acids and the soluble forms of oxalate are produced by plants, abundantly in some plants, so abundantly in many tropical plants, that’s why they’re known to be poisonous. So certain plants you just know to not to eat, right? You grow up knowing that some plants you can’t put into your mouth without harm, and oxalate is one of the big reasons why.

And then the plants that we develop as food plants tend to have lower amounts and some are kind of low, really low, but some that we’re eating are high enough to be trouble, like in England and the northern US, there’s a plant called rhubarb, and the leaves in the rhubarb are so high in oxalate that that’s a known problem in young children who accidentally eat the rhubarb leaves, can die or get severely sick from oxalate poisoning from eating rhubarb leaves. But the stocks of rhubarb that we use in making deserts and things are very high in oxalate and quite toxic.

But that’s also true with sorrel which is popular in Europe and some places in South America as a basic green vegetable. Spinach, swiss chard, beets and beet greens, very high in oxalate. There are fruits that are used as traditional medicines, like star fruit that are famous for causing death and permanent renal damage to people from the oxalic acid.

So there are those higher-end foods that are really high in oxalate, there’s a lot of foods that have a medium amount of oxalates, and there’s some plant foods that are pretty low in oxalates and safe!

And so the idea behind the oxalate aware eating is that you get less chronic poisoning effects if you eat less of the really high oxalate foods.

Unfortunately, a lot of foods that we now call “super foods” are the ones that are really high in oxalates, like the spinach, almonds, chocolate, pomegranate, kiwi, nuts and beans and seeds, turmeric, a lot of that stuff, quinoa, buckwheat, amaranth, these things are high in oxalates.

Renee – Really? So quinoa as well?

Sally – Yeah

Renee – Because quinoa, I would say beets are probably the number one go-to food for a lot of freedivers. I know freedivers, they have beets every morning before their freediving. They have a beet smoothie and spirulina, I’m not sure if spirulina or chlorella…

Sally – Spirulina’s kind of high, chlorella’s not so high but my understanding from the testing we have is that spirulina’s pretty high in oxalate but chlorella not so much, so chlorella would be a safer alternative.

Renee – Wow, because so many freedivers are on a vegetarian or vegan diets that they get their protein from the spirulina or the chlorella as just kind-of a substitute for just not eating meat.

Sally – So they’re eating seaweed basically like fish do, instead of fish.

Renee – Yeah, and for sure definitely chia seeds are really popular

Sally – Very high oxalate

Renee – Wow

Sally – Great way to blow out your kidneys, yah and your digestive tract, and potentially your liver, heart and lungs, and ultimately leach the bones in the long run

Renee – So does it have any short term, like immediate benefits as far as health improvement? And then negative longer term health benefits, or is it just kind of like all bad?

Sally – Are you talking about oxalates or the foods that have oxalates in them?

Renee – Like if you were to have beets or spinach or chia seeds, I’m just wondering because these foods got such a reputation in the world of freediving that I’m wondering if they showed any immediate health benefits or improvement in performances, but in the long term it creates negative effects

Sally – Yeah so there is no study that you could cite that took a bunch of people and gave them chia bowls for breakfast and then tested their performance against the people who weren’t doing chia bowls and chia smoothies for breakfast, so there’s no way to know from that kind of way.

And the other thing is that, people who are choosing to eat these foods are otherwise very careful with their health, they’re not smokers, they don’t drink a lot, they go to bed early, they try to exercise, they try to be good, they are aware of air quality and things like that and so they’re not trashing their health in general, and when you first go on these super food diets, it has the function like fasting and starvation in a way, where at first you get the benefits of not eating a lot of protein and nutrients, there’s sort of, in the beginning, probably a hormetic stress reaction where that stresses the body out enough that it starts healing itself, and you think those foods are healing you. But it’s more that they’re annoying your system enough that the system responds with its own inherent ability to be strong and heal itself.

And that’s a difficult concept for some people, but it’s the same way that medicine works, where it’s a little bit toxic, and that’s how medicine might trigger a response in the body to heal itself. That’s how cryotherapy works, where you basically get almost close to freezer burn, you get nice and cold, and it’s a shock to the system and the body responds and it starts healing itself, it changes the brain chemistry and you feel happier, more energetic and alive. And with something like cold therapy, that’s a very controlled exposure, you go to a cryo chamber for 3 minutes or you get into an ice bath for 3 minutes, and then you’re done.

But with food and toxins in food, day in and day out, meal after meal, that’s just wearing you out. And in the beginning it might feel okay, most people feel pretty good when they start vegan diets and super food and there’s a lot of reasons to feel good, it’s not just that you’re triggering your body to heal itself and fight back and repair but also the social support, there’s so much social noise around the idea of super foods that you believe in it so much that that’s called the placebo effect. When there’s a lot of reinforcement from the social world that you’re in and a lot of personal buy-in to those ideas, you get a placebo effect which is, placebos is very real, it’s another way of tricking your metabolism into being the best it can be.

But in the meantime, this sub-lethal exposure is having non-lethal effects that are degrading your health over the long run and there are often zero symptoms for a long time, until things get sort of stage four or advanced stage when something really serious is happening, all of a sudden all that coping your body is doing collapses.

Renee – Wow and so would you say that it’s almost near impossible to be completely super healthy if you’re on a vegetarian or vegan diet? And I’m not sort of trying to throw those under the bus, but is it even possible to live, like is there enough low oxalate foods that you could be vegetarian or vegan?

Sally – Well, you know it depends on the goal. If you want to get rid of your aches and pains and feel better and sleep better then you can just switch from high oxalate foods, it’s a little tricky because so many of the grains and beans are high in oxalate, you’d need to live on refined white rice for starch and use potato starch to thicken a sauce and so on, and you still gonna be on kind of a high carb and you’re really at risk for incomplete proteins, and fat soluble nutrients are very low on a vegetarian diet so, but you could stay vegan and switch from say spinach and beats and quinoa to white rice and cabbage and some other foods and really help sleep and aches and pains and reduce the development of arthritis and maybe slow down the development of osteoporosis and other loss of electrolytes, and reduce the amount of inflammation and free radicals in the body and feel better!

And so that’s a great place to start and it’s still a big deal metabolically to shift from a high oxalate diet that’s full of pomegranates and quinoa and almond butter and nut snacks and nut bars, and beets and spinach smoothies, all that stuff is really really together, creates a very toxic situation in the body, and you really can’t tell for a long time and then we see this even in the genetic form of oxaluria, the disease that can kill people because they’re producing oxalate internally to a level that’s toxic.

Those people often show up all of a sudden with complete renal failure or in terrible conditions with fairly few symptoms beforehand, so it’s known even in the most extreme cases you might not have symptoms. But you could just stay vegan if you wanted less aches and pains and better bones and a better shot at health, you could do that.

But if you really want to optimize your current and long-term health and potential for performance and really be able to push your body and become athletic and perform well, either at work or at school or in athletic endeavor, you would want to have better nutrition than what you can get from a vegan diet or even a vegetarian diet. It’s very hard to get some critically important fat soluble vitamins, minerals, the stuff in vegetables are kind of bound to fibers and in forms that your body has to transform in order to come up with the nutrients.

So you have to be able to digest the stuff, you have to be able to extract it from the digestive tract, and absorb it, then you have to be able to transform it into a nutrient that the cells recognize. The nutrients in plants are not the same form that we need for our cells. So people think that retinol and beta keratin is vitamin A, it’s not, it’s not at all the same chemically and it’s bound up with fibers and you just using a lot of fibers in plant foods to be in a slightly starved state. Now there’s a benefit to be slightly starved, in, they show that calorie restriction has some benefits for longevity.

The problem is that if you’ve got this low grade deficiency happening and you’re eating deficient foods and you’re eating the toxins with deficient foods, like oxalate, you’re gonna end up both toxic and deficient and that’s how we turn it into cancer or early aging. I just know, I was a vegetarian for 8 years in my youth and then I was vegan for 8 years, so I had 16 years of this to destroy my own health. And I’m now 55 years old and it took me until 48 to figure out I still was not on a good diet having added meat, because I was still doing sweet potatoes almost every day.

Renee – Yeah sweet potatoes are a really common food here. A lot of freedivers are eating those left and right, I myself included, I used to eat them all the time.

Sally – Yeah they’re easily like a bread, they’re easy to prepare

Renee – Yeah and you think they’re healthy

Sally – Yeah I used to tell everybody to eat sweet potatoes because they’re a low allergen food, I knew I had all this inflammation and I was getting really hyper-reactive to all the foods, and this is one of the side effects of too much oxalate in your body, damage your immune system and your immune system starts to be hyper-reactive to everything and it gets to be like you can’t eat anything, and you’re more and more allergic to stuff and have all these intolerances and bad reactions to either environmental chemicals, fragrances, pollen, foods you’re eating and you get more and more, like frail almost or like just super sensitive and that’s your immune system being constantly aggravated and triggered.

The oxalate is, whether it’s an ion, or the ions pull together as these molecules that pool together into nanocrystals so, nanocrystals are so small, they’re smaller than a fat molecule, they’re really, really little, but they’re highly charged and reactive and quite toxic. And nanocrystals of oxalic acid, oxalate, calcium oxalate is the typical one, so calcium oxalate nanocrystals are just as toxic as asbestos, ok, or silica, silica causes black lung disease, that’s what kills the coal miners in the coal mining industry, it’s very toxic, and so when you’re eating a lot of high oxalate foods like beats and spinach and almonds and quinoa, you are basically eating stuff that becomes asbestos to your cells, and when the cells encounter these crystals, they freak out, they’re like oh my gosh this is dangerous, because it causes a depolarization of the membrane, they get leaky, they start spilling their potassium, and you start losing potassium and the body starts getting acidic.

The mitochondria are a membrane structure, they stop working as well, some of their enzymes that run the energy production cycle in the mitochondria start getting lost and can’t function as well, and you get less ATP produced, so way less energy and you get a lot of fatigue from this inflammation and that’s because the crystals are causing this damage to the mitochondrial membrane, the mitochondria start dying, and if there’s enough of it, it takes about a third of the mitochondria and the whole cell dies.

You don’t notice that one or two cells died or a few hundred thousand of them died because you have gazillions of cells, right, so this could be going on in the background, you’ve got low grade inflammation, you’re producing less ATP in a certain tissue, and it depends on what tissue is getting exposed to the oxalates.

Now of course if you’re eating it in food, your mouth tissues get exposed to it, your throat, your stomach, your small intestines, your large intestines, your rectum, your anus, the whole digestive system, and you can tell, I mean there are studies of either case studies and so on, you get this micro bleeding, very small GI bleeds, inflammation and corrosion in the digestive tract known with oxalic acid poisoning, and people that get in trouble.

I have clients that, I had someone yesterday, bring me pictures of her whole stomach top to bottom, the mucosa is a mess! It looks like she’s got these little cancers and it’s a mess, and it’s probably because of years of veganism, then she went into paleo, then she went into keto and was eating a lot of nuts. And the keto diet people start substituting bread and carbohydrates for, now they’re doing almonds and nuts a lot.

And the almonds and nuts are full of other plant chemicals that are hard on the system, they’re designed to be hard on your system because nuts, designed by nature, they’re a seed like other seeds, grains are the same way, beans are the same way, they’re seeds.

The seeds of the plant is the baby, that’s the next generation, so the plant’s plan is to trick you to help them move the seeds around, get you to eat the fruit or whatever, and then you’re supposed to leave that seed behind in your feces, ready to germinate next year. You’re supposed to poop out an undigested seed, they’re designed to be not digestible.

They’re also full of other toxic minerals and other toxic compounds, but nuts and seeds are not meant to be digested, they’re designed that way, and in the process of them being indigestible, they’re quite corrosive to the gut, but oxalates alone is enough, and you can get rid of the oxalates through soaking or cooking and all of that which you can reduce lectins and the enzyme inhibitors, the phytage and you can reduce them with long soaking, 3 to 3-1/2 days, plus heavy cooked, like with beans you have to, and lectins, you have to use a pressure cooker to get enough heat to kill the lectin which is a protein that is a gut damaging plant compound.

Most of these plant compounds are gut damaging so with oxalate it’s a much bigger story than all that because oxalate easily floats into your bloodstream, and from your digestive tract it goes straight to your liver, and oxalate in the liver can’t fix it, there’s no metabolic way for the body to change oxalate, all it can do is move it around and excrete it, and ultimately it’s heading for the kidneys and we pee it out of our kidneys, and sometimes you can tell, that you’re peeing a lot of oxalates because when it’s a lot you get more and more crystals coming out in the urine, unless your kidneys are so full of oxalates that they almost block the passage of the oxalate.

If you’re really sick with oxalate in your body, you no longer see the oxalate in the urine anymore, it gets trapped in the body because the kidneys aren’t working well and the kidneys are full of calcium oxalate, and so it becomes a filter and it keeps building up in the kidney and can’t even pass through the kidneys. And also when the body’s got this acidosis what happens as a result of spilling all these electrolytes, the kidneys also lose their ability to excrete the oxalate.

But let’s just say you’re not that sick with oxalate, you just love Nutella or your quinoa for lunch and your chia pudding for breakfast, so you’re just doing that amount, and you might see crystally urine, and the way you can tell is the urine is cloudy.

Renee – ok

Sally – That’s an important thing for people to look for, if you get cloudy urine more than once in a blue moon, that’s a sign that you probably have too much oxalate in your body and probably too much in your diet.

Renee – ok

Sally – So that would be something for people to know about.

Renee – To just pay attention to.

Sally – Yeah, pay attention to the urine, and when it’s cloudy that means that a lot of oxalate is moving around in your body. And you might be able to notice that, it’s cloudy after a day when you kind of had a headache or you felt fatigued or you weren’t so motivated or you’re, whatever you tried to do that day just didn’t go as well as you thought it would.

Or you started dropping things, you became uncoordinated, that’s some of the changes in the neurological function of the central nervous system, the brain, the spinal cord, and the nerves themselves, you kind-of lose your eye-hand coordination when you’re toxic with oxalates when it’s moving around, and you’re more likely to be clumsy and drop stuff and be headachy or have a bad memory, or be irritable or grumpy or depressed or feeling unmotivated, a lot of that is neurotoxicity and the oxalate’s quite hard on the nervous system so your judgment and performance can go down and your general happiness as well.

Renee – For sure your freediving performance, I think will get affected.

Sally – For sure.

Renee – Without a doubt.

Sally – For sure. Yes so there might be short term effects with oxalate but often you don’t notice it, it’s more the insidious constant erosion of the health of the system, your ability to generate energy, your ability to hang onto your electrolytes, you can be slowly developing mineral deficiencies in the bones, because what happens is you absorb the oxalate, or the oxalic acid in the form of potassium oxalate or sodium oxalate, those are soluble forms, and the oxalic acid in the potassium molecule easily break apart in the liquid of the blood and will, the oxalic acid side of that, salt will pick up calcium or magnesium or iron.

And so it starts grabbing these things, or they go for it, and you get these insoluble oxalate salts in the form of crystals in the blood that are toxic but at the same time you’re draining your system, you’re basically stealing iron, calcium and magnesium from your blood. And in cases of direct poisoning we see it takes easily two days for the calcium levels to come back up, and how do you get your calcium levels back up?

Renee – So this probably explains why, oh sorry I didn’t mean to interrupt, there’s a little bit of a delay sometimes.

But this probably explains why supplementation, so many people, especially on a vegetarian or even an ordinary diet, why they have to supplement, because, I mean you should’ve seen all the supplements I had, that I boxed up when I went on carnivore, I mean with the amount of vitamin c, the magnesium, all the iron tablets, B1, B6, I could give you a list like 100 items long of all the supplements that I was taking to try to boost up the red blood cells and the iron, I was very anemic, and just to try and get the blood healthier for A health and B to perform for freediving. You need to have red blood cells in order to hold your breath for a long time, so…

Sally – You sure do, you see that’s interesting because you had the blood work and you were seeing low blood values, your red blood cells weren’t healthy, your iron levels weren’t healthy, you probably didn’t have quite enough red blood cells even though you do all this athletic training which is supposed to increase all that.

But if you don’t have the nutrients and basically the ingredients to build healthy tissues including your blood tissue then your body can only do so much, it can’t magically create something out of nothing. And unfortunately, even in synthetic  vitamins, in a way, are sort of nothing because we have to take it at like 1,000 times the RDA in order to get enough out of it, because, probably because those synthetic forms are not as well loved by the body.

Just like the plant forms are not in the right form, the forms that you can stabilize with supplements and put in with fillers and stuff, are obviously not as effective as the nutrients that are in flesh foods.

Flesh foods, like meat and fish, and various body parts of the animals, the milk, the cheese, those are the form of a mammal or a fish and those are something that our body recognizes, it’s the form that was active in that tissue that’s the same that we need.

Animals are animals and we have the same animal type metabolism and so it’s just easier for the body to get the nutrients it needs from the animal foods. And the animal foods don’t have oxalate, lectins, tannins, you know, emulsifiers, all these things that plants need for their metabolism, plants have a totally different kind of world they live in because they have to be making, they make energy from sunlight, they stand in one place, they need to be able to stand up without bones, and they do all kinds of cool things, with chemistry!

Renee – So would you recommend that, not even just for freediving, but just for general health, that meat would be one of the best foods you can eat that’s low oxalate and very nutrient dense?

Sally – Oh definitely. And not everybody’s ready to hear that, and so, you can still improve your diet by being aware of plant toxins, and so at the least if someone, one of your listeners, a vegetarian, a vegan, and they’re not feeling great, the first thing they have to do is admit to themselves that they don’t feel as good as they want to feel. And that they’re becoming really dependant on supplements. And continue looking for the next vegan answer for why they don’t feel good and excuses for carrying on to something that’s not making them feel well, it’s so out of, now it’s so popular to do vegetarian diets that it’s hard to even notice the connection between ‘Oh I got an pneumonia last year, oh my shoulder hurts, oh I’m tired’ with the fact that you’re not getting enough nutrients from your diet, or there’s something in your diet that’s irritating your body.

It’s very hard for people to see that and partially because you feel pretty good in the beginning and so you assume that everything’s great and there’s all this reassurance, but the truth is that our ecological niche in the species on the planet is hunter.

We really are, we are meant to hunt, that’s just our role that was laid out for us in our biology and that’s a long history of genetic evolution. The reason why we have big brains, we stand up-right, we have great grips, we can throw spears, we can communicate, and make knives with stones, and do all the things we do, built tools, and have a small digestive tract, because we can externalize the digestion with cooking and eating animal proteins takes very little digestion if they’re not overheated and processed, and more raw and rare an animal protein, it’s just much easier for the body to digest and simulate that.

And that’s just the way our physiology is. We’re not, we don’t have a big room in to digest cellulose like a cow, we don’t have a big colon like a gorilla to extract nutrients from plants, we’re really meant to eat cooked foods or any form of animal foods, and that’s kind of a surprise to people, but if we just realize that we’ve always been hunters, until technology and capitalism and industrialism put us into small tight urban spaces, and profits were available through growing grains and things like potatoes very cheaply, you can grow a lot of potatoes in a small amount of land very cheaply and feed more people inexpensively and build an economy of affluence based on cheap food. And now we just think if we had fortification to cheap low quality food that we’re not meant to eat, that we’re getting away with it, but we’re not getting away with it!

If we are, then everyone wouldn’t be diabetic and fat and we wouldn’t have medical facilities on every corner, we wouldn’t have so many people needing dialyses, and alzheimer’s and autism and all these diseases that are becoming so normal. That’s not normal! Health is our norm. The day says that we’re doing something wrong.

Renee – Yep, definitely makes sense, I mean the health benefits that I experienced, even after just now five weeks being on the carnivore diet, for those who don’t know, carnivore diet is where, well, you’re just eating animal products, animal meat, the muscle meat, the organs, the…basically from nose to tail, and that’s pretty much it, meat and chicken and eggs, although I eat mostly just the red meat now at the moment, but the benefits that I’ve noticed, like the health improvements, are just like absolutely mind blowing, all the stomach aches completely gone, I was always clearing my throat for years and years since as long as I can remember, that’s gone, so no most nasal drip anymore, I was always fatigued, very, very fatigued all the time, and headaches, really bad headaches

Just an overall feeling of unwell. And I could never really get to the bottom of it, what was causing it. And to top it off a myriad of health issues, like first getting a cold and then skin infections on my feet where I couldn’t even walk, joint pain, inflammation in the joints for sure.

I mean everyday it was something else, and now, since even three weeks into the carnivore diet, every single health issue completely disappeared, completely. Which is just unbelievable, also like much better mentally, much more focused, much more motivated, depression like zero at all, so for sure this is definitely better for me, I can only speak for myself, because maybe it’s not for everyone. But for sure I will be staying on a mostly meat diet from here on, I mean I would like to incorporate some other foods at some point, but for now I will just stick with what’s working.

But I have a lot of people writing me concerned about the diet that I’m on, because of the freediving aspect. Like one message I got, and this is a typical message, I’ve gotten maybe 20 of these kinds of messages, from freedivers from all over the world, just honestly just really concerned, someone wrote me:

‘The reason why so many freedivers don’t use the carnivore keto diet, is that fats and proteins burn more O2 than carbs, the rapid weight loss, your body losing water weight, it will boost hemoglobin and red blood cells’

For those who haven’t been following my Instagram and Facebook posts, my blood cell count like for the hematocrit and every other value on the blood chart all went up, so my blood is like booming right now with oxygen and red blood cells, so anyway, he’s proposing that the rapid weight loss is my body losing water weight, it will boost hemoglobin and red blood cells because you are eating meat and the concentration is high, however this is the ideal diet for long distance runners, not for anaerobic, carbs consume the least amount of O2′ so he’s really proposing a carbohydrate diet, and like I said this isn’t the first person writing me this, proposing carbs as the best diet basically also saying that there’s squeeze issues from people on keto carnivore diets.

So that’s like the typical mainstream thought about carnivore and keto and well paleo diets for freediving, is that it’s just not good, but it’s hard for me to believe that it’s not good when I feel amazing and if you just look at the numbers of the blood, the blood is like a million times healthier. I’m definitely a million times healthier. So I can’t imagine this isn’t going to help my performance, and just my health, in general

Sally – Yeah so there’s a lot in that, that’s really great. I think that I think in those concerns from people there’s a lot of mush. They’re not really defining what they mean by carnivore keto and a full carnivore diet is defined by Shawn Baker and Amber O’hearn and the people who are really living on just meat which is just shocking to the modern year.

We’ve been on a plant based diet for like 400 years, and we’re all on a plant based diet, we all have plant centric eating. The idea of meat centric eating is, was shocking even a couple hundred years ago, when explorers were encountering cultures that were still doing meat-only-eating like in Alaska, they live on caribou, seal blubber and whale blubber and mostly like 80% marine fats, some fish and a lot of caribou.

And those people were happy and really healthy and sturdy, but they didn’t do well when canned foods and flour got introduced and they started, just like the native Americans and where the US is now, they’ve been taken from their traditional diet that was centered on hunting, to eating white flour fried in scrap fats, and that’s considered a quote traditional food now, so we’re really confused about foods and about terms we’re using, and there’s not enough people who have been on full carnivore long enough to be able to say that it harms your dive performance, that’s just somebody making something up.

I mean you can’t say that, there isn’t enough people living on pure meat and are real divers or athletically performing, that no one’s pulled them together and said ‘they don’t do as well as the people living on chia seeds’. That’s just making stuff up, that’s lack of curiosity.

People are devoted to a 30 year old concept of high carbs are needed for all forms of athletic performance, you can come up with any kind of metabolic theory you want, but theory does not match from real life. In real life we need you and maybe another 50 other people like you to really do a full this or that and truly compare your performance, and I think comparing your performance with your own performance; your blood values, your ability to dive, your recovery, how long you can stay down, all those things, that’s the real world, and so let’s pull the other real world stuff before you eliminate a possibility like ‘well maybe cutting out plant foods has therapeutic value and can improve your performance’ Rather than saying ‘Oh that can’t happen’ Why don’t you try it!

Renee – Yeah, exactly

Sally – What’s important is being open to learning and growing, rather than keeping human beings stuck. Right now we’re in an era where a lot of our institutions are stuck from that very kind of thinking.

We will put something down and deny it’s potential value without actually looking into it. And we’re doing that in science, we’re doing that in education, and we’re doing that in the economies and we’re doing that in how we lay out our roads and sidewalks, I mean we’re just staying stuck in our old thinking and we’re not moving forward and I think that’s really problematic.

Do you want to think well, you need to open up your mind. And yes it’s shocking to imagine you’re only eating meat, but it’s a worthy experiment to do because human beings used to do that. When we were hunters we’d often lived on just meat, especially in cold climates or during the cold time of the year, there just wasn’t enough edible plants around.

Human beings had to develop edible plants to build a plant based diet. But for the most part if you just go out into the woods in North America you got pine cones and pine needles and some toxic weeds, and not a lot there that you can eat that’s plant based.

We had to develop potato species, we had to develop greens and develop these things and develop techniques for how to prepare them and that’s all technology. Hunting and eating meat is pre-technology human survival and that’s where we evolved the big brains, we evolved language, we evolved into cultures, and so you can’t on the face claim that eating only meat is bad for you if that’s what you evolved from.

And so people, want to use modern science theory like how much oxygen you consume based on what fuel you’re burning, that’s a very limited view that’s probably blinding you to a bigger part of the physiology. It’s really better to look in toto, like a whole person’s performance, rather than think about O2 consumption based on lab values in a certain context. The context changes when you change your whole diet away from all plant toxins, or lower carbs and no plant toxins like in the carnivore, that’s a different metabolic context, never been studied, so you can’t say anything about it, but you could potentially study it, and so being open to the question and being open to the study of it, that’s where something cool could happen.

Renee – Yeah, definitely, I think so, I’m gonna experiment on myself for sure, so, and what do you think, if someone is on a low oxalate diet, now freediving, it tends to take a heavy toll on the immune system especially when you’re doing deep dives, it’s very easy to get sick in the next days, so do you think a low oxalate diet would help the recovery from these deep dives which can really deplete your immune system and also release free radicals into the blood?

Sally – With no question. When you’ve got a lot of free radicals and inflammation going on, you have more internal production of oxalates. You’ve already got too much oxalates in the system just because the metabolic hit that you’ve taken from that stress.

And you add more food oxalate to that internal production, we know this because there’s a disease where people produce too much internally, and that just makes everything worse and so you have a decay of your basic functions for elimination with the kidney and other elimination glands, you have, you’re harming your digestive tract and its ability to get nutrients.

You’re also now adding a toxin that’s causing additional inflammation that’s also getting stuck in the body. The big story with oxalates is how much of it is getting stuck in the body, that medicine has kind of forgotten about or overlooked because it’s suddle, but where it gets stuck in the body is anywhere you’ve got inflammation or injury or infection.

Those cells are trying to rejuvenate, as they try to regenerate themselves, so you get cellular damage from the freedive, those cells now have to rejuvenate. The replenishing cells have a slightly different structure on them because they’re gonna have to move and they do different things and they’re signaling other cells around them that what they’re doing, and they do that by having these carbohydrate molecules on the proteins in the cell membranes.

So these rejuvenating cells have a lot of sort of fluffy stuff on their outsides, that’s sugary, and that’s where the oxalates will get stuck. It’ll also get stuck on any tissue that’s depleted in glutathione, and you’re gonna deplete a lot of glutathione on a dive. So any cell that’s depleted in glutathione cannot protect itself from the free radical creation that oxalates will cause. So it’s gonna get more injured by that oxalate after a dive.

You’re also gonna see that those tissues that are already dead or dying, they can’t defend themselves because they’re dead or dying. They don’t have any mechanism left to get rid of the oxalates, so the oxalates get stuck in the injured tissue, the rejuvenating tissue, and it starts to kill off those cells that got depleted in glutathione, and can’t put together that self-defense anymore. So you’re causing additional destruction and your ability to recover and heal tissues and seriously delay, and if you keep eating oxalate you can end up with scar tissue in those tissues instead of working tissue and have a long-term sort of semi recovery.

So if you literally break a bone or injure a tendon or literally have physical damage to cells, that can stick around as some degree of fibrosis, because there’s oxalate crystals stuck in those tissues indefinitely because you keep eating them.

So this accumulation thing, that only keeps your tissues from having integrity, but it creates long-term problems with the integrity of those tissues and it becomes more easy to injure them with some other way.

So the injury may’ve started with freediving but later on you stepped funny off your step out the front door and you’ve injured your ankle and you’re frail. And so you’re really setting yourself up for becoming more frail and injureable. But also when you’re not eating all the oxalate then your body wants to clean out these deposits from these injured tissues from these areas that got injured. And that’s a lot of work. The body now has to produce like a micro surgery to get the stuff out of there and that causes additional inflammation and tissue damage so even when you stop eating oxalate and you go…

Renee – Are you there, sorry you cut out there just at the end.

Sally – I think if this raises questions with people, that the key thing that people need to understand that if you have been eating a lot of chia seeds you could create a vulnerablity in those tissues

Renee – Oh so that might help explain a little bit why this squeeze issue, a lot of freedivers I know have experienced lung barotraumas or ‘squeezes’ as we call them, so maybe that can help explain why once someone has a squeeze, a lung squeeze, it keeps kind-of coming back

Like it seems like every time if they go past a certain depth, the squeeze returns, again and again. And I know some freedivers now, they can’t even dive more than 20 meters without squeezing when they used to be an extremely deep freediver.

Sally – I think lungs are very vulnerable, to oxalate.

Renee – Do you think the oxalates are kind of accumulating?

Sally – Yeah, yip, it’s very serious

Renee – And preventing the injury from closing all the way or properly healing?

Sally – Well you know your oxalate exposure for your diet is probably quite variable, but if someone with that injury were to work their way down to a low oxalate diet and stick with it for long enough, eventually they could probably recover their ability to dive, but it might take 5 or 10 years to really clean out the lungs. It takes a long time for the tissues to clean up the mess.

So you’d be better off with prevention. Prevention’s really good when it comes to oxalates, you really do not want to wait until your system’s completely toxic with this gradual build-up.

Renee – Ok.

Sally – And it’s really great news, because here you are feeling better fairly quickly but you yourself may end up with some periods and days when the oxalates are moving around and trying to come out and those would be days to not dive.

Renee – Oh I see, and is there any way to know which days the oxalates, like is there any sort of way to measure?

Sally – There isn’t a really objective way to measure, it’s more subjective. Right now oxalate is hard to measure, it requires careful techniques. It’s not fully understood. The way that it’s coming out maybe it’s just pushing its way out through the mucous, so you might have a day where you’ve got more mucous and more tarter on the teeth because it’s coming out through the saliva glands, or have little panic attacks and funny neurological things.

So when you’re not feeling well, that might mean your body’s doing maintenance and repair work today and needs a break.

Renee – Ok, and so that’s called the oxalate dumping?

Sally – Yeah, Susan Owens coined it that term, working with autistic families and they saw this when they went on a low oxalate diet, they started seeing rashes and funny behaviors and all kinds of crazy symptoms. And some of that’s because as they’re moving out they’re causing additional loss of potassium which causes acidosis, you get these neurological effects, you get these skin effects, you get this fatigue and headaches and neurological central nervous system effects so that could be, that’s a time so add some salt, add some potassium, take lemon juice, get some citrates, there’s ways we can support the body, potassium bicarbonate, taking some epsom salt baths with potassium bicarbonate, there’s lots of things we can do to help correct the acidosis, restore the potassium, the sulfur, the calcium, the magnesium, so there’s a whole set of therapies to get the electrolytes right so that this clean-up process doesn’t cause additional loss and destruction of tissue.

Renee – Ok, that also explains, actually that’s how I found out about you because after having some steak and drinking the broth from the steak, I was like sweating and getting really really hot, and so I sent a message to Emma Farrell who’s the one who kind of turned me on to the carnivore diet and she’s like ‘that’s the oxalates coming out!’ and she’s like ‘look up Sally Norton’ so that’s how I found your name, so yeah when you start the carnivore diet and start going into these sort of, it feels like you have a hot flash

Sally – Yes, I have several clients with hot flashes from this and it’s freaky!

Some of them they get this sudden running of the eyes, it’ll be gritty fluid coming out, there’s a million symptoms of the system going through these clearing reactions.

I’m still having them 5-1/2 years later, only now I know how to manage them and I have a lot less, way less, oxalate in my system, and I function a lot better, but it’s still going on, still, but now I read and function and work

Renee – so it starts a lot in the beginning and then it still keeps going on as the body keeps dumping the oxalates

Sally – The body keeps healing, it keeps deeper and deeper levels of healing, down in the bones, the tendons, the joints, the joint capsules, the cartilage, there’s all kinds of places for oxalate to hang out, in the saliva glands, in the teeth, in the face, in your elbow or something if you do tennis, whatever body part has a lot of wear and tear…and gradually, it takes 7 or something years for your body to turn over…

Sally – If it all moved at once you’d be deathly ill, you’d lose your kidneys, you’d be on dialysis, so gradual is okay because it still means that you get plagued with these little spells while your body’s healing, so it’s really crazy but it’s the way it is

Renee – But it’s a step in the right direction

Sally – It’s fabulous, I mean can’t you tell, we feel better from not eating oxalates anymore

Renee – Yeah, I mean it’s really incredible

Sally – It’s great to hear this information, because people don’t have this information yet and they, you know, the wise person looks for areas where they can protect themselves from toxins and is willing to step around them and oxalates is a fairly easy thing to do.

Most people say it’s the easiest type of diet they’ve ever done and because it’s very flexible, you can avoid oxalate even if you’re still vegan, but you have to be careful to not go too fast, jumping straight into a full meat diet it’s a little too sudden, and those hot flashes and things can be severe for people who are really in bad shape so, you know, you gotta be careful.

Renee – So for vegans and vegetarians, would you suggest they kind of ease into it, just start by introducing meat, I mean if they want to, just start introducing it kind of slowly

Sally – Yeah, you know the meat introduction is always helpful because you’re going to get more of the missing B vitamins, you’re very deficient in B6 and B1 and those are really important with the oxalate situation, and biotin, and if you’re willing to take some desiccated liver or get some cod liver, canned cod liver, actually not the oil but the actual cod liver, those are like vitamin pills for the body so that might be helpful in moderation, but too much of that can encourage this clean-up because the body suddenly says ‘Oh I’ve got some vitamins now, I can do some work’ and you don’t want to get that going too fast. You want it to be very slow, behind the scenes, so you don’t realize your body’s healing, so you have to be careful.

If someone’s quite sick, has a lot of cloudy urine issues, has issues, they should get personal attention and learn the deeper stuff.

Renee – Ok, wow, well I know we’re a little bit over time and sorry for that, I really appreciate your time, it means a lot

Sally – I hope it was helpful.

Renee – Extremely helpful, extremely helpful

Sally – Good

Renee – And I hope we can talk again soon.

But yeah it’s been really yeah incredible learning about low oxalates diets and just how these super foods, that we think are well super foods are actually doing more harm than good

Sally – They really are

Renee – Yea

Sally – So congratulations to you and you’re obviously a good coach because you want your students to succeed, and you’re seeing how certain things we’re doing are getting in our own way, and you’d like to point them in a better direction

Renee – Yea definitely, so this has been really great and I hope we can talk again soon

Sally – We will, definitely, very good

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