Is Sally K. Norton’s book, Toxic Superfoods, really worth reading? Learn how eating healthy could be making you sick and how to recover!
Recently, I wrote a post about high oxalate foods and why they are problematic. I thought I was eating a healthy gluten-free keto diet packed with lots of fruits and vegetables, nuts, and seeds. I couldn’t figure out why I was plagued by brain fog and fatigue (amongst other health issues). With my organic plant-heavy diet, I should have had vibrant health. Instead, I found myself developing more and more mysterious health conditions.
None of the conventional advice seemed to be working. In a desperate attempt to begin a healing journey, I ditched my habitual diet of leafy greens, chia seeds, chocolate, and almonds and began the carnivore diet. Through experimentation with the carnivore diet, I started developing strange symptoms that, after some research, I attributed to oxalate dumping.
Through investigation online, I came across the perfect book to help me through my struggles, Toxic Superfoods: How Oxalate Overload Is Making You Sick written by Sally K. Norton. I wrote her publisher asking if I could review it, and they generously sent me a digital copy of the book for review.
Who is Sally K. Norton?
Sally K. Norton, MPH holds a nutrition degree from Cornell University and a master’s degree in public health leadership from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Having been a healthy eater all of her life, she was surprised to find herself dealing with health declines.
After suffering from debilitating chronic pain like neck pain and genital pain, she discovered that plant toxins, known as oxalates, were the likely culprits causing all of her inflammation, brain fog, and fatigue. Her daily sweet potatoes weren’t doing her any favors.
On a mission to heal herself and help others heal, she fully researched the subject and began writing the book that was about to change my life!
Her book, “Toxic Superfoods: How Oxalate Overload is Making You Sick-and How to Get Better” was released in January 2023 and it’s available everywhere books are sold. For more information, visit SallyKNorton.com or follow Sally on YouTube and social media. She’s @sknorton and @toxicsuperfoods_oxalate_book (on Instagram), @BeFreeToThrive (on Facebook), and @BetterLowOx (on Twitter.)
Having found what she feels is the key to health, she is very passionate about sharing the message and helping others reach their lifelong health goals. She also chatted with me about the subject. Watch our conversation below.
What are oxalates?
Oxalates are natural chemical toxins found in many common plant foods, including spinach, nuts, and legumes. (For more details about what foods are highest in oxalates, read my post about why oxalates are problematic.) While these so-called superfoods are considered to be health foods by many, consuming too many of them can actually cause chronic health problems.
Modern diets consisting of always-available, out-of-season foods are more consistently high in oxalates.
Those of us who are most health-minded and who have spent years eating a “healthy,” organic plant-heavy diet seem to be the most affected. When we shun animal-based foods and replace them with plant-based protein alternatives like nuts and legumes, we don’t realize that we are overloading on this plant toxin.
How do oxalates cause problems?
Our bodies are good at eliminating small amounts of oxalate, mostly in our urine. Once we reach a certain oxalate load threshold, though, our body begins to store the excess. This is done to protect important organs like our kidneys and liver.
Oxalic acid can bind with calcium and form calcium oxalate crystals that are stored in our tissues, joints, and organs. In our kidneys, they form kidney stones. In this process, it can also cause a mineral deficiency and osteoporosis (by leaching the calcium from bones).
The body also looks for other elimination routes like our eyes, skin, and digestive tract. This can lead to a host of symptoms including digestive distress, chronic joint inflammation, arthritic pain, chronic skin issues (like eczema), dry, red eyes, etc.
Apart from causing inflammation, they can interfere with nutrient absorption and disrupt the gut microbiome causing other gastrointestinal issues. Over time this can lead to issues like leaky gut syndrome, thyroid disorders, chronic fatigue syndrome, autoimmune conditions, sleep disorders, and more.
Because oxalates are problematic, your first instinct may be to completely eliminate them from your diet. Unfortunately, going from a high-oxalate diet to a low-oxalate diet too quickly can cause “oxalate dumping”.
Oxalate dumping is a reaction where oxalates that were stored in your tissues are suddenly released into the bloodstream. This causes a wide range of symptoms like nausea, dizziness, headaches, muscle aches, and joint pain. You can even start having new, more-severe symptoms like the development of kidney stones.
In my case, I started having urinary tract infection symptoms like cloudy urine and painful urination. I also developed hives, dry, red eyes, and pain and inflammation in my face. On the worst days, I got chills and had symptoms of fever but my body temperature was low. While my eczema was progressively getting better, it would go through cycles of worsening. Those bouts of eczema tended to cycle with the other symptoms.
In her book, Norton explains how to transition to a low-oxalate diet slowly and safely so that you can avoid the more severe oxalate dumping symptoms.
What else is covered in the book Toxic Superfoods?
The eye-opening guide covers a wide range of topics related to oxalate overload and how it can affect our health. It discusses the causes of oxalate problems, how to identify them in your diet, how to reduce oxalates, and ways to support detoxification from oxalates.
In her book, Sally provides an extensive list of high-oxalate foods and low-oxalate alternatives, so you can easily make the switch and safely transition to a diet lower in oxalates. The book includes detailed information on which foods to avoid completely, as well as those that can be eaten in moderation. She also provides further insight into why some people are more likely to be affected by oxalates than others.
In addition to the information about diet and lifestyle changes, she includes chapters on supplements that can help support detoxification as well as complementary therapies like sauna therapy and mineral bathing.
Table of Contents
List of Tables xiv
Introduction When Healthy Isn’t 1
Part 1 How Oxalates Harm
- Chapter 1 Health Food or Health Disaster? 9
- Chapter 2 Oxalates Are Weapons for Plants 19
- Chapter 3 How Much Is Too Much? 30
- Chapter 4 Toxic Delusions and Troubling Trends 44
- Chapter 5 The Many Faces of a Poison 76
- Chapter 6 Why Don’t We Know About Oxalate Overload? 84
- Chapter 7 A Confusing Multitude of Symptoms and No Good Tests 93
- Chapter 8 How Your Diet Aggravates Oxalate Overload 106
- Chapter 9 How Oxalate Accumulates 120
- Chapter 10 Symptoms and Syndromes 133
- Chapter 11 Clearing Oxalates from Your Body 160
Part 2 The Low-Oxalate Program
- Chapter 12 Assessing Your Oxalate Health 173
- Chapter 13 A Phased Transition 181
- Chapter 14 Converting Your Diet 196
- Chapter 15 Supporting Your Recovery 225
- Chapter 16 Unbroken 270
What did I learn from Toxic Superfoods?
While I already had read a lot about oxalates during my low-oxalate journey, her book was fundamental in expanding my knowledge on the subject. Her investigations were very in-depth and she shares a lot of information that I hadn’t seen elsewhere. I learned a lot about the history of oxalate issues and how changes in our medical system have led to the ignoring of this serious problem.
Most importantly, I found ways to help prevent and overcome some of the oxalate dumping symptoms that I was experiencing. Through her guidance, I’ve been supplementing with various minerals and B vitamins to help detox more efficiently. My oxalate dumping symptoms are much less severe since I’ve implemented some of her strategies.
Lately, my mood has improved, my sleep has improved, and my skin has cleared.
Should you read it?
I think Sally Norton’s well-researched book is an essential read for health-seekers who think they are eating a healthy diet but find themself with unexplained chronic illnesses. Within it, Norton outlines the connection between oxalate toxicity and a number of health issues, including arthritis, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, kidney stones, gut problems, and more.
The book dives into the scientific data and research that supports the connection between oxalates and poor health. Sally was very thorough in her research and there are more than 50 pages of resources and endnotes where you can check out her resources for yourself! That alone makes it a very valuable resource!
Overall, Toxic Superfoods is a groundbreaking guide to identifying and understanding the impact of oxalates on our health. Not only does it provide detailed information on which foods are highest in oxalates (in comprehensive charts), but it also offers strategies for reducing their intake safely with better alternatives.
This book is an invaluable resource for anyone on a healing journey looking to improve their health by reducing their oxalate intake.