There are so many different dietary protocols out there it can be overwhelming…
Do eat avocados because they’re anti-inflammatory…
Don’t eat avocados because they can trigger a histamine response…
Go plant based… go carnivore… do this, do that.
The reality is we overcomplicate things.
There’s no magic, ‘one size fits all’ diet.
Different foods and ingredients will impact people differently. We all have unique genetics, microbiomes and environments to contend with.
So please don’t feel overwhelmed by the possibility of yet another possible intolerance. You may have it, you may not.
The good news is that by learning about it, and running a few simple tests to see what works for you, you can find out for sure – and hopefully feel better in the process.
And remember, even if you do have a specific food sensitivity it may not be forever. Many people find that if they stay strict about cutting out trigger foods, and give their bodies and microbiomes time to re-calibrate, they can safely reintroduce foods in the future.
What are salicylates?
Salicylates are a type of chemical compound that are found naturally in certain plants.
They’re there to help protect these plants against diseases, insects, fungi, and harmful bacteria.
You’ll find them in a variety of foods, including fruits, vegetables, and spices. They are also a key ingredient in aspirin and a number of other pain-relief medications.
For some people, eating salicylates can trigger an adverse response. This is what’s known as salicylate intolerance or sensitivity.
One study estimates that around 2 – 22% of people have a salicylate sensitivity.
Salicylate sensitivity symptoms
Salicylate intolerance can manifest in a range of symptoms.
These can have an impact on sufferers both physically and mentally.
Here are some of the best documented physical symptoms:
🔻 Skin rashes, hives or eczema
🔻 Nasal congestion / stuffy nose
🔻 Inflammatory issues like gastritis
Psychologically, symptoms can include:
🔻 Mood swings
🔻 Difficulty focusing
If you have a salicylate intolerance you may have one or more of these symptoms.
But bear in mind that these symptoms are not always exclusive to salicylate intolerance. As you may have noticed they can overlap with a number other conditions.
For example a histamine or oxalate intolerance may produce similar symptoms.
That’s why figuring out if you have a salicylate intolerance can sometimes make diagnosis challenging at first.
How to find out if you have a salicylate sensitivity
If you suffer from any of these symptoms, and think that it could be a salicylate sensitivity, the best thing to do (as long as it is safe to do so) is run a simple test.
Eliminate foods from your diet which are typically high in salicylates and see what (if any) impact this has on your day to day life.
Set aside a fixed amount of time, at least a few weeks, and keep detailed records of what you eat and your symptoms each day.
Things may get worse before they get better, that’s a common thread with food intolerances.
If you do find a relief in symptoms after a few weeks then it may be that you do have sensitivity to salicylates.
(Tip: Always keep an open mind. Many of the foods and symptoms overlap with other intolerances, so it may be that you have one or more sensitivities to work on).
Once you have got to a baseline ‘normal’ you can try reintroducing foods one by one.
So, for example, you could reintroduce apple for a few days. If you experience no reoccurrence in symptoms then apples can re-appear on your list of safe foods.
If not, take them out of your diet, get back to a baseline ‘normal’ and try re-introducing the next food.
Repeat the process until you have a roadmap of what works for you.
Which foods are high in salicylates?
Foods high in salicylates typically include:
Fruits such as:
Vegetables such as:
🔴 Bell peppers
Certain spices like:
🔴 Cayenne pepper
🔴 Certain nuts
Which foods are LOW in salicylates?
Foods that are low in salicylates include:
🟢 Peeled pears
🟢 Green beans
🟢 Grains like rice and oats
🟢 Beef, chicken, fish, and eggs
Important: I’ve included a long list here. If you have an autoimmune disease (like I do) you may have to whittle down some of these ingredients further. For example to manage my AS I avoid starch and cow dairy so I would take out ingredients like peas, grains, beans and bananas.
Something to bear in mind is that salicylates are not just found in foods.
Always check the backs of labels.
You may need to avoid certain medications (please only ever do so with the consent of your doctor), cosmetics, and certain scented products that contain these compounds.
Lastly, stress management and maintaining good gut health is essential.
This is something that is so often overlooked or seen as woolly but stress and gut health is something that can heavily influence the body’s ability to process salicylates.
I hope this article helps and provides you with some pointers.
As ever, research is ongoing so hopefully we will get more answers and potential treatments in the future.