Salicylate sensitivity is the bodys inability to handle more than a certain
amount of salicylates at any one time. A salicylate sensitive person may have difficulty
tolerating certain fruits, vegetables, or any products that contain aspirin.
What are salicylates?
Salicylate is a natural chemical made by many plants. It is chemically related to
aspirin, which is a derivative of salicylic acid. It is believed the plant uses
it as protection from insects, and they are everywhere around us.
Although natural salicylates are found in wholesome foods, some individuals have
difficulty tolerating even small amounts of them. The reaction to a natural salicylate
can be as severe as that to a synthetic additive if the person is highly sensitive.
Some people are troubled by only a very few, but some are troubled by all of them.
Drugs that contain salicylates include aspirin, analgesics (painkillers), and muscle
relaxants, cough mixtures, antacids, cold and flu medication and acne lotions.
What is salicylate sensitivity?
Some adults and children have a low level of tolerance to salicylates and may get
symptoms that are dose-related. The tolerated amount varies from one person to another.
This is an example of food intolerance.
What are some of the symptoms of Salicylate Intolerance?
Foods containing Salicylates
Salicylates occur naturally in many fruits, and vegetables as a preservative, to
prevent rotting and protect against harmful bacteria and fungi. They are stored
in the bark, leaves, roots, and seeds of plants. Salicylates are found naturally
in many foods and its compounds are used in many products.
The salicylate level in food can vary, with raw foods, dried foods and juices containing
higher levels than the same cooked foods.
Salicylates are used in many flavoured products sweets, toothpaste, chewing
- Some artificial food colourings and flavourings such as peppermint and strawberry
All fresh meat, fish, shellfish, poultry, eggs, dairy products, cereals, bread are
low in salicylates
Foods with very high Salicylate content
Tomato based foods
Nuts, sweets, and snacks to avoid:
All jams, except pear
Honey and honey flavours
Mint flavoured sweets
Savoury flavoured items
Herbs, spices, and condiments
Investigating Salicylate Intolerance
This is a complex undertaking, but can be most rewarding. Because the occurrence
of salicylates is wide spread, it is almost impossible to cut all sources. Keep
a diary and record all foods and drinks consumed plus any symptoms noted. You may
detect a pattern with time and therefore only need to cut out those that cause symptoms.
As foods are gradually reintroduced, you will find by trial and error which ones
can be tolerated. Often all of the foods can be tolerated provided they are eaten
in small amount (eg. Half a tomato per day) and provided that not too many of the
high/very foods are eaten at any one time.
What can I do?
Never self-diagnose - have your symptoms and signs reviewed objectively. Skin
prick tests might be needed to exclude a true IgE allergy.
Your symptoms and new symptoms that you develop after salicylate sensitivity is
diagnosed could be due to something totally unrelated to foods.
You should work with a registered dietician especially if the diet is needed for
a prolonged period.