Salicylates are everywhere. They are hormones naturally produced by plants that protect them when they grow, and they are found in fruits, vegetables, beverages, nuts, herbs, and so forth. Salicylates can also be manufactured, and aspirin is an example, as is artificial food coloring, benzoates, and pain relievers. Salicylates can also be found in skin care products, fragrances, mouthwashes, toothpastes, shampoos, and conditioners. Salicylates are also used as preservatives to prevent bacteria or fungi and to help improve taste.
Because salicylates are so prevalent and found in fresh foods, processed foods, and manufactured products, more and more people are developing sensitivities or intolerances to them. Additionally, the amount of salicylates in products, plants, and herbs can vary widely. Some foods have low levels of salicylates, such as cauliflower or pears, and other foods have high levels of salicylates, such as mint and mushrooms. Moreover, raw foods and the peels of plants contain higher levels of salicylates than plants which are cooked or peeled.
Salicylate Sensitivity/Intolerance Symptoms
Salicylate sensitivity or intolerance symptoms are extremely varied. It is also difficult to diagnose salicylate problems because there is no allergy test to determine whether or not salicylates are your problem; however, the following symptoms often appear when a person has salicylate sensitivity or salicylate intolerance.
- Central Nervous System – depression, headaches, hyperactivity, inability to concentrate, irritability, migraines, mental sluggishness, and mood changes
- Dermis – dermatitis, eczema, itching, and rashes
- Gastrointestinal – bloating, canker sores, colic, cramps, diarrhea, flatulence, heartburn, mouth ulcers, stomach pains, and vomiting
- Muscoskeletal System– achy joints, arthritis, myalgia, and weakness
- Respiratory System – asthma, rhinitis, and sinusitis
- Other Symptoms – ear infections, tinnitus, hives, tics, and swelling in feet, hands, or face
What’s the Difference Between Sensitivity and Intolerance?
When you are sensitive to salicylates your body reacts as if it were experiencing an allergen, and you get an immediate reaction after eating a food. When you suffer from an intolerance, the problem is not an immune reaction, it is dose related. What that means is that your body can handle a certain amount of salicylates, but at some point it becomes toxic. So, for example, you might be able to eat half an apple, but if you the whole apple, you have a reaction, and the reaction may not occur for three days and then it might last two weeks.
Intolerances can also become chronic problems. For instance, a person who is exposed day after day to salicylates could develop one of the symptoms mentioned above and then other problems could result. The reason why is if you are continually eating an offending food, you are in a sense poisoning yourself, and so over time symptoms increase or change. So, for instance, instead of just having achy knee joints you might begin to experience swelling or inflammation in knees.
How To Determine if Salicylates are Your Problem?
Anyone can be, or become, sensitive to anything, including salicylates. It happens when people or over exposed or continually exposed; however, in the case of salicylates, it usually happens to people with moderate to severe asthma, and then those sufferers develop chronic rhinosinusitis. It also tends to affect older adults or people who have worsening asthma problems, and, yet, the worsening asthma problems may be related to continual exposure to salicylates. So, it’s a vicious cycle as your health continues to deteriorate, and you experience more and more health problems.
If you have any of the above symptoms, the best way to determine if salicylates is your problem is to begin by eating a diet low in salicylates, and then slowsly add higher salicylate foods back into your diet. For more information on salicylates in food or how to conduct a test see the How Do I Get More Information?section at the bottom of this article. If you have salicylate problems and remove them from your life, your life can change. I know because I have this intolerance and suffered chronic rhinosinusitis, stomach problems, mouth sores, hives, asthma, and inflammation.
I saw allergists, doctors, and ENT (ear, nose, and throat) specialists left and right, and no one could help me. There was no way to test for salicylates, and, every allergy test, just showed I was slightly allergic to tomatoes. This was ten years ago, and when I finally figured out salicylates were my problem, my life changed and so did my health. It was a miracle. I was scheduled for another removal of nasal polyps, and once I began the salicylate-free diet, the polyps shrank and shrank and shrank, until there was nothing there. I no longer use an inhaler, the body swelling I experienced has disappeared, and all the health problems I was having disappeared. My life has returned to normal (other than I avoid salicylates as much as possible).
How Can You Avoid Salicylates?
Because salicylates are in alot of products, it is a monumental task to avoid them. However, it does make a world of difference if you reduce your exposure to salicylates. I threw out many salicylate products—skin care, makeup, hair care, toothpastes, vitamins—and replaced them with salicylate-free products or products low in salicylates. Here’s a brief list of medications that contain salicylates.
- Acuprin 81
- Anacin Caplets and Tablets
- Aspirin—Adult or children’s aspirin, including chewable, caplets, tablets, or pills
- Bufferin Caplets and Tablets
- P-A-C Revised Formula
- Regular Strength Ascriptin
Salicylates can also be found in these types of products:
- Acne Products
- Bubble Baths
- Fragrances and Perfumes
- Herbal Remedies
- Muscle Pain Creams
- Shampoos and Conditioners
- Skin Cleansers
- Sunblocks, Sunscreens, and Tanning Lotions
- Throat Lozenges
- Topical Creams
- Wart or Callus Removers
Here’s a brief list of how salicylates might be listed in products:
- Acetylsalicylic Acid
- Artificial Flavorings
- Artificial Food Colorings, including FD&C Yellow No. 5 Food Dye, also known as Tartazine
- Azo Dyes
- Benzoates (preservatives)
- Benzyl Salicylate
- Beta-hydroxy Acid
- Chemicals listed with MEN or CAMP as part of their word
- Choline Salicylate
- Ethyl Salicylate
- Magnesium salicylate
- Mentyl Aranthinate
- Meradimate (In sunbocks and sunscreens)
- Methyl Salicylate
- Mexoryl (In sunblocks and sunscreens)
- Octylsalicylate or Octilsalicylate
- Phyenylethyl Salicylate
- Salicylic Acid
- Sodium Salicylate
How Do I Get More Information?
These two sites can help alot and offer some great information:
- Elimination and Failsafe Diet. This site is a gold mine of information. They offer a list of foods and their salicylate content, and they tell you how to exclude and then reintroduce salicylates in your diet.
- Fibromyalgia Treatment Center. Although this site is for fibromyalgia treatment, they have alot of excellent information about salicylates because salicylates block medications given for fibromyalgia sufferers.
While there are several books on the market for allergies, intolerances, and sensitivity, some are inaccurate; however, these are two of the best books with accurate information:
- Living with Food Intolerance (Overcoming Common Problems). This book is a comprehensive guide that provides practical information. It covers what food intolerance is and is not, how to get a proper diagnosis, the most common foods and intolerances, and how to recover once your diagnosed.
- Dealing with Food Allergies: A Practical Guide to Detecting Culprit Foods and Eating a Healthy, Enjoyable Diet. This book provides the latest medical and scientific information on allegies. It also helps you find nutritionally adequate diets if your suffer from allergies, and it helps you detect which foods are causing your sensitivity problems.
If you want to obtain salicylate-free prodcuts, these sites can help: