Salicylate Sensitivity and Intolerance

salicylates,salicylates sensitivity,salicylates intolerances,salicylates allergies,sinusitis,stomach aches,achy legs,joint problems,dermatitis,tinnitus,ear infections,mental sluggishness,poor concentrationSalicylates 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.

Preventative guidelines from the Gastro Center of New Jersey issue warnings that, 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
  • Amigesic
  • Anacin Caplets and Tablets
  • Aspirin—Adult or children’s aspirin, including chewable, caplets, tablets, or pills
  • Bufferin Caplets and Tablets
  • Disalcid
  • Mobidin
  • Mono-Gesic
  • P-A-C Revised Formula
  • Regular Strength Ascriptin
  • Salflex
  • Salsitab
  • Sloprin
  • Tricosal
  • Trilisate

Salicylates can also be found in these types of products:

  • Acne Products
  • Bubble Baths
  • Cosmetics
  • Fragrances and Perfumes
  • Herbal Remedies
  • Lotions
  • 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:

  • Aspirin
  • 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
  • Disalcid
  • Ethyl Salicylate
  • Homosalate
  • Magnesium salicylate
  • Menthol
  • Mentyl Aranthinate
  • Meradimate (In sunbocks and sunscreens)
  • Methyl Salicylate
  • Mexoryl (In sunblocks and sunscreens)
  • Mint
  • Octylsalicylate or Octilsalicylate
  • Peppermint
  • Phyenylethyl Salicylate
  • Salicylate
  • Salicylic Acid
  • Salicylamide
  • Salsalate
  • Sodium Salicylate
  • Spearmint

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:

If you want to obtain salicylate-free prodcuts, these sites can help:

  • Andrea RoseThis site sells skin care, hair care, and makeup products that are salicylate-free and chemically safe.
  • Paula’s ChoiceThis site sells salicylate-free skin care and makeup products. 


  1. I have been suffering many of the symptoms associated with salicylate intolerance, for many years I have had a persistent cough, a rash that has been coming and going for years for which doctors have been unable to treat, recently I have begun to experience joint pain in knees and hands, redness of the face, fogginess of mind, depressed thoughts enough to worry about my employment prospects in the future if I had to change my job.
    This year I visited a chinese doctor, who was defintely on the right path to diagnosing my problem but from an eastern view, recently I visited my chiropractor and recognized that my symptoms might be due to a salicylate intolerance, thus talking about my diet, it seemed apparent that this could be true, since visiting the web I have found that it is true, from chewing gum and sucking aniseed to avoid smoking to a diet that was largely asian based.
    In five days of avoiding food with salicylates my body has lost its bloatedness, my joints are feeling better, I am sleeping and am above all feeling positive again about my life. I hope that other people in this situation have experienced the happiness I am feeling from having found out about salicylates.

  2. Author

    Inta, I had a similar experience and learning that the problem was salicylates and that I could do something about it, also changed my life and my health for the better. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  3. I am so glad I saw your post and the link you included. Although I am 47, and until recently, I thought healthy, I have been plagued by hives. Trying to find all information that I can, and do think salicylates are a problem. Thanks.

  4. Really interesting article! I have been suffering for the last 6 years with rashes, swelling eyes, arthritis, bloating, mood swings, depression etc etc etc. I thought I was going mad and did not know what was wrong. They finally think they have a diagnosis and I am now on an elimination diet. Already I have seen a vast improvement.
    Ironically 20 years ago when I was 15 I was diagnosed to having an allergy to Aspirin – but was never told that it came in anything but tablet form LOL.
    I had Thrombocytopenia at 19 and was put on steriods and my Gallbladder out at 29. Apparently Salicylate sensitivity can cause both – so could have been avoided.
    I am so hoping that I will feel well again now and can regain the past 6 years of almost living like a hermit as it has controlled my life. I am just a bit concerned on how to get all the vits etc that my body needs as the list from the hospital is very restrictive as to what is acceptable levels.
    It is good to know however that I am not alone!! & that there are other Sali free people out there!

  5. I only worked out I was salicylate intolerant in Dec09, It affects my asthma, gives me sinus polyps, spotty skin, IBS, severe depression, lowered immune function, swelling of the face & legs & hives. A healthy extremely Low Sal diet is achievable & I feel better for it. It is also worth noting that if you are salicylate intolerant you may well be intolerant to other things, amines, gluten or dairy. for me it gluten, chocolate & any food that isnt low GI. No one knows what causes it, but I suspect it has everything to do with immune function. Diet, exercise, not smoking or drinking & doing yoga/meditation helps.

  6. I must say, I enjoy reading your site. Maybe you could let me know how I can bookmark it ? Also just thought I would tell you I found your website through google.

  7. I went into anaphylactic shock after taking two asprin in May, and ended up spending a week in hospital. Although my doctor said it was triggered by asprin, it took sites like this one to realise that the problem was probably lurking for years without realising it. I suffer continuously from rashes to the face, which doctors said was sebhorreic dermatitis. The problem has not gone away and it was only after I read this site that I realised that the “cure” is probably exacerbating my condition, since salicyic acid appears to be everywhere. I have bookmarked the site and will certainly use it as a reference! Many thanks!

  8. Another great book with all the symptoms of Salicylate Intolerance, a very complete Food Guide some recipes and a true account of the authors life dealing with Salicylate Intolerance is “Salicylate Intolerance and THE HEALTHIER I ATE THE SICKER I GOT”.

  9. Hi, it is so hard to avoid salicylates. This morning my husband and I went out for breakfast. I ordered french toast. When I was half way done I said to my husband, ” this looks really yellow, is it possible that they added yellow dye to the eggs”? I couldnt believe it when the waitress came back and said the chef did indeed add yellow dye #5. I will probably have a headache and feel foggy headed later.

  10. I just started a low salicylate diet last week. I am so encouraged by your article. I have suffered with chronic ear infections, chronic sinusitis/nasal polyps, and asthma for the last 10 years. I am also allergic to aspirin. I am convinced this diet will help. I have been utilizing feingold assoc because they have extensive info on foods you can eat, all researched for additive,preservatives, and salicylate levels. I am so happy that this diet has helped you and can’t wait to start seeing results in myself!

  11. My own experience is as follows; I had horrible chronic sinusitus for many years,swelling in face and knees, both fragile areas due to previous injury. A surgeon said I may have excess sodium in my diet or food allergy. It was sites like this that informed my of salicylate sensitivity. Sure enough- I got reactions to almonds, broccoli, raisins-it was all fitting the profile. I almost completely detoxed from salicylate foods for a week, eating oats, wheat hot cereal,celery, banana-ripe,peeled white potato,lentils,cabbage,and water . I then went to a doctor who prescribed a wonder drug-prescription Loratadine. I now reintroduce low to medium salicylates gradually back into my diet.

  12. continued from above: I also ate in my elimiation diet fresh meats chicken and steak. It has been great to nowreintroduce so many of my fav things to eat that are low to moderate salicylate foods and beverages. I reintroduced these items gradually back into my diet and try to eat the reintroduced foods shortly after taking the once a day medication. Also, it was my expereince to do the elimiation diet/detoxification closely monitoring how you feel because as you eliminate the salicylate foods you get more sensitive to them at the same time.For example after 4-5 days of almost total elimination you met get a bad reaction from something as minor as someone wearing perfume/cologne,so dont over do the detox.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.