Foods, ingredients, or molecule intolerances appear to be on the rise and whilst some such as gluten or histamine are well known, others, such as salicylates, are more misunderstood. This article will delve into this lesser-known phenomenon exploring:
What are salicylates and what is a salicylate intolerance?
Salicylates are natural chemicals found in many plants who use them to defend themselves against pests, bacteria, and environmental stressors. Salicylates are anti-inflammatory and as such have also been synthetically reproduced in laboratories for uses in medications, including aspirin and non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen.
Salicylic acid has excellent anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties, leading to its common use as an ingredient in processed foods, condiments, cosmetics, and beauty products.
In terms of food, salicylates are found in many plant foods to a higher or lesser extent. Some of the foods that are common triggers are:
Salicylate intolerance is where a person’s system has difficulty metabolising and tolerating salicylates, leading to a range of symptoms. The phenomenon was initially observed in medically diagnosed patients with either aspirin-exacerbated respiratory disease (AERD) or NSAIDs-exacerbated respiratory disease (NERD) (1,2). In the cases of both AERD and NERD, high doses of chemical salicylates can trigger asthma, rhinosinusitis and urticaria.
Clinical case studies have observed that for some, simply eating a diet high in salicylates can contribute to a variety of symptoms, although this can vary from person to person and may also depend on the quantity of salicylates eaten or exposed to over a short period of time.
Which symptoms are linked to salicylate intolerance?
Whilst respiratory and skin symptoms are the most recognised symptoms of salicylate intolerance, there are others including:
What does the science say causes this condition?
As with so many conditions, the exact cause of salicylate intolerance is not well understood, however there are some areas which are being explored:
How is salicylate intolerance medically diagnosed?
Diagnosis of salicylate intolerance is tricky, mainly because of the number of overlapping symptoms with other conditions. A medical or nutrition practitioner will undertake:
For many, a salicylate intolerance is linked to other conditions or genetics and is not, itself, the root cause. Sufferers tend to go heavily down the elimination root, which whilst does initially provide relief, is not a sustainable or healthy long-term solution. Working with a practitioner to discover the main trigger of the sensitivity is key.
Suggestions for managing a suspected salicylate intolerance.
If on medication, please speak to your GP/consultant before making any changes to your diet.
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I’m Jessica Fonteneau, the Eczema and Digestive Health Nutrition Expert. I’ve worked with hundreds of clients to help them change their diets, better manage their flares, and find relief.
My vocation is to help those with eczema and digestive issues, because I have suffered with these interlinked conditions since I was 6 months old, and I truly know what it is like to experience these debilitating conditions.
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