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What is Salicylate Sensitivity?

 Blueberries image at Joliee Skin

Salicylates are natural chemicals found in many fruits and vegetables, herbs, nuts, teas, coffee, wine, beer, herbal medicines and spices. Artificial and natural salicylates are also present in many skin creams and perfumes. Blueberries, tomato, avocado and broccoli are rich sources of salicylates.

According to research by Loblay and Swain from the RPA Hospital Allergy Unit in Sydney, ingesting salicylate-rich foods can cause a worsening of eczema symptoms. In fact, salicylate sensitivity is the most common chemical sensitivity that eczema sufferers present with.

Symptoms of salicylate sensitivity

  • eczema, hives, itchy skin and other skin rashes
  • headaches or migraines
  • irritable bowel symptoms (wind, diarrhoea and/or constipation)
  • reflux 
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • stomach bloating and discomfort
  • cystitis
  • asthma
  • irritability, restlessness
  • allergy symptoms (stuffy or runny nose, nasal polyps, frequent throat clearing)
  • behaviour problems, poor attention span, ADHD, ADD
  • sleep disturbances (difficulty falling asleep, night terrors, frequent night waking, sleep apnoea)
  • bedwetting
  • anxiety, panic attacks
  • depression
  • rapid heart beat and arrhythmias
  • tinnitus, hearing loss
  • joint pain, arthritis

NOTE: these conditions can be caused by other factors, so speak with your doctor for a formal diagnosis.

How many people are sensitive to salicylates?

Most people with salicylate intolerance have no idea what could be affecting them. Research shows that about 60% with of people with food-induced itchy rashes, eczema or headaches or migraines, 70% of people with irritable bowel symptoms, 20% of adults with asthma and 75% of children with behaviour problems may be sensitive to salicylates.

 

Is fruit bad for you?

Keep in mind that fruit and other salicylate-rich foods are not inherently bad... many healthy foods such as broccoli, spinach and green detox juices have incredibly high salicylate content but they are fantastic for the average person to consume. On the other hand, if you are sensitive to salicylates, you could feel very unwell (lethargic, itchy and/or nauseous etc.) after a shot of wheatgrass juice or a fruit salad.

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References
Scotter, Michael J., et al. "Free salicylic acid and acetyl salicylic acid content of foods using gas chromatography–mass spectrometry." Food chemistry 105.1 (2007): 273-279.
Diet, M. Nutr, and Nicholas J. Talley. "Are adverse food reactions linked to irritable bowel syndrome?." American Journal of Gastroenterology 93 (1998): 2184-2190.
Loblay RH, Swain AR. 'Food intolerance'. In Wahlqvist ML, Truswell AS, Recent Advances in Clinical Nutrition. London: John Libbey, 1986, pages 169-177.
Swain A, Soutter V, Loblay R, Truswell AS. Salicylates, oligoantigenic diets, and behaviour. Lancet 1985;2(8445).

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