Are you unsure about the state of salicylates and your health? I have heard a lot of talk about salicylates, where you can find them, and how they can have an impact on your health. That’s why I want to dive deep into salicylates, and the research behind them. To really learn whether they are a friend, or a foe, and in what forms each might apply.
What Are Salicylates?
Salicylates are compounds that we can find in a huge variety of plant foods. In fact, they are only found in plant foods! Salicylates are phenolic compounds that plants make as a form of defense (against pathogens and stress).
The overall data suggests that salicylates seem to be associated with health benefits. As of late, though, that has also cut the other way – with folks worried that they may be the cause of certain symptoms and side effects, as well.
Let me help walk you through learning more about them, if you want them at all in your system, and how much you might want in order to maintain good health.
Salicylates: The Research
To date, we have data which suggests that salicylates may reduce the occurrence of heart attacks.1 There have also been studies saying that children with weight struggles have also been shown to have less salicylate than other children (even with the same produce amount).2
Data has also suggested that salicylates may improve mitochondrial function, improve glucose metabolism, and lower fatty liver.3 Given all this, it sounds like salicylates may even be the key to good health, but there are drawbacks. Let me help illuminate those for you, too.
Salicylates: The Drawbacks
It is true that some people can have a sensitivity to salicylates. This is most notably documented in the case of aspirin. Aspirin is a salicylate, specifically, it is acetylsalicylic acid – also called ASA for short. Many are known to have significant allergies to it.
Being sensitive to salicylates can result in:
- Sinus polyps
- Respiratory distress (for those with asthma)
Key Insight: The number of salicylates that we might get from aspirin is much higher than those we get from foods. Foods do have it, though, which is what has informed the general conversation around salicylates and avoiding them in your diet.
Salicylates In The Diet
Dietary forms of salicylates have been thought to be a trigger for numerous symptoms in the body, which include:
- Irritable Bowel
- Memory loss
These are all symptoms typically associated with a sensitivity to salicylates, but the problem is that there is not a consistent list of how much salicylate we may find in food. It can vary widely, even within the same plant (and even from season to season).
Another difficulty is that the absorption of salicylate from food to food can also vary significantly, from food to food and from person to person. Most do not absorb enough salicylate to have adverse effects.4
There is also a great deal of overlap between foods that have salicylates and those that have histamines. In these cases, some who benefit in cases of hives and dermatitis may be benefiting from a lower-histamine diet.
Food Sources: Salicylates In Plant Foods
As we now know, salicylates are only found in plant foods, but which ones have the most amount? While it is by no means an exact read of each plant (because that is impossible), here is what you need to know…
- Granny Smith apples
- Galia melon
- Sweet corn
- Raw tomatoes
- Tomato puree
- Mixed herbs
- Curry powder
- Black pepper
- Cardamom pods
- Cinnamon, cumin
- Worcestershire sauce
- Tomato ketchup
- Pineapple juice
- Benedictine liqueur
- Lemon tea
- Black tea
- Apple juice
- Cranberry juice
- Orange juice
- Tomato juice
- Fizzy drinks
- Drambuie liqueur
According to one study that I had found, high doses of fish oil dramatically reduced symptoms surrounding salicylate intolerance (in a small group of 3 people).
These patients had severe hives, asthma, and anaphylactic reactions which required repeated therapy with corticosteroids like prednisone.
A really high dose in fish oil, about 10 grams per day, helped them see a reduction in symptoms. But, there are some things we should consider:
- The study didn’t identify dietary salicylates as the key cause
- This was a very small group of participants
- It took a high dose of fish oil to make a difference
There have also been studies that have wondered about the link between dietary salicylates and bowel symptoms, but as of this moment, nothing has been shown to prove that there is a link.6
Salicylates: Action Steps
In summary, you are probably better off including the foods that have dietary salicylates than avoiding them. When it comes to aspirin specifically, the good side of it is that it can lower inflammation (and make platelets less apt to stick together).
The drawback, though, is that you get so much, and in a different chemical form, that it can also have adverse effects on preventing tissue healing (like in the gut lining or the kidneys). This means that aspiring, effectively, is one of the biggest triggers for autoimmune gastritis syndrome.
But these dosages, and these very types that we find in aspirin, do not relate to the dietary salicylates that we find in so many foods. Instead, the data is strong that the foods that do have these salicylates are just good foods to include in your diet overall.
If you do happen to see symptoms like the ones we have described above, think also about immune stressors that you might have. These can include:
- Airborne allergies (indoor and outdoor)
- Dietary allergies
- Histamine intolerance (Read: Histamine intolerance, do you have it and can you avoid it in your diet)
Whether you have outdoor or indoor allergies, they are a big thing and affect many people. Sometimes, they cause symptoms you would not expect.
There is the classic itchy eyes, runny nose, hoarse voice and dry cough, but they can also make you feel run down. You just feel tired for no clear reason. Some people find they are not sleeping as well. That may be tied to not breathing effectively. Some experience more aches and pains, which can all come from allergies.
With airborne allergies, your immune system is trying really hard to protect you. In general, it is more apt to attack something harmless than it is to ignore something dangerous. So, rather than miss some bad bacteria and have it hurt you, your body is going to make the mistake of attacking pollen because it looks like the bad bacteria. When this happens, you experience the symptoms.
Bottom Line: Be aware of your allergies. They can be a nuisance and the cause of hidden symptoms. The good news is they are treatable.
Unlike other types of food disorders, like intolerances, food allergies are “IgE mediated.” This means that your immune system produces abnormally large amounts of an antibody called immunoglobulin E — IgE for short. IgE antibodies fight the “enemy” food allergens by releasing histamine and other chemicals, which trigger the symptoms of an allergic reaction.
Some reactions are pretty obvious, and they can be as immediate as a train wreck. This could include anaphylactic allergic reactions to nuts or shellfish, in which the person can risk death if they are not treated properly. These reactions can come on in a matter of seconds of being exposed to the food.
The problem with allergies is that we often do not consider just how many people are affected by them. Researchers actually estimate that up to 15 million Americans have food allergies and that it can affect 1 in every 13 children in the country – that is roughly 2 children in each and every classroom.7
Bottom Line: Even if you do not expect it, there are lots of symptoms that could relate back to a food allergy. Are you experiencing any one of these? Then it might just have to do with your body reacting to something you are eating.
First and foremost, I am not a huge fan of the term “histamine intolerance.” Histamine is a normal part of our bodies, and to date, no humans have been documented as being intolerant or allergic to histamine. So, above all else, I think that this term really gives off an unclear – and ineffective – first impression for those learning about it.
So, what is it? It is probably more accurate to coin this term as “histamine overload.” This is based on the fact that anyone who gets too much histamine, ultimately starts developing these symptoms.
Bottom Line: There are plenty of vague symptoms associated with histamine intolerance, which is why you might want to consider it should it be a cause for concern.
Are You Struggling With Food Reactions?
If you have struggled with these symptoms, and cannot figure out why they are happening, your best option is to dig deep and to make sense of what is going on in your body.
As it happens, most of the doctors at Integrative Health are incredibly well versed in the world of immune stressors and food reactions. They can even help you identify and reverse most of these reactions, and all it takes is a few months.
Bottom Line: We would love to help you. Please consider following up with an Integrative Health doctor, within the next 30 days, and get a free test for histamine intolerance as part of your evaluation. That way, you can get the help you need, while knowing the bigger picture of your body.
Salicylates & You
The main takeaway that I want you to have from our discussion today is that you do not need to view salicylates as a bad thing overall. If there are symptoms, obviously I encourage you to sort them out so that you feel better.
Otherwise, and on the whole, these are some good foods that belong in your diet. In fact, you are far better off including them than avoiding them.
Your Knowledge, Your Health, Your Life
Do you feel like you could use a big-picture understanding of your personal health? If you want to take a closer look into your health, and the action steps you can take to make the right decisions for your body, please consider taking the Thyroid Quiz (2) or the Adrenal Quiz (Click Here) today.
1 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5786740/
2 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27806656
3 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5233442/
4 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8901795
5 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4604636/table/Tab2/
6 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21443725
7 – https://waojournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1939-4551-6-21
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Dr. Alan Glen Christianson (Dr. C) is a Naturopathic Endocrinologist and the author of The NY Times bestselling Adrenal Reset Diet, The Metabolism Reset Diet and The Thyroid Reset Diet.
Dr. C’s gift for figuring out what really works has helped hundreds of thousands of people reverse thyroid disease, lose weight, diabetes, and regain energy. Learn more about the surprising story that started his quest.