Salicylate Intolerance - Diane Palmer
Most people have never even heard of salicylate intolerance. Those who have connect it with hyperactive children. But, as Diane Palmer found to her cost, you do not have to be a hyperactive child to be salicylate intolerant.
In 2001, I was eating what I thought was a fairly good, healthy diet – - breakfasts of cereals, topped with fresh fruit and/or nuts and seeds; lunchtime salads, evening meals with vegetables; fruit and fruit juices for snacks, with my favourite tipple of red or white wine at the end of long working weeks. I was also very fit, training, running and playing competitive sports at least 3 times a week.
I consulted my GP and was told to go home and rest, as I probably had ‘sub clinical’ flu.I also then developed chronic bowel disturbances, which were investigated fully by gastro-enterologists, but with no result. Just the predictable label of ‘irritable bowel syndrome.
Could it be diet?
I was stunned and still a little sceptical when he explained that natural aspirin, or salicylates, is found in many foods, particularly fruits and vegetables. He gave me a very general list to take away of those foods with highest and lowest levels of salicylates in them.
Over the following months, I avoided scrupulously the wheat, dairy and yeast, (with a few near misses that I now know are part of every food avoidance learning curve). However I had little symptom improvement by avoiding those foods in the moderate/high salicylate categories.
What can I eat?
Thankfully, the gluten free wholegrains –- quinoa, millet, amaranth and buckwheat - are all salicylate free and cause me no problems provided they are well cooked. I am now an expert in hypoallergenic porridge.
There is no apparent rhyme or reason for which foods do or don't
contain salicylates, and food families do not give any clues to relative
Even the special dietary product manufacturers are generally unable to cater for the salicylate issue. Maize starch is found in many products. Vague terms on ingredient lists (such as ‘'vegetable' oil and ‘'natural flavourings') are not helpful. The salicylate avoider needs to know WHICH vegetable the oil is from (palm or corn oil are probably not good, but rapeseed, safflower and sunflower oils may be), and what the flavouring is that has been added.
I would really appreciate any help or advice anyone else can offer in tracking down exactly what it may be in toiletries (I don’t wear cosmetics, just use moisturisers) that could be causing this problem.
I have also discovered that I enjoy my kitchen - experimenting with alternative flours and the fewingredients I can use. I am always on the look out for any potentially suitable foods/products I have previously not encountered.
So, for anyone else who may be eating what is generally believed to be a vitality promoting, antioxidant rich diet, but who cannot retain their health, then may be it is your daily fruit, herb and vegetable intake that you need to examine further.
Diane suggests that this is the most useful/accessible site for salicylate levels in foods
Diane Palmer's article in last month's Foods Matter provoked a speedy response - including a postscript from Diane herself.
Having re-read the article last night, it has occurred to me that
there are two things I didn't touch on that it may be important for
others to know about.
Similarly, I didn't specify that all spices contains salicylate,
and most at very high levels. Although you only use a pinch each
time, they are very concentrated, so even a pinch can produce a reaction.
From Margaret Moss - Nutritionist:
Natural chemicals in fruits and vegetables do indeed cause problems for sensitive people. There are various reasons including phenols, amines, boron, lectins, cyanide, vitamin C and carotenoids.
There are phenols in fruit and vegetables. For example, there is quercetin in cabbage, grapes and pear, kaempferol in strawberries and Brussels sprouts, apigenin in celery, luteolin in red bell peppers, and isoflavone in soya. There are amines in bananas, cheese and fish. Amines, phenols and vitamin C are processed by the body, using sulphate.
People with food and chemical sensitivity tend to be inefficient at doing this, and may be unable to eat foods that are healthy for the rest of the world. Sulphate levels can be increased, using vitamins B2 and B5, omega 3 fats from fish, and molybdenum. Some foods, like oranges, spinach and radish, slow down the detoxification of phenols and amines.
There is boron in apples, pears, plums, peppers, tomatoes, peanuts, hazelnuts and soya. It causes excretion of vitamin B2. Seeds contain lectins. These include wheat, rice, potatoes, swede, beans, peas and lentils. Lectins attach themselves to specific sugars in the body, causing symptoms. Cyanide is released from maize and millet, when eaten with lettuce or celery. Some people are inefficient at dealing with cyanide. People who convert carotenoids too avidly to vitamin A may experience vitamin A toxicity symptoms. There are carotenoids in tomatoes, peppers, carrots, spinach, cabbage, mango and melons.
I am puzzled that Diane says the structure of the organic chemical, salicylate, is similar to that of inorganic nitrate, nitrite, sulphite and sulphate. Sulphites can be found in drinks, salads and coal smoke, and are harmful. However, the enzyme, sulphite oxidase converts them to sulphates, which are anti-histamines, needed for the integrity of the gut wall, and the release of pepsin, stomach acid and digestive enzymes. They are needed for detoxifying amines and phenols.
Moisturisers can be troublesome. It is better to have adequate omega 3 and 6 fats in the diet, to keep the skin healthy from within.
(Margaret can be contacted at the Nutrition and Allergy Clinic 0161 432 0964 www.nutritionandallergyclinic.co.uk)
First published in 2005