It might be surprising for some people to learn that some naturally occurring chemicals contained within fruits and vegetables can have a detrimental affect on certain conditions such as asthma. This week’s blog will be focused on one such group called Salicylates.
So what are salicylates?
Salicylates are a group of plant chemicals that are naturally abundant in fruits and vegetables. They are nature’s insecticide and possess a natural preservative action, which protect plants from disease causing insects, bacteria and fungi. Salicylates are usually concentrated in the outer leaves of vegetables as well as near the surface or just under the skin of fruits and vegetables. Salicylates are highest in unripe fruits but these levels decline as the fruit ripens. Generally speaking, the tastier a food is, the higher it is in salicylates.
Unlike true food allergies that cause immediate definitive reactions even if a small amount is ingested, salicylate intolerances cumulate and build up over time due to repeated exposure. Once the body’s tolerance threshold is reached, salicylates will irritate and inflame nerve endings resulting in allergy type symptoms. This makes it tricky to pinpoint and diagnose as salicylates don’t show up on standard allergy testing.
It has been observed that people with allergic tendencies tend to be less tolerant to salicylates. Due to size, adults can generally tolerate salicylates in larger amounts than children. Children being smaller in stature can react to salicylates quickly as their tolerance threshold is lower. Some symptoms that can be linked to salicylate sensitivity in children include restlessness, frustration and lack of concentration.
It is common for individuals with asthma to have sensitivities and intolerances to certain food groups. Those who suspect that salicylates may be affecting their asthma can eliminate it from their diet to observe if symptoms improve. Salicylate sensitivity is usually determined by the removal of moderate, high and very high salicylate rich foods from the diet for at least four weeks. This allows the body time to repair and heal inflamed nerve endings. Individuals who are sensitive to salicylates will generally notice an improvement in symptoms within this time frame confirming salicylate sensitivity. Those who do not notice any improvements at all will need to eliminate other foods from the diet via trial and error in order to determine which foods are triggering their symptoms.
Salicylates are found highest in fruits such as apricot, avocado, berries, blackcurrant, cherries, dates, grapes, grapefruit, guava, mandarin, orange, pineapple, plum, prune, rock melon, tangerine and all dried fruits.
Vegetables containing the highest amounts of salicylates include capsicum, chicory, chilli peppers, endive, green olives, peppers, radish and zucchini.
Other foods which are high in salicylates are jams, honey, fruit flavored lollies and sweets, cordials, soft drinks, tomato sauce, gravies, processed meats, almonds, water chestnuts and peanuts.
Salicylate sensitivity is a common trigger for those with asthma. However it has also been implicated in conditions such as eczema, digestive problems and behavioral disorders such as ADHD.
It is important to note however, that salicylates can also be synthetically manufactured. Individuals who are intolerant to salicylates need to avoid all forms of salicylate exposure whether it be plant derived or synthetic versions as found in perfumes, scented toiletries, artificial flavors, colors and preservatives as well as medications such as aspirin.
I hope this information has been helpful. For anyone interested in implementing a salicylate free diet, I am available for naturopathic consultations here at Saltuary to support those on their journey to better health.
Wishing you vibrant health and happiness,