Stomach Pain, Rash, Sinusitis: The Salicylate Sensitivity LinkJan 31, 2023
Are you experiencing unexplained stomach pain, rash, or sinusitis? Annoying right?! Especially when you’re not getting any real answers from the GP - except probably PPI’s and steroid creams. Did you know that these symptoms can be a sign of something more serious: salicylate sensitivity.
Salicylate sensitivity is an often overlooked and misunderstood condition that could be at the root of your body burnout.
What are Salicylates?
Salicylates are naturally occurring compounds found in many foods, including fruits and vegetables. In this blog, I’ll explore the link between salicylate sensitivity and other common ailments.
Salicylates provide flavour, fragrance and anti-microbial properties to the food they are found in. They also act as natural preservatives and protect plants from environmental stressors, such as extreme temperatures and microbes.
There is evidence that salicylates can improve human health by acting as natural anti-inflammatories, helping reduce pain, reducing blood sugar levels, and even preventing cancer growth. However…When things go out of balance in the body, salicylates can become your “worst enemy,” leading to sensitivity or intolerance to salicylate-containing foods.
Symptoms of Salicylates Sensitivity
It is estimated that up to 10% of the population may be affected by this condition, yet most people are unaware of it. Here are some of the common symptoms:
- Nausea, stomach pain, diarrhoea
- Swelling of hands, feet, face, lips
- Itching and rashes
- Asthma or breathing difficulty
- Persistent cough
- Sinus congestion
- ADHD, autism
What are The Root Causes of Salicylates Sensitivity
Let’s explore some of the known root causes:
Detoxification Issues - The number one body system imbalance that I see when it comes to salicylate sensitivity is detoxification issues. If your liver or kidney pathways become impaired, it can be really difficult to clear salicylates from the body, which leads to a build up of the chemical, and yep…sensitivity. We had a client awhile ago that was experiencing terrible reactions to foods, and when we finally tested and addressed her detox-pathways with lab-based protocols, she was back eating way more foods.
Gut Dysbiosis - The bacterial microbiome is a complex and dynamic ecosystem. Dysbiosis can trigger salicylate sensitivities as it can affect the pH balance of the body. Recent research suggests that an acidic gut environment may be one of the root causes of salicylate sensitivity. More specifically, it appears that an overly acidic gut can influence species composition, growth rate, and even how the microbiome produces acids via fermentation. To correct this imbalance, lactate supplementation - which helps to buffer pH levels - has been proposed as a potential method of treatment. This in turn leads to increased production of short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) such as butyrate, acetate, propionate, which are essential for optimal digestion and overall gut health.
Salicylate Metabolism - When salicylate compounds enter the body through food, medications or cosmetics, they bind to albumin - a protein found in the blood - where they become what is known as “unbound salicylates.” This unbound form is especially influential when it comes to salicylate sensitivity. Unbound salicylates are able to travel freely throughout the bloodstream and make their way into cells, tissues, and organs where they may cause an adverse reaction. As they are readily absorbed in the small intestine where they can interact with enzymes involved in drug metabolism and detoxification pathways which can lead to excessive concentrations of salicylates in the bloodstream (yep, coming back to gut and detox issues!).
Acidity Imbalances - Salicylate sensitivity can also arise if the optimal pH level in your blood becomes too acidic. When your body is too acidic, the kidneys are tasked with eliminating acid by binding to nitrogen, which is typically a successful cellular detoxification process. However, when this dynamic is disrupted or overwhelmed due to an accumulation of toxins or metabolic byproducts in the body, it can lead to an increase in symptoms associated with salicylate sensitivity.
Acidogenic Factors - key factors that lead to pH imbalance, and should be considered with the overall salicylate sensitivity picture are: inflammation, ageing, low bicarbonate, mitochondrial dysfunction, declining kidney function, high-intensity exercise, stress, and modern diet (also longterm SIBO diet, low-FODMAP diet, Paleo diet and Keto diet can be contribute to pH imbalance).
Is Consuming Foods High in Salicylate be avoided?
Short answer - NO. A healthy body should be able to ingest and tolerate foods high in salicylates. So as I go over how to use a low-salicylate diet for therapy, I’m in no way saying that foods high in salicylates are “bad” or should be “avoided.
However, if you are salicylate sensitive, you will do better reducing your load of foods high in salicylates, as root causes are addressed.
The goal, however, is always to be able to eat ALL the good foods without adverse reactions. Give me a thumbs up if that’s what you’re after?! Woot!
How To Use A Low Salicylate Diet For Therapy
If you’re revealing signs of salicylate sensitivity, take out the following foods for 4-weeks to see if you have any improvements in your symptoms. If you do, or if you have a flare-up when you reintroduce foods after the initial elimination, it is highly likely you have salicylate sensitivity and should get further investigation into the root cause. This diet also helps with treatment of salicylate sensitivity, as it can shift metabolic acidosis and different pathways that support clearance of salicylates.
With proper meal planning and guidance from a trusted health practitioner, you’ll be well on your way to living a healthier lifestyle with fewer triggers!
If you have avoided salicylate-rich foods for 4-6-weeks and feel no improvement in symptoms, gradually reintroduce the foods. As long as there are no flare-ups, you can safely assume that you’re not salicylate-sensitive.
Foods Very High in Salicylate
Bottled Green Olives
- All Dried Fruit
- All Berries
- Black and Red Currant
- Rock Melon
- Peanut with skin
- Water Chestnut
- Olive Oil
- Coconut Oil
- All processed meat products and small goods
Not just in foods.....
Salicylates are not just in foods. So be aware of any other potential salicylate sources that you may be exposed to, when doing this elimination diet. You may not get the benefits from the diet, if you are still exposed to the following items:
- Herbal products! Most will contain salicylates. Especially high is turmeric/curcumin
- Medications: most NSAIDs
- Cosmetics, fragrances, shampoo
- Cleaning products
- Air fresheners
- Breath mints, lozenges, gums Toothpaste (peppermint flavoured!)
Wondering what to eat? We’ve got you covered! We have HEAPS of yummy and diverse low-salicylate recipes in our Ending Body Burnout Method to take the stress out of trying to figure out what to eat!
WORD OF WARNING: I’d highly recommend working with a practitioner to help address underlying causes, so you don’t get “stuck” on a restrictive diet long-term. If you need help, feel free to book in for a free discovery call. Or if you’re a keen-bean, you can jump right into a “Connect The Dots” Initial Consult with me here.
Filipa Bellette is Co-Founder of Chris & Filly Functional Medicine. She is an accredited Clinical Nutritionist & Functional Medicine Practitioner. She is also a Ph.D. thought-leader, award-winning writer, and regularly published as a guest blogger & in the media. Together with her husband Chris Bellette, Filipa has worked with over 2,000+ busy, burnout clients in the last 10+ years, and specialises in producing healthy, balanced, and happy Mums & Dads...or as she calls it, a Power Parent! Filipa’s own passion for producing high-performance Power Parents came from her own personal experience of Mummy Burnout, after having babies and juggling the demands of business, family, and her failing health.
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