Problems with Salicylates

Here is a list of the most commonly problematic foods for those with salicylate issues:

Common Salicylate-Containing Foods and Compounds

Aspirin and products containing aspirin or salicylic acid
Berries (all)
Chili powder
Cider & cider vinegar (apples)
Cucumbers & pickles
Grapes & raisins

Peppers (bell & chili)
Plums, prunes
Wine & wine vinegar (grapes)
Oil of wintergreen (methyl salicylate)
Rose hips or acerola (often found in vitamins)
Food colorings, preservatives, etc.

Not everyone with salicylate problems will react to ALL of these. This is just the list of those that are most commonly a problem for the majority of people.

Here is a link to charts that list the salicylate content of various foods and spices. . You'll notice that some of the foods in the Most Common Salicylates list (above) aren't necessarily the highest in salicylates. No one really knows why some of the foods that give the most problems aren't necessarily those highest in salicylates. There are theories that other compounds are involved as well, but no one really knows at this point.

From here are some commonly experienced symptoms for those with salicylate intolerance:

“Those who are sensitive to salicylates find that an excessive amount first stimulates, then depresses the central nervous system. This can lead to many different kinds of symptoms, including some that might seem incompatible. For example, both hyperactivity and lethargy are associated with salicylate sensitivity.

Symptoms of the condition may include:

  • Breathing difficulties
  • Wheezing
  • Headaches
  • Ear infections
  • Changes in skin color
  • Nasal congestion
  • Itching, skin rash or hives
  • Swelling of the hands, feet, eyes and face
  • Stomach pain
  • Hyperactivity
  • Lethargy
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Mouth ulcers, or red rash around the mouth
  • Nasal polyps
  • Coughing
  • Rhinitis
  • Sinusitis
  • Cognitive and perceptual disorders”

I'll share our experience with salicylates. We tried doing the Feingold diet, which eliminates all foods on the common problem food list. Things got worse and worse, my son started to react to more and more including pineapples (well practically any fruit except pears!), all nuts, ascorbic acid, and practically ALL spices. This went on for over 2 months when I finally said, this isn't working! We were not SCD at the time. In fact, this is what prompted me back to SCD because I began to read reports that said that salicylate problems improve on SCD. We redid the intro and followed Pecanbread advice to a “T”. Slowly our salicylate problems got a little better. From the list of salicylate foods that we couldn't tolerate before, we can now tolerate tomatoes, zucchini, spinach in limited amounts, ascorbic acid, pineapple, almost all spices, and small amounts of almond butter. I noticed that during the times when we weren't consuming some type of probiotic (be it yogurt or pills) our salicylate issues would get slightly worse, things would build up faster. The thing with salicylates is that they build up. You might try tomatoes once and think they are fine, but after a while they start producing a reaction because you started eating too many over a short time period and it started to build up in the body faster than the body could break it down. So small amounts are key in the beginning, eventually you'll figure your individual tolerance amounts for each food, and that should improve over time on SCD.

What I recommend if you have problems with salicylates, is to leave out what gives you strong reactions for right now. Do SCD by the book and don't forget about yogurt or probiotic pills. Then slowly try some of the problematic foods again in small amounts. The goal here is to increase the amount of salicylates you can eat without causing such reactions that you can't cope with them. They really are important foods and you can't avoid salicylates completely, you would have nothing to eat. They help the body to detox, which is another reason why they give us so much trouble. We have a lot of detoxing to do. :-)

Some other things that I have found help with salicylate tolerance are Epsom salt baths and magnesium sulfate cream. I get our cream from The sulfate helps the salicylate pathways in the body.

Since most phenolic compounds lie close to the peel, peeling or doubling peeling fruits and vegetables can help reduce these compounds. (Peel first and then peel again removing the outermost layer of fruit flesh).

Vitamin K can also aid the salicylate pathways. We tried synthetic vitamin K2 and could not tolerate it. We instead use butter oil (casein free) that contains natural vitamin K, also called X-factor, (because the cows consume green grass). This really helps our salicylate issues as well. We get ours here:

It is also theorized that fish oils can help with salicylate tolerance. Salicylates inhibit conversion of omega 3s into EPA and DHA. Some say that taking EPA and DHA fish oil
supplements can help decrease symptoms/intolerance. I do have my son on a high EPA fish oil ( but I'm uncertain whether or not they have made a real difference in salicylate tolerance. We have seen gains in other areas from taking them, but I’m not sure if they contributed to our increasing salicylate tolerance or not.

We use pomegranate (Knudson's Just Juice brand) when we need juice for jello or something. We still can't tolerate any other fruit juices, they are just too concentrated with salicylates.

Chris Kuykendall