Salicylate Sensitivity Causes, Symptoms, and Foods to Avoid

Medically Reviewed on 7/8/2022
Salicylate Sensitivity Causes, Symptoms, and Foods to Avoid
The precise cause of salicylate allergy is unknown. In general, allergies result from an immunological response to a food or other item.

When you come into contact with salicylates, salicylic acid, or related substances, a reaction known as a salicylate allergy (also termed as a salicylate intolerance or sensitivity) may occur. About 2 to 22 percent of people in the United States are known to have salicylate sensitivity.

Leukotrienes are inflammatory mediators that have been connected to a number of illnesses, and it is believed that an excess generation of these is what causes salicylate sensitivity.

  • Chemicals with salicylic acid as their base are collectively known as salicylates.
  • Salicylic acid is an organic acid that occurs naturally in a number of plants. These plants manufacture it as a component of their defensive mechanism against ailments, pests, pathogens, and environmental stress.
  • Synthetic salicylates and many other items have salicylic acid as a component. For instance, the chemical acetic anhydride and salicylic acid are combined to create aspirin.

What is the cause of salicylate sensitivity?

The precise cause of salicylate allergy is unknown. In general, allergies result from an immunological response to a food or other item. There is inflammation and other symptoms as a result of this immunological response.

The metabolism of arachidonic acid and eicosanoids is the focus of pathophysiology. This system has several intricate components.

  • When phospholipids (structural molecules) in cell membranes are broken down by enzymes called phospholipases, arachidonic acid is produced, which serves as the precursor to eicosanoids.
  • Leukotrienes and prostanoids, which include prostaglandins and thromboxanes, are two primary families of eicosanoids, and they are primarily generated by the enzymes lipoxygenases and cyclooxygenases (COX).
  • In almost all cells and organs, they play a significant role as mediators of inflammation and hypersensitivity.
  • Salicylates, other analgesics, and anti-inflammatory medications, especially nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs used primarily in rheumatology and pain management, inhibit cyclooxygenases, lowering prostaglandin synthesis. 
  • Additionally, inflammatory cells such as basophiles and eosinophiles, macrophages, mast cells, platelets, and lymphocytes are activated in intolerant people.
  • Pharmacologically active chemicals are secreted due to this activation of basophiles and mast cells. Similar to cold urticaria, it is not immunological and can be classified as a pseudo allergy or pseudo immunopathy.
  • Infectious agents have been mentioned as a potential cause.
  • Tolerance may be defined as the lack of enzyme function brought on by the injection of COX inhibitors. Salicylate intolerance thus combines elements of intolerance and pseudo allergy.

SLIDESHOW

Common Allergies: Symptoms and Signs See Slideshow

9 signs and symptoms of salicylate intolerance

Some people only experience symptoms from salicylates when they have ongoing allergies, making it even more challenging to distinguish between the two conditions. Salicylate intolerance, however, doesn't engage the immune system as an allergy does. Adults with asthma are more likely to have salicylate sensitivity.

  1. Infection and swelling of the sinuses
  2. Polyps (small, noncancerous growths) in the nasal and sinus tubes
  3. Asthma
  4. Hives
  5. Fever
  6. Tissue enlargement
  7. Extensive intestine inflammation, which may result in discomfort and pain in the abdomen
  8. Diarrhea
  9. Headache

4 foods to avoid in salicylate sensitivity

Salicylic acid can be found in a variety of foods. The reported amount of salicylates in foods varies somewhat, perhaps due to different analytical techniques, plant species, and growth environments.

Salicylate levels are generally higher in fruits, vegetables, and spices. Very little is present in dairy products, meat, fish, and cereals. It’s better to avoid some foods if you know that you have salicylate sensitivity.

  1. Herbs, spices, and condiments:
    • Ginger
    • Garam masala
    • Black pepper
    • Fenugreek
    • Mint
    • Nutmeg
    • Clear vinegar
    • Paprika
    • Rosemary
    • Thyme
    • Basil
    • Dried goji
    • Yeast
    • Turmeric
    • Worcestershire sauce
    • Honey
    • Mustard
    • Oregano
    • Curry powder
    • Paprika
    • Cardamom
    • Cinnamon
    • Dill
    • Cumin
  2. Fruits:
    • Currants
    • Grapes and raisins
    • Plums and prunes
    • Apples
    • Cherries
    • Strawberries
    • Avocados
    • Oranges
    • Dates
    • Youngberry
    • Plums and prunes
    • Kiwi
    • Galia melon
    • Peaches and nectarines
    • Raspberries
  3. Vegetables:
    • Asparagus
    • Onion
    • Tomatoes
    • Bok choy
    • Spinach
    • Okra
    • Sweet and baby corn
    • Gherkins
    • Soy
    • Beans
    • Bottom mushrooms
    • Alfalfa sprouts
  4. Drinks:
    • Caffeinated teas, including black tea, oolong, and lemon tea
    • Drambuie liqueur (and other herbal liquors)
    • Wine
    • Rum

Bottom Line

Salicylate sensitivity is uncommon in healthy individuals but prevalent in those who have asthma, irritable bowel syndrome, or inflammatory bowel disease. It might be difficult to diagnose because the symptoms are similar to those of other food sensitivities.

To determine if you are sensitive to salicylates, one of the best ways is to follow an elimination and challenge dietary plan. You can use it to find food triggers and design a long-term diet that is ideal for you.

Berries and black coffee are the foods that have the most salicylates. Avoid them and replace them in your diet with more wholesome low-salicylate foods such as olive oil, salmon (or omega-3 supplements), and animal-based foods. Select cosmetics and home items free of salicylates.

Medically Reviewed on 7/8/2022
References
Image Source: iStock image

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2696737/

https://www.allergyuk.org/resources/aspirin-intolerance-and-salicylates-factsheet/

https://www.eatrightstore.org/-/media/eatrightstore-documents/product-type/brochures-and-handouts/faisalicylatesensitivity